It is the mission
of Disabled Persons Action Organization
to provide quality and effective individualized services to developmentally disabled children and adults in Jefferson and Lewis Counties.  The services are primarily geared toward helping families cope with the stress of caring for their disabled loved ones.

Welcome to the online home of Disabled Persons Action Organization!

For 40 years, DPAO has provided needed services to residents of Jefferson and Lewis Counties.  We encourage you to learn more about the programs and services of our organization.  We also hope that you return regularly to this site for up to date information on our cultural productions as well as our Summer Concert Series.

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Thank you to all of our Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s) for all that you do!  We recognize all of your hard work and the skills necessary for you to do your job.  DSP's have the most impact on those individuals we serve! 

In an effort to continue this recognition, we plan on spotlighting a Direct Support Professional of the Month ... every month!


DECEMBER 2018's DSP ...

Dillon Everard

Dillon Everard Pic

Dillon does a great job getting his individual he works with out into the community to work on goals. The parent of the individual Dillon works with stated “Dillon is very passionate about his job and is such a good role model and supportive. They have developed a great working relationship and Dillon is always helping work toward his goals; they have become a great team and good friends!”


Core Competencies: Putting People First and Getting into the Community


NOVEMBER 2018's DSP ...

Taylor St. Louis


I had the opportunity to observe Taylor working back in March. OPWDD surveyors were there to observe meal time which can make any situation more stressful but Taylor did a great job. She was attentive, professional, and encouraged the individuals to try to do the most they could for themselves. She followed everyone’s dietary order and made the atmosphere feel comfortable and homelike.

~DPAO Employee


Core Competencies: Be a Professional, Supporting Health and Wellness, Supporting Safety, and Supporting a Person’s Potential


OCTOBER 2018's DSP ...

Courtney Gebo

Courtney Gebo Pic


Courtney works super hard in Day Habilitation! From playing games to feeding and toileting individuals, she is often the first one to volunteer to help someone out no matter what it is. A lot of the individuals look to Courtney when they are having a particularly hard time and she is always compassionate and understanding of their situations. There have been plenty of times Courtney has had to step up in a crisis and has proven her ability to maintain control in keeping everyone safe.


Core Competencies: Putting People First and Safety


SEPTEMBER 2018's DSP ...

Tonya Kerr

Tonya Kerr Pic

Tonya has done a fantastic job demonstrating professionalism from the very start of her time at DPAO. She takes great care to ensure that her paperwork (documentation on goals) is completed correctly and provides detailed notes to track progress. Tonya has also done a great job of putting people first by helping her individual work on their goals in creative ways. Her enthusiasm and support for her individual is an asset to our agency. We cannot wait to see what great things Tonya's individual will accomplish with her assistance in the future!

Core Competency: Professionalism and Putting People First



AUGUST 2018's DSP ...  

Marie Farmer

Marie Farmer Pic


Marie does an excellent job working as a Direct Support Professional! She takes both of her individuals out into the community to volunteer and shop, among many other activities. Marie exhibits professionalism when dealing with challenging behaviors. One of the individuals Marie works with has a hard time expressing himself and she has taught him how to communicate verbally and through sign language! Marie uses sign language as a way of enhancing and supporting his verbal skills, which have increased since she began teaching him!


Core Competencies: Professionalism, Getting into the Community and Putting People First



JULY 2018's DSP ...  

Brenda Sanford

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Brenda is a wonderful example of the core competency of 'Putting people First'. She is incredibly dedicated to her individual and ensures that they engage in activities of their choosing. Brenda demonstrates patience, care, and creativity in the way she helps her individual reach their personal goals. It is clear how much Brenda cares about her individual and helping them discover new interests and strengthen their skills.


Core Competency: Putting People First



 JUNE 2018's DSP ...
Beth Cole

Beth Cole Pic

"Beth is here for our individuals first and foremost. Working at DPAO is not just a job for her. As much as she cares for every individual, they reciprocate that back to her three times as much! Don’t try to pick on her because DPAO’s participants will come for you! It is an on-going joke with some of us, but it really shows that they love her dearly. “Don’t mess with my Beth” is heard often in the office. When Beth brings the individuals in to drop off the mail or get soda, she always tells them to keep their voices down in case we are on the phone. If we are having a meeting, she makes sure they enter quietly. Until one of us gets them excited, then she might as well throw in the towel! When they are with her, she ensures they use manners, behave appropriately, and gets them involved with whatever task they are sent over to do. Beth puts all 7 core competencies in action daily!"

