A Shift Towards Positive Change in KenCrest

A few people we support painting during a CBS outing // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

KenCrest’s Community Participation programs recently took significant steps toward positive change by revamping its leadership and offerings.

By Sydney Kerelo

Since its start, KenCrest’s Community-Based Services (CBS) program, a Community Participation Service (CPS), has helped numerous adults with disabilities improve their quality of life through community participation, respite services, companion care, and habilitation services.

In 2020, KenCrest’s architecture shifted while the world fell into a global pandemic, leading to the closure of the Agency’s brick-and-mortar day programs. This created an opportunity for the CBS program to assist the people we support in Community Living Arrangements (CLAs) or group homes to become involved with their community through the Meaningful Day and Day Sharing community participation programs.

“Community is important to our individuals because it gives them a sense of belonging,” says the Director of Community-Based Services, Melissa Bailey-Raison. “When we feel connected to people, in our homes and communities, in our neighborhoods, it creates a feeling of purpose.”

This shift creates a positive change within our industry and gives not only the people we support a chance to grow outside of brick-and-more day programs, but gives KenCrest employees new career growth opportunities too.  

Meet four KenCrest employees whose change in position will lead to growth for the CBS program and our organization.

Two individuals in KenCrest’s CBS program eating lunch together during an outing // Photo by Aubrey Hoffert

Melissa Bailey-Raison, Director of Community-Based Services

In March 2008, Melissa Bailey-Raison started at KenCrest part-time as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). With a background in teaching preschool and behavioral support work, she entered KenCrest with high hopes.

Bailey-Raison has been with the organization for over 15 years and has grown through the company from a DSP to the Director of Community-Based Services.

“In college, I had done therapeutic staff support (TSS) work, which was like behavioral supports, and I was looking to get back into something like that when my mother-in-law saw a booklet at a job fair,” says Bailey-Raison. “KenCrest was listed, so I read the blurb and thought it was something I would want to do and gave them a call.”

She’s led an incredible journey through her career here from that call, starting as a part-time DSP, then growing to a Program Manager, a Program Specialist, a Home-Based Coordinator, Assistant Director of CBS, and finally, the Director.

As the Director of CBS, Bailey-Raison oversees the services for individuals we support living at home with family members, in Lifesharing, in a Community Living group home, or independently to become engaged with their greater communities.

“Whether that’s volunteering, getting involved in a community group, or by taking a class and really making connections, meeting new people, and engaging regularly,” says Bailey-Raison. “With our population, many people just assume and speak for them rather than truly asking them what they want to do. So, we want to flesh out their likes, expose them to new experiences, and have them be at the center.”

“We also focus on enhancing skills like community traffic awareness, stranger awareness, or money management to help them be as independent as possible,” adds Bailey-Raison.

As the Director of CBS, Melissa Bailey-Raison will continue to encourage community participation throughout the department, to help the people we support to live a meaningful life and engage in activities vital to them.

Marybeth Palmero, Community Inclusion Liaison

As a relative newcomer to KenCrest, Marybeth Palmero started in October 2022 as the Community Inclusion Liaison. Initially, when hired, Palmero’s role strictly helped individuals under KenCrest’s Meaningful Day program, but now with the shift, she supports all those receiving any type of Community-Based CPS. 

“I have always been passionate about working with people with disabilities,” says Palmero. “My background is in occupational therapy, and I worked in a school with children, but after some time, I wanted to see the adult side of things. So, when I heard about KenCrest’s open position, it sounded like the right fit for me.”

As the Community Inclusion Liaison, Palmero works to create individualized programs for each person KenCrest supports in the CBS program to understand their likes and dislikes to set them up with successful community activities they will enjoy. She also creates monthly activity calendars highlighting various community activities in certain counties for staff and participants to access.

One new tool that Palmero has helped to instill is using picture cards, visual schedules, and accessibility features to assist the people we support in communicating with staff more efficiently. For example, if a person we support is asked about what they like to do, the team can show them various pictures, and if they see someone going to a concert in the photo, they can point to it and better tell staff they are interested in going to one.

Bendu Zoryeah, Community-Based Meaningful Day Data Coordinator

Although Bendu Zoryeah started with KenCrest in 2018, she began her career at KenCrest in college, working weekends as a Residential Advisor in Dover, Delaware.

Since then, she’s broadened her horizons by working as a Support Coordinator with Quality Progressions, then as a Mental Health Technician, a Service Coordinator at Pathways To Housing, a Crisis Counselor, a Flight Attendant, a House Manager at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, and finally as a Program Specialist at KenCrest in 2018.

But her growth hasn’t stopped at KenCrest. Since she started, she’s grown from Program Specialist to Community Connection Coach Supervisor to her current role as the Community-Based Meaningful Day Data Coordinator.  

“When I left Quality Progressions, I started working with a whole different population, and being in all those jobs kind of gives you a new perspective on life,” says Zoryeah. “Now that I am back at KenCrest, I’ve seen the growth the company has taken. I’ve been at other jobs where morale was low, and that’s not the case here. With Melissa as our Director, she helped us understand that opportunities will come, and she prepared us for when they came and trusted us to take on these responsibilities.”

In her current role as Data Coordinator, Bendu Zoryeah inputs schedules into a database for those receiving support from CBS and monitors them daily to ensure staff is clocking in and out on time while rectifying any errors that happen in real-time to ensure the company billing goals are achieved.

Joan Prinzivalli, Meaningful Day Coordinator

Twelve years ago, Joan Prinzivalli started at KenCrest as a job Coach within the Employment program working at the Phoenixville Hospital for Project Search and the Norristown High School through the ACES program—an employment program that helps those ages 18 to 21 develop and refine their soft skill needs for successful employment outcomes. From there, she became a Behavior Consultant, then a Community Supervisor, a DSP, a Community Connection Supervisor, and finally, the Meaningful Day Coordinator.

“It’s my main goal to get people in the Community Living Arrangement (CLA) out into the community,” says Prinzivalli. “They’ve been cooped up for three years and want to get out ASAP. People living at home with their families had a little more opportunity to get out than those in our group homes.”

Previously, Prinzivalli worked with individuals who lived at home with family in Lifesharing or Supported Independent Living. She supervised around 10 to 15 staff members while they engaged with those in the program by getting them active in community participation. Now, she solely focuses on KenCrest’s group homes, encouraging them to get out into the community and achieve that same sense of independence.

“It’s been a lot of fun watching everyone get out of their homes,” she adds. “It’s great to see them being matched up with people they want to go out with and do activities they like to do.”

Community-Based Services help all individuals in home and community support, companion care, respite services, and community participation to live a meaningful life. The program is always searching for new Community Connection Coaches and additional staff to help the people KenCrest supports to live meaningful and happy lives.

Are you interested in learning more about the Community-Based Services program or joining the KenCrest team? Click the links below!