A dedicated educator. A tireless advocate. An unsung hero.

These are the phrases Renee Deszo’s colleagues use to describe the assistant program manager, who has been a valued member of the Koinonia team for many years.

In her role, Renee is responsible for training the newest members of Koinonia’s supervisory staff. Each day, she dedicates her efforts to preparing supervisors to care for individuals with IDD and respond with compassion to their changing needs. In short, Renee equips supervisors with the skills and resources they need to succeed.

A key piece of her work involves educating staff about the important role of trauma-informed care in the service-delivery process, a program that is in the process of being implemented throughout Koinonia. “Renee is committed to helping individuals feel safe, connected and in control – the foundation of trauma-informed care,” said Paula Jordan, a Koinonia program manager and colleague of Renee.

Paula recalls how one individual who had suffered from trauma benefited greatly from Renee’s ability to model trauma-informed care. “When Renee started working with this individual, she could barely communicate with us. She couldn’t attend our day program – in fact, she couldn’t leave her room. But through Renee’s work with the staff, this individual has made a lot of progress. She now participates in music therapy and story time. She even reads books on the iPad and is able to communicate much more easily with the staff.”

According to Paula, successes like these are made possible because of Renee’s commitment to providing person-centered support and willingness to advocate on behalf of the individuals Koinonia serves.

There was an instance when an individual from one of Koinonia’s facilities was repeatedly in and out of the hospital. Renee was at her side during one visit and became concerned the woman wasn’t receiving proper treatment and attention. Renee announced to hospital staff she would not leave until the woman’s condition and care options were thoroughly explained. Renee was able to get the answers the individual needed to make informed decisions about her care. As a result, the woman’s condition improved significantly. “Renee is very tenacious,” Paula said. “We believe this individual’s life was extended because of Renee’s willingness to advocate for her.”

Renee’s ability to deliver person-centered support is also exemplified in a story about an individual who experienced significant difficulty eating and swallowing. After seeking the advice of speech and language therapists, Renee researched and developed a list of foods the individual liked. She then took the step of teaching the staff how to puree this individual’s food. Not only did this resolve concerns about the woman’s diet, it made it possible for her to still enjoy the foods she likes.

“Whether it’s going above and beyond to provide the right supports, or getting a new site up and running, like she did when we opened our Wyleswood facility, or building rapport with our staff to ensure they embrace the practice of trauma-informed care, Renee dedicates herself completely to the individuals of Koinonia,” Paula said. “She truly is an unsung hero.”

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