~ DPAO Employee 


 Core Competencies: Putting People First and Maintaining Positive Relationships



MAY 2018's DSP ...

Nicole Bachner

Nicole Bachner Pic


“I would like to nominate Nicole Bachner. She works with an individual who I am friends with. I am over protective and worry about him and Nicole goes above and beyond to ensure he is comfortable and taken care of. She always makes sure that his needs are met. When he was hospitalized in Syracuse she visited him on her own time. On New Year’s Eve he really wanted to go out to celebrate but due to the impending inclement weather this was not advisable. Nicole went the day before New Year’s and brought party hats and pizza to celebrate with him. It is DSP’s like her who make our individuals happy and content. She is caring, responsible and dependable!”

~DPAO Employee 

Core Competency: Putting People First


APRIL 2018's DSP ...

Terri Fulmer

Terri Fulmer 

It goes without saying that Terri goes above and beyond for the individuals she works with.  Recently at the Chili Cook-Off, Terri participated with a group of our individuals and did a great job with them.  A lot of people were approaching Terri, saying hello and telling her how much they have missed her.  Terri puts so much time and effort into her position and is greatly appreciated by many!

Core Competencies: Building & Maintaining Positive Relationships, Getting into the Community and Putting People First


MARCH 2018's DSP ...

JoAnn Kirk


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JoAnn attends different functions with her individual such as Religious Education Thanksgiving dinner which allows the individual to maintain positive relationships with friends and teachers. JoAnn also keeps a schedule with her individual which includes going to the gym and preparing healthy meals for the week to maintain good health.  Both of the individuals that work with JoAnn are always eager to spend time with her.  The bond that they have formed over the years is admirable!

Core Competencies: Building & Maintaining Positive Relationships and Supporting Good Health



FEBRUARY 2018's DSP ...

Yvonne Albertson

Yvonne Albertson

Yvonne demonstrates professionalism, supports safety, builds and maintains positive relationships and puts our individuals’ needs first! Recently Yvonne was involved in an accident where she and six individuals were passengers in an agency van. Yvonne remained calm and focused on the individuals’ needs, keeping them safe and reassuring them that everything was going to be ok! Yvonne stepped up when she needed to and not only supported our individuals but also the staff who was driving. This is just one of the many examples why Yvonne is named DSP of the month. Yvonne’s team leader is proud to have her as a staff member!

Core Competency: Safety


JANUARY 2018's DSP ...

Carole Sutherland

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(Carole Sutherland is NOT a pit bull but she loves them!)

"When I first started back in July I only had a little bit of experience working with disabled people. My manager put me on the 4:30 to midnight shift where I've had the pleasure of working with Carole Sutherland. Although she is only a part time employee at Free Standing Respite, I would like to nominate her to be the DSP of the month for January. She meets all of the core competencies and much more. She always puts everyone's needs before her own, consumers and staff. She had taught me so much in the past couple of months, I couldn't ask for a better mentor. She is very kind and passionate about her work. She seems to know how to handle any situation that is thrown her way. She is constantly building, maintaining AND improving positive relationships with consumers and their caregivers as well. She is a role model not only for consumers but for staff and caregivers as well, demonstrating and supporting ALL 7 of the competency goals. I've learned so much from Carole and I really hope you would consider her for January's DSP of the month. She deserves it for all of the hard work she does for the consumers, caregivers, staff and the agency as a whole."

~DPAO Employee

Core Competency: Putting People First


DECEMBER 2017's DSP ...

Jennifer Bailey

Jen Bailey

December is Jennifer's one year anniversary at DPAO and in that year she has exemplified many of the Core Competencies that have made her stand out!  She is a pleasure to be around, always has a smile on her face, and is willing to help others when needed.  Jennifer is a positive person and she encourages others to be as well!  She has compassion towards our participants and keeps their interests and feelings in mind.  She treats people with respect and is full of life.  Hard not to have a smile on your face when you are around her!

Core Competency: Building & Maintaining Positive Relationships


NOVEMBER 2017's DSP ...

Krista Ennis


Krista goes above and beyond assuring that her individual’s personal hygiene and community inclusions needs are being met.  A visit was made by a staff member while Krista was working with her individual.  The individual was freshly bathed and their appearance was impeccable!  This is clearly a DSP who takes pride in her work and cares for her individual just as if they were part of her own family! 

