Owner of Stellar Support Services to the show.
August 7, 2018 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes Vickie D’Avanzo, the owner of Stellar Support Services to the show.  Founded on March 27, 2017, Stellar Support Service offers “habitation aid” services to individuals that are Deaf/Hard-of Hearing (HOH) with an intellectual disability. A “habitation aide provides face to face support either one-on-one or in small groups, in the home or the community.  They assist in learning, maintaining and improving person care, home care, and adaptive skills.  They focus on the areas of communication, socialization, mobility, fine and gross motor, relationship development and using community resources.  Ms. D’Avanzo will discuss the company’s mission in-depth.

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AUGUST 8, 2018
1:00 P.M. CST

Services provided by:
Caption First, Inc.
P.O. Box 3066
Monument, CO 80132

   >> ANNOUNCER: Welcome to "Disability Matters" with your host, Joyce Bender. All opinions and views expressed on this show are all that of the guests and callers. Here's Joyce Bender.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, everyone. Hope you're having a great day today.
    Yoshiko Dart, how are you today? Special shout out to you on every single show.
    And, oh, my goodness, Ireland, you're going to be passing the United States pretty soon. The number of listeners is unbelievable. I know. I check every month. It's always the same country out of the 17 countries that listen to the show. So, Ireland, whatever you're doing, you're helping people with disabilities in Ireland, so keep spreading the word. Keep spreading the word.
    And thank you so much, Highmark, our lead sponsor for several years now, and our other sponsor for half of the year, AudioEye. AudioEye is a great company with a great software product, and they are just rocking it on a national basis.
    So our guest today is awesome. As a matter of fact, guess what. I was just with her a few days ago. What amazes me about her is her incredible passion and commitment to helping people with disabilities. I'm just so impressed with her. We're so excited to have her on the show today. Vickie D'Avanzo    wait a minute. Vickie D'Avanzo. There we go. Welcome to the show.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Thank you. Thank you so much for your kind words.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: It's a fact. And Vickie is the owner of Stellar Support Services. Wow. What a great person she is. So, Vickie, how about if you share with our listeners why you became a disability advocate.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Absolutely, Joyce. Again, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and this audience. Becoming a disability advocate was a natural course of my life. My little sister, Debbie, was born with Down syndrome. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I and my brother and sister were at my grandparents' house. My grandmother was sewing. She answered the phone and said, "Uh huh. Uh huh." And she began to cry and called my grandfather over to the phone.
    He said, "It will be okay. It will be okay."
    She went right back to sewing. Being a five year old, I was intrigued. I said, "Is everything okay?"
    She said, "The new baby is special."
    I didn't think anything of it. I went back to playing. Later, when my mom and dad got home from the hospital, they sat us down and explained and used these really big words. I didn't care. All I cared about was that I had a baby sister to play with. I always wanted to take care of my sisters. Linda was always strong willed and didn't want a big sister tagging along, although we were just three years apart. Deb loved the attention. I gave her everything she wanted. I noticed her eyes were a little bit more round. Her tongue seemed a little bit bigger. And sometimes her skin got blotchy. Other than that, she was just a great little sister. I guess I would have to say, in retrospect, I just fell into this role of being an advocate for people with disabilities.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah, you know what, though? Not everyone does that, Vickie. Not everyone does that.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: That's what makes you so spectacular. Look. Isn't it amazing how your sister's life has impacted so many other people?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Without a doubt. Without a doubt. She's my biggest hero.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Well, as Debbie grew up, what are some of the main barriers she faced? Did you believe that people judged her or tried to exclude her from activities?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Sadly, I have to say yes. Some of the ones I expected, from people who don't know better, neighbors, friends, relatives; and then some, I feel, are unacceptable. I felt that she was oppressed by the people that should know better: Special education teachers, people that ran pre K for individuals with disabilities. I remember the neighbor lady always inviting Linda and I over for birthday parties and to play with their girls, and she never invited Deb. My mom finally said: You know what, we're a threesome. You two don't go if Deb can't go. I'm an adult. I realize now. The neighbor realized that Deb was not a monster, and her daughters were not going to catch it. We would be in public, and children would whisper, and moms would brush them away and say: Don't talk to her. My mom would go up and say: You know, it's not the whispers and the stares that hurt. It's the ignorance, the not knowing, the not understanding. My daughter has Down syndrome. It's a chromosomal disorder. It makes her slower. That's all it does. I would prefer you let your children talk to her. Let them ask questions and grow up to be a better and kind adult. I think, Joyce, that's where it came from. I'm an advocate because it's in my blood.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. You know, we talked about this. Vickie and I talked about this at my company picnic the other day. What we talked about was how frequently people with intellectual disabilities or people who are deaf, or whatever the disability is, are often not included at events. You know, people go to a picnic or some other family gathering, and people don't realize this. They have a tendency to just leave that person off to the side with whomever they feel is taking care of them. Wouldn't you agree with that, Vickie?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I agree wholeheartedly. I see it often with my friends and families. They will be at a picnic. They can't see to read their lips. No one says, Hey, let's turn on the light or put a light outside the campfire so all of my children, all of the people are included. Or a Christmas party with dinner, everybody is laughing; and the deaf person says: What's so funny?
