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“A rock star — that’s how I feel. What job can you go to every day and feel like you’re a rock star on stage?”

Those are the words Larry Hopper of DeLand said at his retirement party last month after working 25 years for Duvall Homes, an organization that has provided residential supportive care and training for people with developmental disabilities since 1945.

Hopper first came to work for Duvall as a resident assistant in 1990, a personal caregiver position that is now referred to as direct support professional (DSP). DSPs provide nonmedical care and services to people with special needs in their home and community.

After working at Duvall for 11 years, Hopper left in 2001 to run a small business. Three years later, he decided to return to the job that gave him the most satisfaction. Hopper worked 14 more years for Duvall.

“The moment you walk in the door, residents cheer your name out loud. You feel like a rock star!” said Hopper with his infectious smile.

Larry is going to be missed by many — by the Duvall residents for sure, but also by fellow DSPs and group home managers. He’s part of a shrinking workforce, and an aging generation that didn’t think twice about taking on a challenging job to benefit someone else in the community.

“The DSPs at Duvall are our front line. We depend on them to provide the very best care for our residents, as well as keep our group homes clean, organized and safe,” said Group Home Manager Sherrie Moore.

Moore is one of seven supervisors who help manage Duvall’s 15 group homes and 62 DSPs. Maintaining residential care plans for close to 100 residents makes the DSP position an integral role in Duvall’s Support Team.

“Larry is one of several DSPs who have worked at Duvall for more than 20 years,” said CEO Steven DeVane. “It can be a challenge to find younger folks to make that same commitment the way past generations did. This has become a crisis not just for Duvall Homes, but for providers like us across the state and the nation.”

DeVane and his executive staff know full well that the probability of a new hire remaining with Duvall for 25 years, like Larry, is pretty low. What they can promise is that young hires receive valuable training and experience that develop the life skills of critical thinking, effective communication and self-awareness, while building patience, compassion and character.

“New hires at Duvall Homes develop skills that may not be developed in other jobs,” said Christina Negri, Duvall Homes’ director of human resources. “Being a DSP for a minimum of one to two years can be a fantastic steppingstone; it can lead to work in other health care or customer-service-related fields.”

If you’re a high-school grad, age 21 or over, looking for a career that has impact on your community and makes you feel like a rock star, contact Christina Negri at cnegri@duvallhomes.org or 386-734-2874, ext. 127.

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