Lifeworks Spotlights

Diane DeMeritt and Laura Odoardi Celebrate 30 years with Lifeworks, Feb. 2023 

Laura Odoardi (l) and Diane DeMeritt (r)

In today’s world it is rare to find someone who has been working in the same place for 30 years. Lifeworks is fortunate to have a dedicated staff, many with longevity.  We start the new year by celebrating and thanking not one, but two staff members who reached their 30-year milestone in January: Congratulations and thank you for your dedication, Diane DeMeritt and Laura Odoardi!  

Both have had the opportunity to work at various levels and positions in the day habilitation program, and the knowledge they have gained in their combined 60 years is invaluable ––they are the go-to persons for any and every day hab need or question.  

Diane began her Lifeworks career in the day habilitation program, leaving briefly to work in Family Support program, until her return to Day Hab in 1998, where she has been ever since. She has worked in a variety of positions over the years, climbing the ranks to her current role as Director of the Day Habilitation Programs, in which she oversees both the Westwood program and Connections in West Roxbury.  

“Diane consistently delivers successful results and is held in the highest regard by those she works with,” noted President/CEO Dan Burke. “As a leader, she is incredibly knowledgeable about policies and procedures, and the criteria for running a program funded by MassHealth. She’s also a great leader because of her belief in what our mission is and ensuring that we provide a quality program for people of all levels and abilities. She knows everything about everyone we serve, and she is keenly aware of each of them. She 110% understands the value of the program.”  

Laura started her career at Lifeworks working in the residential program 30 years ago at Dedham House, now known as Westwood House. In 1998, she made the change to the day habilitation program, working in various roles over the years, and now serves as the Resource Manager.  Additionally, she sits on several committees, and she serves as the Human Rights and Safety Officer for the day habilitation program. Her institutional knowledge of all things day habilitation provides the necessary insight for this role.  

When each woman was asked about the other, their mutual admiration and respect was obvious. Laura appreciates Diane’s vast knowledge. “There is no one more knowledgeable about day habilitation than Diane. It’s unparalleled,” said Laura. “She is a great educator to the staff, shares her knowledge, guides the staff and makes everyone feel comfortable asking questions and learning. She has an open-door policy and staff look up to her and value her leadership. She has a knack for motivating people to reach their full potential.  

Diane says she is very grateful to be working with Laura. “I have never met someone who has been as genuinely compassionate as she has. She has such a great fondness for all those we serve. She is flexible and can pivot on a dime and is always game to help the team to do whatever needs to be done,” Diane added.  

Their combined creativity has been so important for the day habilitation program over the years, particularly during the pandemic when the day habilitation closed. Switching to virtual programming, they were able to make it interesting and fun. Both went out of their way to make everyday projects special and unique. Their experience and creativity make the day habilitation program an exciting, fun place to work and where individuals want to come to each day, said Sarah Charbonneau, Vice President of Employment and Day Habilitation Programs.  

“They are incredibly dedicated and are absolute role models” Charbonneau said. “We are grateful to have them here – for 30 years, no less!” 

Scott Curley – Teacher/Counselor, Feb. 2023 

When asked how he chose Lifeworks as the place to start his career, Scott Curley says that he was strolling through his college’s annual career fair and bumped into President/CEO Dan Burke for the first time! That was more than 18 years ago, and Dan was recruiting prospective students who were in the process of graduating.  

Scott (l) closing out a great day with residents Jackie, Eddie & Rachel

“Working with this population was out of my chosen path,” Scott said.  “I was a senior studying sociology at Bridgewater State, but, nonetheless, I chose Lifeworks. Over the years, my career choice certainly has encouraged me to be a self-fulfilling member of a team to empower a person’s quality of life.” 

Through all these years, Scott has been a dedicated employee, working as a teacher/counselor at Rockwood House and at the Cavell Street residence. 

“I’ve enjoyed my time at both homes,” he said.  “The residents from both programs could not be any more different, which is always a credit to the personalities of the individuals we serve. The best part of the job, is leaving at the end of my shift feeling that I made some form of positive contribution in someone’s day.” 

“Equally satisfying, is being able to witness the hidden gifts of residents, the people we serve,” Scott added.  “They have hidden talents and from my perspective, a deeper empathy towards others.  I see this displayed while assisting the Rockwood residents with their art therapy, craft projects, or when they perform in various types of sports activities.” 

