Direct Support Professionals make it possible for El Valor to help those living with disabilities

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For more than 30 years, Ivette Cruz has worked at El Valor in Chicago, helping, supporting and encouraging disabled adults.

"I learned that there is nothing that they cannot accomplish. Sometimes they feel they can't because of their disabilities. I encourage them and tell them that they can do it," Cruz said.

That can-do, will-do spirit keeps her passionate about her job.

"I feel happy. I feel I am doing something to satisfy their needs, and I get a lot of enjoyment to see the smiles and excitement," she said.

El Valor supports 1,000 disabled adults, thanks to 84 workers.

They're known as Direct Support Professionals - or DSPs.

"The DSPs at El Valor mean everything to us. Without them, we literally couldn't operate. Our adults wouldn't have anyone to make sure they are safe, that they are provided with medication, that they are assisted in cooking," said Jillian Gonzalez.

And their jobs are tougher during the pandemic.

"It's been a challenge because some of them don't understand what's going on, other do," Cruz said.

El Valor has six residential facilities for 50 adults, including one in Pilsen.

When the pandemic started, some of the workers moved in full-time for one to three months, to assist and make sure everything was okay for the residents.

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A group of men and women are putting their personal lives on hold and moving into El Valor homes that serve the disabled community in the Chicago area.

Aurora Fuentes is one of the house supervisors, making sure residents stay healthy, busy and active. And feel included.

"It's very important for anybody to feel like they belong in the community. They are able, they have neighbors," Fuentes said.

Patrick House, another worker, also shared that sentiment.

"We might appear different, but we are all equal. We are all the same. We have all had life experiences, we all have emotion. I think it's important to recognize that," House said.

"I think we have been blessed to work with them," Fuentes said.
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