Core Competency: Supporting Good Health


OCTOBER 2017's DSP ...

Donna White

 Donna White

"I do not think those who know Donna White would argue that she deserves to be the DSP of the Month!  I would nominate her every month if I could!  She is the sweetest and most caring person to everyone but most especially to our individuals.  Over the Summer I came to the office on a Saturday and as I was leaving, I looked over to the respite house and saw Donna pushing someone in a wheelchair in the parking lot.  She wheeled them over to some bushes and was helping them pick wild flowers (I assume).  Knowing that the individual is very disabled and could never do that on their own, I thought how often do you see that happen?  She warms my heart whenever I see her or hear her name.  Our individuals ask if she is going to be working at the respite house when they go there.  How wonderful it would be if we could convince her to work at DPAO full time!!!  But the Meals on Wheels gang would be lost without her.  She does more with her petite frame than any muscle man could!  Donna’s demeanor reminds me to chill out and enjoy life – no point in complaining.  She certainly doesn’t!  I would stick her in my purse and let her out whenever I need a pick me up!"

~ DPAO Employee

Core Competency: Putting People First


SEPTEMBER 2017's DSP ...

Kelley Witter

"Don’t know if I deserve the honor, as getting to know my girls and to share time with them, has enriched my life immensely!  I think I have gotten the best out of the deal already."

–Kelley Witter

Kelley Witter Pic 

Kelley supports the individuals’ interests and encourages them every step of the way!  One individual won a photography contest two years in a row, in which Kelley helped her enter!  Kelley continues to think outside the box when working with the individuals she supports.  It remains very apparent that thought is put in to the activities while (and most importantly) keeping their interests in mind!

Core Competency:  Being Active and Productive in Society


Disabled Person Action Organization’s Economic Impact Study

New Research Report Shows DPAO Concert Series An Engine For Economic Impact And Jobs

A recent survey report by the Center for Community Studies at Jefferson Community College on behalf of the Disabled Persons Action Organization (DPAO) concludes that the DPAO Summer Concert Series was responsible for a positive financial impact of over $10 Million Dollars in the region over the past five years!

The report specifically identified the following impacts the Concert Series had had on the greater Watertown region.

  • Over the past 5 years (2012-2016) an annual average of 9722 people attended a DPAO concert
  • The estimated economic impact for this five year period is $10,204,311
  • 16.2 jobs as an average are created annually by the DPAO Summer Concert Series-for every 1000 attendees 2.52 jobs are created in the community

In addition the report in part considers the results of customer intercept studies taken through-out the 2016 DPAO concert series.

  • Over 11% of the attendees traveled from outside the area and stayed overnight in the region
  • 95 % of those concert attendee’s surveyed viewed the DPAO Summer Concert Series as a valuable addition to the quality of life in the community
  • Data from the past five years indicates each attendee had a direct and indirect economic impact to the community of $212.76 per concert event

Another interesting fact is that almost 84% of concert attendee’s plan on going to future DPAO Concerts and will also recommend them to others.

This study is the most detailed statistical look at data at this particular group of people in our community and it offers value to other businesses besides DPAO as well as public officials and regional economic developers. The success of the Summer Concert Series over the past 40 years can be attributed to our concert goers and loyal sponsors.

The proceeds from the DPAO Summer Concert Series are used to fund the programs and services provided to over five hundred families that DPAO serves in multiple counties. It is very gratifying to know that these shows have had such a positive economic impact on our community and that the concert attendees realize these events enhance the quality of life in our area.

Since 1974, DPAO’s mission has been to provide quality and effective individualized services to developmentally disabled children and adults in Jefferson and Lewis Counties. The services are primarily geared to helping families cope with the stress of caring for their disabled loved ones.

For more information on DPAO’s programs and services please call (315) 782-3577. 

Disabled Persons Action Organization


Corporate Offices:  617 Davidson Street • PO Box 222 Watertown, New York 13601 • (315) 782-3577 • (800) 533-2859 ● (315) 782-6673 (Fax)

William J. McClusky Day Habilitation Center:  633 Davidson Street ● Watertown, New York 13601 ● (315) 782-5285
Free Standing Respite Home:  652 Thompson Street ● Watertown, New York 13601 ● (315) 782-2485


Lewis County Offices:  Village Square • Lyons Falls, New York 13368 • (315) 348-8380

Lewis County Free Standing Respite Home:  5205 Ebbly Road ● Lowville, New York 13367 ● (315) 376-8327