2020 Jack Jonas Spirit Award Winner: Michelle Pryor | CPRF
Jack Jonas, CPRF Founder, dedicated his life’s work to serving and advocating for an underrepresented population, creating an organization based around the principle that everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, has the right to an education, a career, and independence.
In honor of Jack’s legacy and spirit, CPRF established the Jack Jonas Spirit Award to recognize three employees each year who have shown dedication to the CPRF mission and who truly have a heart for those we serve.
The award winners receive a commemorative plaque and a check for $1,000 each.
All CPRF, CIC, and BTCO employees are eligible for the award.
Michelle has worked for CPRF for 11 years and has been in her role as the HUD Service Coordinator at The Timbers for 4 years. In that role, Michelle has transformed the way the HUD Service Coordinator works with and for the Timbers residents. She has added many pieces to the position through her own hard work and assessment of the needs of the residents. Michelle routinely goes above and beyond her call of duty in support of Timbers residents, but her kindness, dedication, and guidance has never been more valuable to those we serve than in the challenges 2020 has presented.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic even hit Wichita, Michelle started a food donation drive for residents. She knew that transportation opportunities could be limited and that residents were going to be encouraged to stay home unless absolutely necessary, and she wanted to make sure that no one missed a meal or felt food insecure. One person, who is a single parent to 5 school age boys, one of whom has severe autism with extreme behaviors, was at her wit’s end to provide everything to her children without having to leave them at home to go to the store. The food provided, allowed her to safely care for all her children until schools reopened. The drive was a huge success, with people donating food items, gift cards, and even cash. At the height of selfish grocery store panic buying, Michelle shopped for others.
Later down the COVID-19 timeline, when working from home became the rule rather than the exception, Michelle stayed on campus to provide on-site support for Timbers residents. She was there to help, from things like routinely communicating plans and next steps, to helping them get navigate healthcare needs, to making sure they had what they needed if they had to quarantine, to making sure their loved ones stay informed. When CPRF got authorization to administer COVID-19 testing on-site, Michelle volunteered to be trained so she could take care of residents.
Michelle’s emotional investment in her job and the residents she works with is evident through the countless initiatives she has started. The following is only an abbreviated list of some of her above and beyond moments:
- She began a flu shot clinic with Physician’s House Calls of Kansas. Due to COVID-19, Michelle arranged for flu shots to be given on porches.
- She connected The Timbers with the United Methodist Urban Ministries Thanksgiving Turkey Program. Due to COVID-19 scheduling changes, Michelle picked up the Turkeys and delivered them on a Saturday.
- She vastly improved our working relationship with local emergency services people by bringing them cookies at Christmas.
- She established the WSU Wheelchair Exercise Program—student instructors come out weekly and it averages 8-10 residents each session. COVID-19 has put the program on pause for now, but we’re hoping it will come back after the pandemic.
- She initiated The Timbers’ annual coat drive a few years ago. Normally, donated coats, scarves, blankets, hats, gloves, and other cold weather necessities are laid out for residents to browse through and try on. Michelle came up with the idea in order to give people more of an actual shopping experience than just a donation bin. She organizes and catalogues everything that comes in and neatly displays them on racks and tables, arranged by size. The amount of time she spends just to make residents feel pampered is unbelievable. Michelle also gets In the Bag Cleaners to donate their services as a permanent sponsor to ensure the items are all clean, which has never been more important than it is this year. Because it’s 2020, the traditional drive can’t happen, so items will be distributed one at a time to make sure everything is safe, but that people still get what they want.
- She was the driving force behind The Timbers Clothing Market and began a hygiene pantry.
- She expanded and developed further the commodities program at The Timbers, restructured the work space, purchased a freezer and secured two new refrigerators through a grant program. With this expansion, she is now is able to accept extra optional commodities distributions (like fresh milk, fruits, etc.) on top of regular monthly distributions. This program has had bi-weekly distributions throughout the pandemic and Michelle has managed them while doing her other duties.
- She initiated a Direct Support Professionals Week/Aide appreciation event to assist residents in showing their support for the aides that are working for them.
- She initiated an annual Health Fair, with Healthcore providing blood pressure/diabetes screens, GraceMed providing dental screens, and information booths from managed care organizations.
- Michelle is on-call 24 hours a day/7 days a week for Timbers residents. While this is part of her job, she often goes above and beyond her on-call duties. Including, once at 3 a.m., assisting a resident to get a possum out of his apartment after he had left the door open and it had wandered in.
None of these things are in her job requirements, however, because of her dedication to The Timbers and its residents, when she sees a way to make their lives better, she tries to find a way to make that happen. Michelle has gone above and beyond to keep a vulnerable population safe, engaged, and informed.