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Social – Recreation Sports Banquet, Aug 2022.

One of the most anticipated events for a Lifeworks athlete at the end of the summer is the Social-Recreation Program’s Sports Banquet.  About 140 guests including athletes, coaches and volunteers gathered at the Four-Points Sheraton Hotel’s Tiffany Ballroom in Norwood.  Lifeworks’ CEO Dan Burke and Autism Support Center Director Brian Clark served as Masters of Ceremony.  Participants had a great time socializing with friends, teammates and family members.  Guests viewed a slide show of the past season, while dancing to the tunes of a D.J.   

After dinner, trophies were handed out for each of the six sports; cornhole, basketball, bowling, bocce, floor hockey and softball.  The award categories ranged from Bowler of the Year; Highest Single Score; Highest Average; Sportsmanship; Most-Improved as well as Team Spirit and Dedication.  Kevin Murphy, a Lifeworks board member and basketball coach presented fellow Lifeworks board member and volunteer Paul Cummings and his wife Cheryl with the 2022 Ben Keister Award for their support and efforts assisting the basketball and bocce coaches and athletes.  Floor Hockey Coach Andrea Boudreau, received the 2022 Recognition of Continuous Support Award for her dedication and commitment to the sports program.  Speaking of dedication and commitment, the Sports Banquet would not happen without the leadership and dedication of Courtney Diamond, Associate Director of the Social-Recreation Program.  Although Courtney’s presence was missed due to maternity leave, she certainly was there in spirit.  We are happy to report Courtney has since given birth to beautiful baby boy named Theo! Another highlight of the evening was the raffle prize drawings.  Raffle tickets sales for prizes during the evening raised $923, which go towards program costs (equipment, field rental, travel expenses and staffing).  

Lifeworks is also grateful to the many community members that contribute to the success of the Sports Program, such as the Norwood Sports Center, Ryan Family Amusements in Millis, the Town of Norwood, Walpole Italian American Club and our Xaverian Brothers High School.  At the end of the evening all athletes received a Lifeworks logo t-shirt.  Congratulations to all for a great season!  Be sure to visit our website for the latest Social-Recreation Newsletter here:  You’ll find registration information for the fall sports season as well as upcoming Hip Hop dances and more.  

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Endless Days of Summer Fun  

We’ve got a slideshow view into just a few of the wonderful activities residents and day habilitation participants enjoyed over the hot summer of 2022.  First, we are shining a spotlight on long time Lifeworks participant Julie Kachele who took time this summer to enjoy a few days in Newport, RI where she stayed at the Newport Harbor Hotel. Her fun-filled mini vacation included a visit to the Green Animals Topiary Garden in Portsmouth, RI touring the animal sculptures and where she enjoyed a picnic lunch.  “I really enjoyed it,” said Julie. “I had breakfast at a little café near the water and dinner at an Italian restaurant. We went to two Mansions (Rosecliff Mansion and The Breakers), and I bought a pair of colorful shorts, which I like very much.”  Julie was joined on her two-day adventure by Program Manager Morgan Riley who noted that she and Julie filled every minute of her Newport adventure with sightseeing, shopping on Thames Street, dining, and swimming.  Julie takes on various Lifeworks projects when not vacationing. She delivers Meals on Wheels two days per week and participates in Leadership from Home online classes. She belongs to a book club and enjoys reading Judy Moody and Harry Potter novels, as well as doing word search games. A day trip to Plymouth included a Captain John Boats Whale Watch excursion which was a big hit with a group of residents from Norwood.  To the delight of the watchers, the whales did breach the surface!  Participants visited the sights of historical Plymouth such as the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, and enjoyed lunch on the wharf at Wood’s Seafood.  Therapeutic Horseback Riding at the Winsome Riding Academy was one of the numerous social and recreational offerings provided by the Autism Support Center and Family Support. Throughout the summer activities included a summer barbecue event, rock painting, tie dying, a magic show, mini golf, a trip to Canobie Lake Park, Drums Alive, and an Explorers program outing of blueberry picking followed by a luncheon.  

April 2021: Lifeworks Launches Autism Support Centers

March 2021: “The Safe Harbor in the Storm: Harbor Counseling Services and the Clinical Response Team”

February 2021: “Super Nurses to the Rescue!”

January 2021: “Maintaining Critical Connections Through Technology”

December, 2020: “Lifeworks and the Red Kettle Program”