When Deborah Smith took her first assignment with what was then the Jackson Adult Activities Center, she hardly imagined she was launching a 38 year career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP). “I didn’t think this would be my only job when I started it but I’ve enjoyed every day,” Deborah related at 6 am on her next to the last day on the job. That morning she had the three men she cares for busy cleaning their rooms and vacuuming. When they had completed their housekeeping, the men sat down together for breakfast before departing to MHDS’s Day Center.
The persons she has supported these many years all have an intellectual disability. Some have had physical disabilities as well. She has genuinely cared for them all and strived to make them as independent as possible but mostly she wanted them to be happy and know someone truly cared about them.
“When I began my employment in 1979, the agency was only in Madison County and had just established their facility off Garland Drive,” said Ms. Smith. “I started with 6 young men in a group home in Bemis. Several of them are still in the care of MHDS including one of the oldest persons we serve at age 81.” Ms. Smith reflected, “I’ve mostly taken the assignments with men. I just seemed to relate best with them.”
Bill Brewer, Executive Director of MHDS, states “We applaud Deborah’s commitment to those we serve over a 38 year career. A familiar smiling face is a rare gift to persons who need a stabilizing and caring influence in their lives. We are fortunate to have had the benefit of her professionalism for as long as we have. She will be greatly missed at the agency and in the hearts of those she has served. But we wish her an enjoyable retirement. She has more than earned it.”
MHDS has been serving Jackson since 1972 with programs for adults with intellectual disabilities including employment and residential services. Now, MHDS also has facilities in Haywood and Hardeman counties. Each person served has a personalized service plan which fosters skills development and retention. DSP’s with the kind of longevity and commitment Deborah has shown are not taken for granted.
“It’s been satisfying work,” says Ms. Smith. “I thank the Lord for giving me the strength to help those I’ve cared for. This job has kept me moving and I think helped me as I’ve aged.” Given that Deborah seems too youthful to retire, we’d tend to agree. MHDS proudly salutes Deborah Smith for her years of service and wishes her the best in the years to come.