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Feb 2017

2016 Unconditional Care Principle award winners

Alissa Gamma, "Building on strengths is the key to success" UCC award with Geri Wyant, CFO, and Larry Noonan, CEO.

The Unconditional Care Principle awards highlight AWARE employees who have been nominated by fellow coworkers. Each year, AWARE announces the winners out of hundreds of recommendations – really good ones too – during its annual Corporate Congress banquet. Each chosen employee is for exemplifying one of the 10 Unconditional Care Principles.

AWARE held the award ceremony during its annual Corporate Congress banquet at Fairmont. The UCC principles were originally built from a Corporate Congress bill when the strategic planning program began in 1994.

Building on strengths is the key to success – Alisa Gamma

Alissa Gamma accepts the Building on strengths is the key to success UCC award from Geri Wyant, CFO, and Larry Noonan, CEO.

Alissa Gamma, “Building on strengths is the key to success” with Geri Wyant, CFO, and Larry Noonan, CEO.

This year’s recipient of the, “Building on strengths is the key to success,” Unconditional Care (UCC) Principle award is good at helping her clients see their positive strengths and have fun in the midst of difficult circumstances. Alisa Gamma, also known as AJ, often goes above and beyond when advocating for her clients’ independence. She often works with youth and families from all backgrounds. Her sincere nonjudgemental personality helps them make progress toward the goals and outcomes they’ve set for themselves. To top it all off, coworkers say her lighthearted character is especially effective when trying to diffuse stressful situations; the people she serves are easily able to let down their defenses to work on what is most important. Time and time again, coworkers have seen her beautiful gift in action while on the job in Kalispell.

We take on and stick with the hardest challenges – Dawn Lucero

Dawn Lucero accepts the "We take on and stick with the hardest challenges" UCC award from Geri Wyant, CFO, and Larry Noonan, CEO.

Dawn Lucero, “We take on and stick with the hardest challenges” with Geri Wyant; Larry Noonan; John Tupper, Medical Director; and Richard Saravalli, Chief Habilitation Officer.

When it comes to taking on a challenge, it helps to have a positive attitude. During this past summer, this UCC principle award recipient rolled up her sleeves to pitch in when a little extra help was needed at a group home across town. What happened is that the regular manager at Pinski group home needed to take sick leave for an extended period of time. Dawn Lucero, manager at Castle Pine group home, volunteered to help out until another person could take over. Dawn managed both group homes for about two months. Coworkers say she was always in a great mood and often gave positive feedback to residents and staff. A masterful team leader and this year’s recipient of the “We take on and stick with the hardest challenges” award, Dawn always says she couldn’t manage the houses so well without the excellent staff.

We are agents of change – Cherie Garlish

Cherie Garlish, "We are agents of change" UCC award.

Cherie Garlish, “We are agents of change” UCC award.

This recipient of the UCC principle award “We are agents of Change” is always looking for different ways to effectively care for the families she serves. An employee at the Early Childhood Center in Butte, she organized the “Sunshine Club,” which is a monthly money collection used to celebrate birthday parties or send flowers when someone is sick or needs a pick-me-up. She is seen as a positive parenting role model among her clients and staff and is always pushing the families she serves to succeed. She is a mentor for families who have had challenging issues like past criminal histories, mental illnesses, homelessness, transient living and multiple other issues. Cherie Garlish has built a trusting relationship with them. She’s the go-to person when they need support, even in crisis. Cherie continuously pursues a family when their children are removed or if they have legal issues. She’s been known to track down families when she’s unable to reach them to check on their welfare. She’s braved many home visits, encountering barking dogs, dead fish in the tank, police officers and more. Despite the challenges, Cherie keeps a positive attitude and is always ready to serve. When Cheri feels good everyone knows it because she sings the song “I feel good,” and does a little dance that makes everyone smile.

Everything is normal until proven otherwise – Bonnie Swanson and Marianne Maes

Everything is normal until proven otherwise, Bonnie Swanson and Marianne Maes.

Bonnie Swanson and Marianne Maes, “Everything is normal until proven otherwise.”

We have a dynamic duo in the community office in Anaconda who are winners of this year’s UCC principle award, “Everything is normal until proven otherwise.” Coworkers say these two women are the backbone of their workplace. Together they efficiently and effectively work in their shared office with their shared scheduling and shared caseload to benefit every family who walks in the door. In addition to the excellent work they perform for families, the pair, Marianne Maes (nicknamed Nanna by the kids) and Bonnie Swanson, do much more to make a normal day special. They organize potlucks, back to school schedules, hygiene kits, birthdays, office supplies and everything else under the sun. These extra tasks allow them to shine with laughter and love. They are both wonderful workers because they say yes to life and to change.

Families are our most important resource – Brianna Pena

Brianna Pena, Families are our most important resource.

Brianna Pena, “Families are our most important resource.”

