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Staff Spotlight: Roxy Iskowitz

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Roxy Iskowitz, Direct Support Professional at United Counseling Service (UCS), uses her love for making things to build community among her clients and the greater Bennington, VT, community. Whether a day includes leading a group of gardeners in planting at the Bennington Community Garden or guiding clients in creating brightly colored dragons in motion out of 20 different materials, Roxy approaches every project with an enthusiasm that motivates and excites participants to accomplish what they didn’t know they could.

“I lead them through that journey, that path of getting from one place to another,” says Roxy. “And they can’t believe that somebody else is looking at their work and thinking, ‘that’s really great.’”

Roxy earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a focus in ceramic sculpture at the New York State School of Ceramics at Alfred University before moving back to her hometown of Bennington, VT, where she could live and work while staying close to family. At first, it was difficult to find a job in the area that aligned with her interests. She worked as a home health aide for about four years along with a few other jobs before learning about an open position at UCS for a Direct Support Professional in the agency’s Developmental Services division. The job was part time in one of the group homes for adults with developmental disabilities, and it wasn’t long before everything seemed to fall into place.

“I soon realized that the job just delighted me on a daily basis,” says Roxy. “It filled me full of great memories—it was the most interesting job I had ever had.” Once she found UCS, she stayed, transferring from the group home into the community support program, where she currently works. In Community Supports, she leads groups and activities to engage clients and help them develop and hone their own interests. These include a gardening club that meets on Wednesdays at the Bennington Community Garden during the growing season, art class on Mondays, and a client-led biweekly cooking class, which Roxy supports in her role.

Clients often arrive not yet knowing what their interests are or what they want to do. A big part of her job is helping clients discover what interests and excites them, and then providing opportunities for them to experience different activities in ways that fit them.

Gardening Club in particular is a great place for clients to explore what they like to do, while welcoming the greater Bennington Community to take part in the simple joy of a warm day surrounded by friends, vegetables, flowers, and occasionally, the neighborhood cat. Each client gets something different from Gardening Club. “Everybody can find something—whether it’s just being outside enjoying the fresh air, getting out of their apartment that day and being with people, getting moderate exercise, or enjoying the flowers and birds and appreciating that part of it.”

Roxy puts in a lot of effort to plan projects and activities for her clients that will give them opportunities to do what they enjoy and hone their skills, and often intertwines groups in enriching ways. One of these connections is between Gardening Club and the cooking class that one of Roxy’s clients leads. Clients in Gardening Club grow fresh herbs each year that the cooking class uses for recipes—the delicious results of which were served at last year’s Developmental Services Camp Days and cookout. Clients can enjoy the taste, smell and purpose of the herbs and plants they grow, while perhaps discovering new favorite recipes. “Smelling and tasting the fresh herbs—those things we tend to overlook in our daily life—are so important to the people I work with. It’s very sensorial and visceral. They can really be a part of that and learn how to use them.”

Each group and project that Roxy leads is the result of thoughtful planning. “That’s a part of my daily living,” says Roxy. I’m always thinking of ideas. I just have a great big slew of ideas to offer anybody.”

Roxy’s work inspires her to guide others in finding what makes them tick, both among the community at UCS Developmental Services and society at large. In a time where loneliness and disconnect is often the norm, she sees opportunity to bring people together. “I would very much like to be a part of making activities available to not just clients I serve—I see that it could be important across the whole population. I think people really need it. I think it’s time to rejuvenate community.”

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