    Oh, it's not important. I will tell you later.
    It's not important? I want to know now.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: I guess at our company picnic, it's called "family picnic" for a reason. At these events we have    you know, I never thought about this at a picnic. I should say with your own family. That's what I'm referring to, some big family gathering. And then I start thinking about weddings or different things I've gone to, and I reflect back on that. If a person had some type of disability, they were frequently left off on their own. I feel part of that is just "I don't want to be bothered with you." Wouldn't you say?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I was told by a mother whose child is deaf, Vickie, you don't know how hard it is to sign all day long. I'm an interpreter. I sign all day long. I run an agency staffed solely by deaf people. My hands are never resting.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Unbelievable. That is horrific. That is    that's terrible.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: And yet if something happens, you have an accident or you have a child with a disability, it's amazing how everything changes in a person's life. And, also, you have no idea what it means to people when they are included. I could see that at that picnic, Vickie. I could see how it made people feel when they were included.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I have to say, Joyce, it was such a pleasure to be at the picnic because you provided sign language interpreters. I didn't have to. I got to enjoy my staff and my individuals enjoying your picnic and not have to be the one, the vehicle, for access. So thank you.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: You're welcome. And with that, we're going to get ready to go to break. If you just joined us, Vickie is the owner and founder of Stellar Support Services. Wait until you hear some of the wonderful things she does. We're going to go to break. We'll be right back. This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at VoiceAmerica.com. We'll be right back.
   >> ANNOUNCER: Here's Joyce Bender.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Welcome back, everyone. We're with Vickie D'Avanzo. See, I'm working on that. I'm Italian, and I'm having to work on it. Vickie is the owner of Stellar Support Services and a real disability advocate. I'm so happy to have her with us today. So, Vickie, let's move on. Let's talk about Hab Aid, and how did that impact your sister's life?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I actually prefer and still use the word community mentor. Bottom line is I think that's what Hab Aid does. Hab Aid is a person that provides services, whether it be one on one or a small group. It can be done out in the home or in a community. And they work with their individual, learning and maintaining or improving personal care and home skill cares. We tend to focus on socialization, communication, fine tuning gross motor skills, relationship development, and using community resources that are out there.
    Now, we try to work on all these goals in a natural way. We're not going to say, Okay. Let's sit down and work on fine motor skills. It will be like, Man, can you help me pick up all these coins I just dropped? We're still working on the skill, but we're doing it in a natural way. Man, I don't know about you, but I'm really thirsty. Let's see how much a drink costs. How much of these quarters do I need to make up the other $0.50? The skill is being worked on. It's a natural way. Now, Deb, it impacted her life tremendously. I will admit I'm pretty cool. She'll admit I'm pretty cool. We'll go out to get coffee together, swimming, but I'm still her sister. I remember so many times somebody coming up at the restaurant and saying: You do so much good work.
         I say, Excuse me.
         They say: What you're doing is really nice.
         I thought hanging out with my sister, on my parent's dime, mind you, is not all that interesting.
        Aren't you her staff?
        No. I'm her sister. What is this staff you're talking about?
        It wasn't until I went to college and met a friend who was studying special education and she talked about funding and how Deb could get these services. She came over and did a presentation with my parents. They thought it would be a good idea. They did the process, and Deb got a Hab Aid. I will never forget that.
