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Direct Support Professional Awarded for Life-Saving Care

Tanya Meeks, a 25-year veteran of the Ability Beyond care force, was helping her client Frances take a shower in January when the woman, in her 60s, went pale.

“She had a strange look on her face,” recalled Tanya, a direct support professional at the Tammany Trail group home in Danbury. “Then I saw that her chest had stopped moving.”

What happened next has made Tanya an agency hero—and the latest recipient of the prestigious Up Award, reserved for life-saving efforts and professional handling of emergency situations at Ability Beyond. Human Resources Director Maren Milliard said it’s a rare accolade, going to only a few employees each year. Tanya earned it for quick thinking that kept Frances alive.

In an instant, Tanya called 9-1-1, carefully positioned Frances on the tile floor of the bathroom, and began to administer CPR without hesitation. After two breaths and a compression, Frances was breathing again. Her pulse returned. As she came to, she said to Tanya, “I’m dying.”

“Not on my shift,” Tanya said. “Not with me.”

“In 25 years,” Tanya said, “I have never, ever had to do that. I was scared, but something just clicked. I did what I was trained to do.”

Caring Like Family

Speaking with Tanya about her career at Ability Beyond is like flipping through a family photo album that stretches back to October 1998. That’s when Tanya left a marketing job to deliver hands-on care to adults with special needs. It was different. It was tough. And ultimately, it was her calling.

“There were challenging times, but right off the bat I loved my guys,” Tanya said. “The smallest things meant the most to them, and it gave me a greater sense of appreciation for life.”

Tanya was a single mom when she started at North Pleasant Rise, a group home in Brookfield, and it wasn’t long before the residents became part of her extended family. They knew her mom and other relatives, jumping on the phone to say hello and catch up. Tanya’s young son was a frequent visitor to the home—getting up to classic childhood mischief, like snowball fights, with Tanya’s clients. And the folks at North Pleasant Rise got to visit with Tanya, too, going home with her for the holidays when their own families weren’t involved in their lives.

Now Tanya’s son is 28—and a new member of the Ability Beyond care force.

“My kids are well-rounded because they’ve been a part of Ability since they were little,” she said. “The organization allowed me to raise my children and to go back to school, all while working full-time.”

Growing with Ability Beyond

Tanya has been with Ability Beyond since it was DATAHR, and since time sheets and client records were written by hand. Over time, she said, “the organization has evolved into this beautiful thing.”

She has evolved, too, taking every opportunity to advance her knowledge and hone her craft. Through a grant-funded program for staff, Tanya has trained and served as a mentor to younger employees. Through Pathways to Excellence, an award-winning professional development track at Ability Beyond, Tanya gained certification as a direct support professional. She’s now pursuing credentials as a behavior tech.

“When you love what you do, you want to be the best at it,” Tanya said. “My job will always stay challenging, and that’s good—because then the challenge is gone, the spark is gone.”

Recognition for a Job Well Done

A few days after Tanya administered CPR to Frances, she answered the door of the group home to find a stunning bouquet addressed to her.

“I’ve never had anything delivered to me,” she said. “Then I heard there was more to come.”

Word about her life-saving efforts had made its way to Heidi Chelednik, Director of Services at Ability Beyond. On March 24, in a company-wide announcement, Ability Beyond put the spotlight on Tanya as an Up Award recipient.

“The Up Award is a really great way to acknowledge ‘super hero’ status with our team members,” Chelednik said. “That day, she quickly jumped into action with making excellent decisions. Knowing Tanya’s compassion it was not a surprise that she would quickly do CPR and handle the situation perfectly.”

Tanya remains deeply humbled by the recognition, expressing gratitude with a caveat that embodies the inclusive, collective effort at the heart of Ability’s mission.

“There are many of us, and we’re a team,” she said. “I just happened to be put in that situation.”

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Ability Beyond is always looking for people interested in joining our team. We offer flexible schedules, training, excellent benefits, and opportunities for advancement. No experience is necessary. Learn more today!

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