Each year, NAFI recognizes and celebrates employees for the outstanding work they do in providing the highest level of innovative human and social services to individuals and families.
Lynn Bishop, Executive Director of NAFI operations in Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York, recently announced this year’s award winners. (Also see the stories on the Connecticut winners and New York honorees.)
Rookie of the Year:
The Rookie of the Year award is presented to someone who has worked for the agency for less than one year but has already made a notable mark on their program, having shown great enthusiasm for their job and commitment to professional growth.
Michelle Link – Parenting with Love and Limits (PLL)
When Michelle applied to NAFI, she first applied to be a clinician. During our interview, Michelle talked about her passion to help people and her desire to grow clinically after completing her bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, at the time we didn’t have a position for Michelle. A few months later, a case manager position opened up in PLL and I immediately thought of Michelle. I thought it was a long shot, but I reached out to Michelle, told her about the position, and she applied! In my 9 years at NAFI, Michelle is the first person I called back to apply at NAFI because I knew she was a perfect fit for PLL and for the agency.
During Michelle’s time at NAFI, she has exceeded my expectations. She hit the ground running, excited to learn and grow and make a difference. She was willing to go out to see families on day three. Her confidence and enthusiasm were contagious. Immediately I could see Michelle’s incredible ability to engage families and teens and her desire to help make these families’ lives better. Her passion has not faded!
Michelle is an amazing team player, always willing to help, and always available to support anyone who needs it. Thank you, Michelle, for taking a chance on NAFI and for being an incredible asset to PLL team and clients!
Awards of Excellence
The Award of Excellence is presented to someone who serves as an example of superior performance in their agency, having made significant accomplishments during the year. Recipients are recognized for exemplary leadership, innovation, or initiative.
Jess Marcil – Professional Parent Program
Jessica Marcil is no stranger to working with children and families in need of support. She joined NAFI 18 years ago as a residential direct care staff and has since put in 13 solid years in foster care. The landscape of foster care has changed drastically over the past three years and the system as a whole is feeling the effects. Many agencies are struggling to remain staffed, facing difficulty with foster parent retention, are facing a recruitment drought and have little options in terms of matching children in need with homes who can support them. Not on Jessica’s watch. Jessica has stepped up as a leader in this time and has taken on each of these issues personally:
She has built genuine and supportive relationships with foster parents, is a trusted advisor to all of her families. She has creative ideas for community building, and always rearranges her own schedule to make time for a foster parent in need of additional support. She takes initiative with recruitment and uses her community connections to spread the word in unconventional ways, ensuring that we have a steady stream of interested parents. We have had more than a few parents report that they joined the NAFI team based solely off of one conversation with Jessica.
And lastly, she is the millionaire matchmaker, using her gift of truly seeing others to determine what strengths and needs would be a perfect match for children in need of lasting connections. She was the mastermind behind many of the program’s recent adoptions and has truly changed the lives of dozens of youth and families forever. While she is constantly reminded that she could easily take this skill on the road, start her own reality show and be rich, Jessica instead chooses everyday to dedicate her efforts to non-profit foster care, and for this we are grateful.
In the age-old conversation of what is “broken” in child welfare, Jess continues to be a shining example of what is “right” with the system, and there is no one more deserving of a heartfelt thank you than you, Jess. We are lucky to have you and you are appreciated. I am sure that I speak for many staff, foster parents and children when I say: Thank you for all that you do.
David Forget, Oakland Beach
Dave is a great employee. He is someone who is reliable, punctual, and friendly to all his co-workers. In difficult situations, Dave always remains calm and has a sense of humor in some of the most difficult situations. He is able to make decisions and hold true to what he says. This makes both co-workers and residents feel safe around him. Dave is flexible and willing to pick up shifts at other houses as well as help co-workers out in a pinch. When asked to describe Dave, the clients in his care said he was “kind, patient, consistent” and that he “remembers to do things and always keeps promises.” He colleagues described him as “friendly” and having a “great sense of humor” adding that he was the “kind of person who you can turn to for help with any task.” Dave has a way of always making people feel comfortable. NAFI Oakland Beach is lucky to have such a valuable employee. This award could not have gone to a better man. Thank you, Dave!
Spirit of the Community Award
NAFI’s Normative Community Approach creates a culture where people work together to achieve individual and community successes. We have come to think of this phenomenon of working together towards a greater mission as the “Spirit of the Community.” The Spirit of the Community award recognizes individuals who exemplify this dedication to the greater good of their community, NAFI and beyond, throughout the year.
Suzanne Murtagh, Main Street
Sue has been an employee at NAFI Main Street for 22 years. She is dedicated and hardworking. She is extremely organized and focused on continuously learning and developing best practices. She brings a positive high energy and a personal touch. The most amazing thing about Suzanne is that after all these years she still has the same dedication as the first day she got hired.
Over the past year Sue has done an amazing job taking on multiple job responsibilities. During the months of October through February the NAFI Main Street program was down a program clinician, a youth counselor, and the absence of the program director. She took the initiative to figure out what was needed with minimal guidance from me and tackled it head on. She was able to manage the clinical responsibilities such as: referrals, intakes, discharges, and interviews along with administrative duties and program issues. During all of this she able to complete a TOOLBOX for exiting clients.
Despite the overwhelming amount of work that she had to do, Sue consistently found ways to help her co-workers. Her willingness to assist others and her commitment to educating employees is unequaled. Sue is forever teaching and role modeling the EVOLVE system to employees. The most amazing thing is that she is always teaching herself new things so that she can teach the team better ways to use the system. She is quick to respond to requests by team members and is thorough in ensuring all loose ends are completed.
It is for these many reasons we present the Spirit of the Community Award to her.
Executive Director’s Choice Award
Each year, the agency’s Executive Director selects one individual to receive this distinguished award. It recognizes an individual who has made a significant impact on the organization based both on performance of job responsibilities as well as contributions to the overall mission, goals, and values of NAFI.
Andy Torres – Director of Developmental Services, NAFI Connecticut
Andy Torres has made countless contributions to NAFI, youth, adults and colleagues for over 26 years! His passion for helping those in need has never wavered both personally and professionally as he will go above and beyond any job description in order find ways to make peoples’ lives better. Historically, he could be found finding youth out in the community to lend an ear or a hand, working with foster parents to help build safe homes and ALWAYS building positive cultures within and across programs so staff feel supported. He actively participates in the greater agency though his involvement in committees, donations for other organizations and always supporting other NAFI programs whenever and however needed. Just ask him – he will be there. Over the past year as the Director of Developmental Services, Andy approached and met the challenges of staffing shortages and high service demands with personal grit, tenacity and time. He took the time to listen to others, be present and bear witness, lend a hand and give others some well-needed time of their own. Where and how people choose to spend their valuable time is a significant indicator of what is important to them. Andy has clearly shown his dedication and genuine care for employees and participants in the Pierpont, Milton, IS, LeClair and Corey programs and all of NAFI CT.
About NAFI CT
NAFI CT is a multi-service agency that provides programming, consultation, and individualized support services to youth, families, and adults in a variety of settings across Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. Our core services include foster care, developmental services, residential treatment, and in-home services and consultations. We take a respectful and dignified approach to all care services, with the mission of empowering individuals and strengthening families. To learn more, call our Rhode Island Regional Office at (401) 921-8700 or see the website at www.nafiri.org.