    He started taking her places, doing things with her. She started turning me down because it was way more fun to do thing with him. As a matter of fact, she started going to the movies with him. Now, Deb is afraid of the dark. In all my years of studying, I never realized a cute guy was the cure to being afraid of the dark. It broke my heart that I wasn't cool enough to hang out with her anymore, but it gave me such joy to see her blossom and to have her own friend. I couldn't imagine being one of four kids in a family where the other three got phone calls and went out with their friends or friends came over, but nobody ever called her. Nobody ever came over for her. John started to call her and make plans for the next day they would meet. Finally Deb had her own special person, and that was wonderful.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. What a story that is. How sad when you think about the one thing you mentioned, about no one called her.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Sure.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: I mean, everything about that just really tears you up when you think of that isolation. That's what it really is, isolation.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Right.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: But, as you said    I'm sorry, go ahead.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: So often individuals with an intellectual disability don't have friends. They have paid staff or they have parents, but they really don't have friends. They don't know how to make friends. They don't know how to keep friends, and that's something that Stellar really tries to promote.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: And that is so absolutely critically important. Socialization, socialization is paramount to the person being healthy in many areas. So I think that's really great that you do that. In addition to all of this, you decided you were going to be a certified sign language interpreter. When did that happen?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I graduated in 2000. So I've been interpreting since 2000. What's that? Sixteen years now. That kind of just happened. I remember working at an insurance company and a friend saying her grandson has cerebral palsy, and the doctor suggested she learn to sign. She didn't want to go by herself. I was already polylingual. I said, I will go with you. What is another language? Can't hurt. I took the classes and realized immediately that this was a perfect fit. This is what I wanted to do. I progressed through the classes rather quickly. I was encouraged by one of the teachers there to go and become an interpreter. I went to the classes and became an interpreter. It didn't take long until I realized I really loved this. Interpreting has taken me down so many paths. I taught religion at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. I interpret at my church. I met some amazing life long friends. I've interpreted at colleges, in hospital situations, psychiatric situations.
    Ultimately, interpreting is what led me to Stellar. I was called to interpret for a young man who was trying to decide where he was going to live, which group home, which facility, which location. The person who was left to help him decide could not communicate to him. I left that meeting actually sick to my stomach thinking: How is she going to help him decide when she can't even communicate to him?
    Got up the next morning and had made the decision I needed to change that. And that was the birth of Stellar. Within a week, I had enrolled in classes to become a provider through the state and the County of Allegheny County.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. You don't know how many stories I've heard like this. People who are deaf that maybe go to a doctor or somewhere, no interpreter, and they have no idea what's going on. Once again, look at you. This is why I like you so much, Vickie. You saw something, you did something about it, and you decided to pay it forward. That's why you're so successful because you have a passion for this, a heart for this. You love what you do. You can tell it makes all the difference in you and how you deal with people. That leaves us to this wonderful company, Stellar Support Services.
    So what is Stellar Support Services, and what made you found this company?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: As I said, it came from an interpreting job, but, in all honesty, I needed a way to tie my world together. Since I was five, with the birth of my sister, I've been involved with individuals with an intellectual disability. I helped with paperwork, and with my mom, I learned how to coach sports and helped at all of our events. I remember one time we were going to State with our basketball team, and our coach got really ill that morning and could not attend the state competition at Penn State main campus. My mom said: What are we going to do?
    I said: Well, it's about six hours by bus. Let me grab an encyclopedia. I learned it all en route. This was before the Internet. I had the encyclopedia. I learned all the names of the shots and what was a foul and what was not a foul, how many points were for each point, whatever. That was wonderful. Then I became an interpreter. Now I had a new love. I fell in love with the deaf community. I fell in love with the language. I loved interpreting. I loved the avenues and the experiences, but, most of all, I love the people, the sense of community that welcomed me in.
    So I needed my professional life to be fulfilling. I needed it to bring those two worlds together, and I knew no one was going to make that happen if it wasn't me. So I created Stellar to combine my love and work for the people that made me feel whole while letting me serve them. That's where Stellar started.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: I love the name, by the way. I love the name.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Thank you.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: But right now, we need to go to our weekly update, our advocacy matters. In case you didn't know this, we have an update, breaking news. We're like CNN breaking news every half hour. We have Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania on the show to keep all of us really knowing what's going on. What is going on in this country when it comes to advocacy and us being on notice?
    So with that, Peri Jude, how are you today?
   >> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Hey, Joyce. I'm doing great. Great show, as always. So it's the time of year when Congress is busy working on their annual appropriations. So we'll be looking at some of those issues coming up as Congress gets closer to putting some of those bills on the floor of the House and Senate. We'll stay tuned for that. They're working through committees now, getting ready to fund critical programs for people with disabilities. Until then, one of the things I wanted to raise with your listeners, it's the time of year across the country when our protection and advocacy network, including Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania, prepares to approve or look at our annual program goals and objectives.
