September 13, 2019

When Lafawndra Allen learned a resident under her care was taken to the hospital with an infection, she jumped into action.

The man, who normally has a good appetite, was not eating and hospital staff were having difficulty feeding him.

“I went up there and showed them how to feed him,” she said.

Allen’s intervention helped save the man’s life.

It’s that attention to detail and dedication to those in her care that garnered Allen, a direct support professional with an assisted living facility in Austin contracted by HHS, Texas Direct Support Professional of the Year by the American Network of Community Options and Resources. ANCOR is a national nonprofit that represents more than 1,600 private community providers of services to people with disabilities.

Allen received the award from ANCOR in April for her exemplary work in supporting people with disabilities. She was among 54 recipients out of about 350 nominations nationwide.

On Aug. 27, HHS Executive Commissioner Dr. Courtney N. Phillips presented Allen with a proclamation from Gov. Greg Abbott congratulating her for receiving the award for Texas.

“It means a lot to me,” Allen said. “I want to get better and better at what I do.”

Allen said she began working as a direct support professional when she was about 18 or 19 years old after a high school friend introduced her to the work.

“It touched my heart,” she said. “I fell in love with what I was doing.”

Allen does everything for the residents in her care, from cooking meals and bathing them to advocating for their health care.

“Whatever I do for myself, I do for them,” she said.

Allen, who has worked as a direct support professional for about 25 years, said many of the people in her care cannot communicate verbally.

“I do it from my heart,” she said. “I do it for the individuals. When I see those beautiful smiles on their faces, that’s what makes me get up every morning to do whatever I can for them.”