Family is always considered when creating a plan for each person we serve at AWARE. We believe they’re the most important asset. This UCC award recipient treats her clients’ family members with the utmost respect. A case manager in Missoula, she always ensures family members’ voices are heard. Coworkers say the people that Brianna Pena serves love her because she’s incredibly kind and always listens to each of their needs. In addition, she has the natural ability to help others and assist in accessing resources. She’s knowledgeable and trustworthy.

I’m OK, You’re Ok – Dakota Milligan

Dakota Milligan, I’m OK, You’re Ok

Dakota Milligan, “I’m OK, You’re Ok.”

Originally an Anaconda employee, this UCC principle award recipient has become an important key staff at the Villard home in Bozeman. He serves as a teacher to new staff and is never afraid to lend a hand to others in the community. He’s always willing to work above and beyond his scheduled shifts. While on shift, no matter what’s happening with clients at the group home, Dakota Milligan stays relaxed and even keeled, even when clients are acting out behaviorally. His demeanor helps soothe the clients. Coworkers can tell many stories about how Dakota has stayed “cool as a cucumber” during any situation while calmly redirecting the client. We believe his work displays the UCC principle, “I’m Ok, You’re Ok.” Thank you for the great work you do Dakota, congratulations.

It takes a team – Heather Aristonic

When you’re part of a team, there are times when it’s important for each person to take the lead. It was Heather Aristonic’s turn this year as the Comprehensive School and Community Treatment (CSCT) program found itself expanding across the state. Heather led the Great Falls CSCT community as it doubled in size from six to 12 teams. She was also instrumental in starting two new teams in Bozeman and leading three teams in Helena. Heather’s skills as a CSCT team member gave her the opportunity to educate new CSCT teammates. She provided clinical supervision for new therapists. She supported and nurtured each and every team member so they could provide the highest quality CSCT care to all existing and new clients. In addition, Heather volunteered to provide therapy when short on staff at the schools. To this day, she continues to perform all of this work to ensure each person we serve receives the highest quality care possible. (Photo not available.)

Our connection with our communities is vital – Sharati Pia

Sharati Pia, Our connection with our communities is vital

Sharati Pia, “Our connection with our communities is vital.”

Montana is like a small town with really long main streets. At AWARE, we’ve come to learn that this small town community connection is important as we work together with staff throughout our big state. The UCC principle award, “Our connection with our communities is vital” is more than appropriate for the chosen recipient. Sharati Pia, accounts payable in the administration building in Anaconda, is popular on this long street. She knows everyone. She helps each and every person one call at a time. Coworkers say that she’s calm when any situation arises. Many times she’s been a hero, helping navigate issues. When someone is already stressed, she has a way of being positive to help destress the situation, turning frustration into laughter.

We strive for the highest quality of care – Elizabeth Davis

Elizabeth Davis, We strive for the highest quality of care.

Elizabeth Davis, “We strive for the highest quality of care.”

Our staff at AWARE always works hard to provide the highest quality care. Part of being the best is learning and improving at all times. This year’s recipient of the “We strive for the highest quality of care” UCC principle award is a constant learner. And she’s a teacher. She’s always setting up opportunities for coworkers and clients to attend classes to become better at what they do. Elizabeth Davis uses her contacts in Kalispell to set up community outings, always encouraging participation and the experience of new opportunities. Coworkers say her organizational and people skills definitely make an impact in their learning.

Lighten Up and Laugh – Judy Woodward

Judy Woodward, Lighten Up and Laugh.

Judy Woodward, “Lighten Up and Laugh.”

The work we do at AWARE requires tremendous commitment. Sometimes it can be intense. But other times it’s full of joy and laughter. That’s what the Lighten Up and Laugh UCC principle is all about. This year’s award goes to the manager of Bloom in Billings, Judy Woodward. At Bloom, Judy promotes inclusion, encouraging as many people as possible to help create beautiful bouquets to be delivered all around Billings. Because the Bloom crew is out and about in the community, Judy holds each client to high standards, stressing manners and a professional look. Coworkers say she loves her job. While at work, she’s laughing all the way, joyfully engaging staff and clients. Judy’s personality definitely adds to the cheerful presence of the flowers at Bloom.

The  Irving Foundation – George Groesbeck Award

Shelly Merino of the Irving Foundation accepts the George Groesbeck award.

Shelly Merino for Mike Merina, Irving Foundation, “George Groesbeck” award.

This award winner has been instrumental in fostering children’s growth and development by extending services to families who might otherwise go without. Many parents have expressed their sincere gratitude for this winner’s support, and I’m they all can attest to the difference it has made in their lives. Because of this winner, more children are able to use their natural sense of curiosity while learning subjects like language, math and science while at the same time playing and interacting with classmates to build social skills. Parents all around agree that their children are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were thanks to the work of tonight’s George Groesbeck Award winner – The Irving Foundation.