    Some of your listeners may know that a lot of thought and preparation goes into how our agencies, the protection and advocacy agencies, do our work. We go through a process where we obtain public input into our work each and every year, and we put it together with our boards of directors. We do that, Joyce, because we're authorized by Congress to do our work, and Congress doesn't give us enough resources to serve everybody with a disability who calls their office seeking legal and advocacy services.
         So I know you've had us on your show, Baldwin from the National Disability Rights Network, our national president, Curt Decker. We've talked about the national network of advocacy and protection agencies. Your listeners know we offer free services to those with disabilities across this country if they fit into our goals under these federal grand schemes.
        I know this sounds complicated, but what I'm asking is that your listeners go to our states and give all of our national agencies, national network, your public input from people with disabilities. A family member and other key stakeholders, give us your input about issues that are most important to you and your community. We use that information to set these annual goals and objectives, and that helps us with public policy. That helps us determine how much special education we're going to do, how much mental health work we're going to do. How much disabilities work we're going to do and what kind of work we're going to do in those areas. It helps us take those phone calls.
    If you live in Pennsylvania and you want to comment on the issues that are most important to you, go visit www.disabilityrightsPA.org. We have a comment survey at the bottom of our home page. I would love to have your comments about what is most important to you here in Pennsylvania. I know sister agencies out there in Idaho, Alaska, Arizona, New York, Connecticut, all those other states are seeking input as well. You can find those links to their website to submit your comments for their annual goals and objectives by visiting the National Disability Rights Network. That's NDRN.org. That's if you live in another state. You can go on their home page. There's a map of the country. You click on the state where you live, and you will find your way to your protection and advocacy agency. Again, if you live in Pennsylvania, please submit your comments at our website, which is disabilityrightsPA.org. If you live in another state, go to NDRN.org and help with their work in your state. Advocacy matters, and we need your input to help set our annual goals and objectives for fiscal year 2019, which begins August 1st.
        So thanks, Joyce, for letting us get that word out.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, I am so glad you did that. You know what, everyone? Nothing changes unless you speak up. You have to speak up. You can't sit back and say: Oh, this is so important. Yeah, it's so important, but you have to do something about it. As someone said to me the other day, It's not just being in the know; it's being where you know. That's so true.
    Thanks, Peri, for being with us.
   >> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Thanks, Joyce. Have a great show.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Thank you. Bye bye.
    Well, we're going to get ready to go to break now that we've had that news update for all of you. Then we'll be right back with Vickie. This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at VoiceAmerica.com. We'll be back.
   >> ANNOUNCER: Welcome back the host of "Disability Matters." Here's Joyce Bender.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Welcome back, everyone, to the show. We're talking to Vickie D'Avanzo. How is that, Vickie?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: It's D'Avanzo. But that's okay.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Oh. Vickie D'Avanzo    that's easier    Stellar Support Services, where she's the owner and CEO of the company, I wanted you to tell us about your employee base of people with disabilities because when you told me this, I just found it unbelievable. Can you talk about that?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Absolutely. We currently employ 15 adults, 13 of which are deaf. The reason I went with the deaf is one of the purposes of a Hab Aid is to teach our individuals how to maneuver within the world. Well, they're maneuvering with a deafness in a hearing world. So who better to help them maneuver than someone who has experienced it and is living it every day! I will never be deaf. No amount of classes or college degree will ever make me deaf. I will never face the challenges that deaf individuals face. I will never have trouble making a simple phone call. I will never have someone think I'm rude because I didn't hear them and therefore didn't respond. So much of what I do is incidental. I overheard it at the bus or standing in line at checkout, but everything a deaf person learned, they had to work for it. They had to search it out and learn it. Those are my champions, my deaf staff. They're what make this agency stellar, not me.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. Go ahead.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: They can certainly help my individuals do what they do every day, and they do it, and they do it with ease and with grace. I know so many companies are afraid to hire the deaf. They're better workers than a lot of hearing folks because there's no distractions. There's no auditory distractions. They don't sit and gossip. They don't sit and talk because they don't really have anybody else to talk to. I can't tell you how many times, as a business owner and as a boss, scheduling is an issue for everybody. I don't care who you are. I don't care what company you run. There's always emergencies. Someone needs this day off. How do we make that fair? That's pretty much been taken out of my hands being that my deaf employees are part of the family, but they're part of the larger community. They have a closeness to each other. They cover for each other. They solve this scheduling problem, and then they let me know: Oh, by the way, I'm going to cover for so and so, and she's going to cover for me on Tuesday; and it's done. I'm blessed. That's all I can say. I'm blessed.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Okay. You're walking the talk. When people come to my office, they see everybody in this office are people with disabilities. Somebody said: You have all kinds of people with disabilities, wheelchair, blind, deaf.
