Employees of the Year

Another year has passed and Hi-Hope has been fortunate count some amazing people among our staff. As we employ so many outstanding people in so many different capacities, we have several categories to recognize those individuals who go above and beyond in their unique role/s with Hi-Hope. We also go through the challenging process to select one person who really, really shines - not necessarily above the rest, but who stands out as an example of the mission, values, ethics and ideals of our organization. This person is awarded the Overall Employee of the Year Award.

Each winner is nominated by coworkers, family members or other related parties and then evaluated by our Senior Leadership Team. This process yields some fantastic feedback and we have the opportunity to share some of that information with you. Below you will see the winners in each category with some commentary from the nomination forms.

Administrative Employee of the Year: Amanda Saar, Human Resources Training and Development Manager

Amanda was described in the following ways: she is "always will to help," she has a "positive attitude, always pleasant, always courteous and friendly," she is "hardworking and dedicated to Hi-Hope's individuals and staff," she is willing to assist multiple departments "beyond her job description," people are able to "laugh with her," "she is solid, reliable, dependable, supportive and gets the job done with a smile," and "she is a real asset."

Residential Direct Support Professional of the Year: Keyanna Simpson

Keyanna was described by our community as follows: she is "very good at what she does and has great knowledge of her duties," "she has a positive, healthy attitude - it's contagious," "she is always willing to share information with her coworkers, respects her peers and fosters a friendly environment," she is "great with the individuals and is interested in their hopes and dreams," she "advocates for [the individuals] to get what they need," "she is a great example for other staff, an encourager, a coach who shows great leadership," "she is active in the organization as a mentor and member of the Employee Advisory Committee," and "she brought noticeable change to our organization and is admired by many." 

Day Program Direct Support Professional of the Year: Kalandra McDonald & Jasmyn Thornton

For the first time ever, Hi-Hope has a "tie" in this category. There were simply too many nominations and positive comments about both of these individuals to ignore and thus both earned this distinction. Kalandra was described as follows: she puts a great deal of "time, care and dedication into supporting individuals; they light up when she arrives," "she truly cares about the needs and wants of the individuals and always involves everyone in deciding group activities," she has "an immense amount of patience and care and is a role model for how employees should act," she is "always willing to assist everyone," she puts in "hard work with the client council and is active at meetings to plan parties," and she "was born to do this job."

Jasmyn was described in the following way: she "strives to do the right things for the right reasons," she is "trusted by parents to be forthright," she is "always motivated by what's right for the person and really cares about what they want; she is loved by the individuals and takes time for one on one conversations with them when they are having a hard time," she is "great at exploring community opportunities related to volunteering," and she "goes the extra mile and exhibits tenacity." 

Overall Employee of the Year - Angela Smothers, House Manager (Parkside, Beverly and Shoals)

Angela received high praise from her coworkers and family members from our community. They described her in the follow ways: she is "committed to a wonderful environment...everyday," she "takes her job seriously, doing tasks of great inconvenience to ensure that the job gets done and her coworkers feel supported," she "sets the standard for quality," she "makes a huge difference in the lives of individuals and wants them to have full, meaningful lives," she "caught the attention of families" with her high standard for care and house management, and she "inspires others to go above and beyond for our individuals."

Congratulations to all of the winners! You bring so much to our community and we are very, very grateful. You are and will always be a cherished part of the Hi-Hope family!


Valentine's Day Competition

In honor of Valentine's Day, Hi-Hope ran a small competition meant to inspire friendship, appreciation, creativity and, of course, love. The task was fairly straight forward: decorate some lovely ceramic pottery donated to Hi-Hope by another local nonprofit, present said pottery to a community connection and take a picture. The winner would be based on the decorations, selection of the community connection and the picture. In essence, groups were challenged to do something nice for someone and capture the moment. It is with much happiness that we get to share the winning moment.

Hi-Hope Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) Sharon, Tina and Judy worked with some individuals to decorate flower pots. They presented these pots to Tempa Kohler of Special Kneads and Treats, Inc. (an amazing, local bakery well worth the visit). According to Sharon, "the individuals wanted to share their appreciation for the monthly birthday cakes they receive from this organization." Our individuals made these gifts with partial to full hand-over-hand assistance from the three aforementioned staff members. According to Sharon, "it was a joy."

As a reward for winning the Valentine's Day Competition, the group received some Valentine's Day chocolates and sensory items for those individuals with dietary restrictions. The winning group was actually less interested in their victory and more motivated by the idea of doing something creative that also brought a little love and happiness into the world. This is the perfect way for us to mark Valentine's Day at Hi-Hope.

From the Archives

Here is another piece of news from Hi-Hope's fascinating archives. Nearly 45 years ago the Gwinnett Chapter of the Women of Georgia Power Company were the first outside group to hold a meeting at the old Country Store. Just last month the Citizens of Georgia Power visited for their annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day service project. It's absolutely awesome to think we have had a relationship of service with Georgia Power this many years. If you want to explore our pictures or scrap books, let us know and we can set up a time for you to delve into our rich history. Just contact Nick at nreynolds@hihopecenter.org to get access.