    And I said: Would you mind telling me why I should go around telling people they should do this but I wouldn't do it?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Exactly. Kudos to you.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: No wonder people are so appreciative if you just give them a chance to work. It gives them such dignity.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Uh huh. That's absolutely right.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: You see that in your own employees.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: It shows in their work.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Now, for example, I was talking about the picnic. Remember when you told me, though, how proud people felt when people went and talked to them? Remember that?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Yes. Yes.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Well, it's the same thing when you have a job. It's beyond that because it's such dignity. You know, you have respect. You're doing something. You're getting paid. I think that's just absolutely fabulous.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: You mean they matter.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Pardon me?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: They matter.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. Right. Right. I was reading in your bio about the summer camp. How about you tell the listeners about that.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: A friend of mine was contacted by someone in West Virginia. She had run the summer camp before. They were going to run something CSI related. I know the perfect person to run this camp. They contacted me and told me they wanted a murder mystery type of thing. They bought the program and told me    told me what it was going to look like. I said: Don't waste your money. Let me write it. I trained in forensics. They were going to cut things out and have fingerprints made out of cardboard. I said, No. No. No. Let me do it.
    My friend, who is deaf and an engineer, agreed to work with me. That was a team that was a good match. I had the forensic background, and she had the engineering, so she would know how things would land if there was a fight and how things would end up, tables were turned over and what have you. So we set out to do it.
    The background story, a high school softball player, female, deaf, high school softball player was murdered. And before that, she was being recruited by two different schools. One recruiter was a woman, and the other recruiter was a deaf guy. That's kind of the gist of the story.
    Well, she was found dead in the team room. If you give me a second, I can paint the scene for you. On the floor were muddy footprints, two, from a scuffle. On the wall, there was a blood splatter with the outline of a human. The table had been knocked out of place. Paint bottles were on the floor. The bloody baseball bat was on the floor, and in the center of the room was a dead body with a stab wound, including maggots, fly eggs.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, my goodness.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: The camp was a week long camp. It was comprised of deaf, hard of hearing, blind, low vision, deaf blind individuals, some with an intellectual disability, some without. So my challenge was: How am I going to make all of this accessible to everyone?
    They learned how to lift a fingerprint, how to identify a fingerprint, how to determine shoe size based on a shoe print, how to identify bite marks. My friend and I made eight and a half by 11 inch regular prints so they could feel the swirls and loops so they could identify that since they couldn't see the fingerprint. We made strands out of pool noodles. We made it so the blind could touch it, the deaf could see it. We had to make it accessible to those with an intellectual disability while still maintaining the integrity of the course itself.
    Every class was taught in sign language and voice and speaking at the same time because not everybody's needs were the same. They did amazing. I'm surprised I didn't get fired because they made a shoe print of the superintendent's shoe by painting red paint on the bottom of her very expensive leather shoes to make sure she was one of the criminals they were suspecting. They collected flies and used the maggot flies in the maggot stage of development to determine when the person had died.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, my goodness.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: By the end of the week, they worked really hard and figured out who committed this murder. At the end of the day, to make it understandable for everyone, we reenacted the entire murder as it played out. The absolutely amazing thing was that after we had the little scuffle, I looked at the new footprints. They were exactly like we had placed them when we set up the crime scene. The table was moved in exactly the same way. The paint bottles had fallen exactly how they fell when we set up the crime scene. I mean, my friend, the engineer, she really knew her stuff. It was really perfect. Everybody could see how she was murdered, and that's how camp ended.
    Well, the following year, I said it was important to know what happens now. So the following year, we took it a step farther and did court. We took the individual to court. The students learned voir dire. They quizzed me so hard I almost confessed. I set up the murder, and I was starting to feel very guilty and heated because the questions became so real, but they realized rather quickly that they had convicted an innocent man. They were like: We can't take him to court.
        I said, It's too late now. You already set up the prosecution.