The following piece appeared on Wednesday, February 14, 1973 in the "Social News" section of The Winder News:

Georgia Power Women Meet In Lawrenceville

The Gwinnett Chapter of the Women of Georgia Power Company met February 12 in Lawrenceville at the Hi-Hope Country Story. Mike McFarland, an instructor at Hi-Hope, told the women about the Store. It was opened to give an outlet for handmade items from the training center and to give work experience to some of the students. Hand-dipped candles, [miniature] people, stuffed animals, as well as, floral arrangements were displayed. The Power women were the first group to hold a meeting at the Country Store. Plans for the April Banquet, club scrapbook, and the spring convention were discussed during the business session. Those from Winder attending were Mrs. Sue Deal, Mrs. Eloise McEver, and Mrs. Yvonne Jet.

Holiday Recap

As many of you know, the holidays are a big deal at Hi-Hope. The individuals, staff and volunteers bring the season to life with holiday-themed activities, crafts, music, decorations and the much anticipated Holiday Party. This year was no exception as Hi-Hope transformed into a holiday wonderland overnight on November 29th. The Wonderful Westbrooks (a volunteer family that comes to us by way of Perimeter Church) visited Hi-Hope after hours and decorated the entirety of the original building (the Lifelong Learning Center was decorated by Hi-Hope staff and included an enormous tree to fill the new space). In a matter of hours they plastered the building with holiday cheer, including not one, but SEVEN trees. 

The following weeks were filled with holiday activities, from a group home decorating contest to gingerbread house making. Molnlycke Health Care hosted their annual Christmas cookie and card party and we even adapted the weekly Bingo game to focus on the holidays. Even our improv comedy class got in the spirit with some holiday-themed skits. This all culminated in the annual Holiday Party on December 21st.

The morning kicked off with a caroling/sing-along session led by members of the Rivord family. Grace Rivord was the third place finisher in Gwinnett's Got Talent 2017 and she was joined by her musically inclined younger brother and mother for this activity that got many of our folks singing holiday classics. Pat Satterfield used visual aids to assist with singing and comprehension. As the singing was winding down, groups started to filter through the cafeteria to have a fantastic lunch, graciously provided by our friends at Longhorn Steakhouse (the Mall of Georgia location). After lunch, folks visited Santa Claus for a photo op and to receive their gift of a cozy polar fleece blanket. Hi-Hope's Santa is special for two reasons: 1) he is the tallest Santa in the state of Georgia and 2) he is the brother of one of Hi-Hope's individuals - Howard. The day wound down with some holiday themed crafts and music. All-in-all, everyone had a blast and went into the break filled with the holiday spirit and an abundance of cheer!

"I Love to Laugh"

Some of you will remember the popular Disney film Mary Poppins. Released in 1964, the film starred the musically gifted Julie Andrews as the titular character. Perhaps one of the most memorable songs from the movie is "I Love to Laugh." This song is sung during a scene in which "Uncle Albert," "Bert" and the "Banks children" uncontrollably levitate towards the ceiling as a result of infectious laughter. The premise of the scene can be scene as a metaphor for the way laughter can "lighten" a mood and lift up one's spirit. Mary Poppins aside, many of us can relate to the wonderful, uplifting effect laughter has on us. And so it was with much joy and appreciation that Hi-Hope welcomed a guest comedian to our main campus this month; the incomparably funny Casey Whitaker.

Casey is the daughter of Hi-Hope Board of Directors Treasurer Yvonne Whitaker. She is a "seasoned stand-up, sketch comedy and improv performer based in Los Angeles." She trained and toured with Chicago's famed Second City improv comedy enterprise. She also wrote and directed a full length play as part of the Artist in Residency Series at Saint Mary's College. She just completed a stand up tour in Europe and spent 4 months at sea performing comedy on Norwegian Cruise Lines' Breakaway. She is also a freelance comedy writer for the card game Utter Nonsense. As luck would have it, Casey is spending the month of December in Atlanta between things and reached out to Hi-Hope to volunteer. Working with Volunteer Coordinator Nick Reynolds, they came up with a plan that involved four improv comedy classes and two performances with the individuals we support at Hi-Hope. The entire project was a HUGE hit.

Casey is open, welcoming, flexible and fearless making her the perfect volunteer. She immediately took lead on the project and guided groups ranging between 8 and 15 people through some truly hilarious improv comedy exercises. Our individuals were given the choice of being involved or not, but many opted in and we even had a few folks randomly join once they saw how much fun everyone was having. Not only did our individuals enjoy many a good, healthy laugh, but improv also helps build confidence and self esteem. Indeed, some individuals that normally shy away from the spotlight really shined during her sessions. 

Casey's classes culminated in two separate performances. The performances were held in in the new Lifelong Learning Center in front of individuals, staff and visitors. The participants were brilliant and really had the audience going. These shows also brought out the best in our folks. For example, Natalie and Donna's silliness got them laughing so hard that it spread to the audience. Marty's impersonations of John Wayne and Jackie Gleason fit in perfectly and added color and hilarity to the troupe's antics. Howard's love of festive moments had him dancing across the "stage." Shane's deadpan delivery of funny comments was perfect.

All in all, this "experiment" with improv comedy was a huge success and just goes to show that the individuals we support at Hi-Hope are capable of so much. Their performances raised all our spirits and had our hearts and minds drifting towards the ceiling - just like Uncle Albert - as our worries melted away. The performers gave us the gift of laughter and we all "love to laugh." Finally, a huge THANK YOU goes out to Casey Whitaker for bringing the gifts of silliness and laughter to Hi-Hope this month.