        And the city of Romney, West Virginia, were so wonderful. They let us use the courthouse. A bailiff came in. We played the judge. My students served as the jury. They presented all their evidence. They were cute. They had so much evidence that was completely irrelevant, but they kept showing stuff. It was kind of exciting.
        And we would like to submit this into evidence and this into evidence.
        But he was, luckily, found innocence because he was. That's how the camp went.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Wow. That's so much fun.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Some of my friends were like: You need to do that here.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: That was great. You know what? How about how they learned things through all that?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Well, your average person is never going to learn how to lift a fingerprint or how to take a bite mark impression.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Or anything about court.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Right. Exactly. Unless they're stuck in a court situation themselves, but they even did chromatography. They had to determine which pen wrote the note. They had to break down the colors of the ink into all of its components and make a comparison. It was true business. They had a good time.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: So, Vickie, your company right now, how large is it and what are your goals?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Currently we have 15 direct care staff. We provide service to 18 individuals, and we're in six counties. We teach American sign language and we're going to add new services in the near future.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: That's great. And how do people find you?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: You can Google us. If you're in the state, the court administrators will find us.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: And do you have a website?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Www.StellarSupportServices.net.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: There you go. That way you can get in touch with Vickie if you're interested in using her services, and we will make sure that we repeat that to you. Are you on Facebook?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: It's currently being built. We'll be up shortly.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: For right now, we'll use your website in order to get in touch with you. Just to make sure everyone can reach you, what is it again? Tell everyone again.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I gave you the wrong address. Www.StellarSupportServices.com. I gave you my email the first time.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Tell us again one more time.
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Www.StellarSupportServices.com.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Vickie, look what you've done. Oh, my goodness. To me, you've accomplished so much in your life right now, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I don't think I've done all that much. I don't think I'm so wonderful. I'm just an ordinary gal, but I would have to stay Stellar. I built it from the bottom up. I've never written policies and procedures. With my mom sitting next to me at the computer, telling me: That doesn't sound right. You need to fix that. I got it done. I got them all written. I don't think it's successful because I earn money    or I don't think it's successful because of anything other than the fact that I've seen so much growth. I've seen personal growth in myself as a business leader. I've improved my level of understanding of people. I've learned to be more patient. I've learned how to run a business, and I know that my late husband is looking down on me from heaven and saying, Good job. I'm proud of you. Now, if you could just learn to balance your checkbook, you would be good. It's terrible, I have to admit.
    I've also seen so much growth in my staff. I had a guy say to me, I don't know if I can do this. I don't even think I know anybody with an intellectual disability, but I will give it a shot. He's one of my best. He's amazing. I have seen them increase their own personal confidences. I've watched them improve mental health issues that they have. We all have. But I've seen them feel better about themselves. They have a greater appreciation for what they have and a deeper understanding and more compassion for the people they serve, but I also see so much growth in my individuals. They've truly come out of their shells. They now have confidence to try new things, to initiate conversations, to carry on conversations. I see their personalities, like, just explode. They now tell us jokes and tease with us where in the beginning they just sat around and didn't say much or do much. They give us so much more than we ever gave them. I have to read all of the progress notes that my staff make, and I see comments. I was met with such huge smiles when I picked them up. That made my day. I love my job. Nowhere else do I get this much pleasure.
    The best way, I guess, to sum up this accomplishment, as you're calling it, is we serve them, but they serve me and my staff with so much more.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Yeah. That is a great way. That is a great way to describe it. This is a great accomplishment, Vickie. You're very humble, but this is a great accomplishment. So, Vickie, what message would you like to leave with our listeners today?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: I think, Joyce, what I would have to say is anytime you see an injustice in the world or a wrong that needs righted, please don't assume someone else is going to fix it. I would rather you ask yourself, If not me, then who? If you don't have a name for that "who," guess what. That "who" is you. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much. So let's do it together.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Amen to that. I want to thank you again, Vickie, for being with us. And one more time, if a business or a person wants to reach you to obtain your services, how do they reach you?
   >> VICKIE D'AVANZO: Www.StellarSupportServices.com or they can video chat me at (412) 253 6083 or (412) 996 6263.
   >> JOYCE BENDER: Okay. I want to remind you that you can go to VoiceAmerica or benderconsult.com and hear this show because they're archived. And, of course, you can go to Apple and get the podcast.
    Well, thank you so much for being with me today. I love you all. I look forward to talking to you next week. This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where disability matters at VoiceAmerica.com.