The Caring Force Blog May Workforce Hero Spotlight!

The Caring Force is pleased to announce that our next TCF Hero Spotlight honoree is Crystal Cole from Horace Mann Educational Associates (HMEA). Crystal has spent ten years working in human services. She recently stepped up to assist adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in quarantine at HMEA’s Isolation Center in Millbury for the past 8 weeks.

Here is what Crystal had to say when we asked about her career in human services:

Tell us about your background. How did you decide to pursue a career in human services?

“I have been working in human services since I was 16 years old. I knew from a young age that human service was the path for me because helping people brings me happiness. I have been a respite provider, a community based flexible support, an overnight in residential, an assistant manager of a residential home, a registered behavior technician (RBT), and a project leader for children’s services. I received the HMEA Mission award last year. Currently, I am working on my Master’s to become a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) with a concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder. I want to help as many people as I can and make them laugh and smile! Maximum impact, not just in numbers of people I help, but in the quality of my relationships and the care provided.”

What is your favorite professional memory?

“I can’t pick one! With the kids I support, I have so many memories. My memories are a collection of them finally accomplishing a goal they set out to learn or something that made them smile big. Some are things like their first successful bathroom trip, independently showering, or asking for something they want. Some are memories like going out to the community for dinners, silly dances, funny conversations, and creative things they do. I think they all amount to the kids gaining independence or connection that will only improve their life!

I have to say that I really enjoyed holidays in my residential program because I would be busy getting people to families and making a big meal for those that weren’t able to go home that holiday. Each holiday brings its own fond memory: several homes coming together for a Thanksgiving dinner, wrapping Christmas presents the night before, or everyone sitting outside handing out candy to the kids in the neighborhood on Halloween.”

Your work been impacted a lot by the pandemic, how have you coped with that challenge?

“Self-Isolation was heartbreaking. I knew the kids I supported were not receiving services and the families needed help. I coped by working on a food drive with a local church outreach director and assisting in the Adult residential programs. Now, I am supporting the individuals in the temporary HMEA Isolation Center for those with presumptive or positive tests for COVID-19. I feel a lot of relief being able to help these individuals during these confusing and difficult times. There is a fantastic team here at the center! We are working a lot more and doing long shifts. One of my shifts was 36 hours and that has not been the longest here by other staff.  This is what we do, we see their needs and we try to meet them the best we can, regardless of the challenges. They aren’t at home or feeling well, so being able to help and bring smiles to their faces is pulling me through!”

Do you have a question for our next spotlight honoree?

“What brings you the most joy about your job?”

Thank you to Crystal Cole and the other tireless staff helping to provide services to clients and families throughout the pandemic. You are the Commonwealth’s human services heroes!

The Caring Force will be publishing additional workforce spotlights through the pandemic in an effort to raise the voices of workers on the front lines. If you know someone who inspires clients and embodies the spirit of The Caring Force, please nominate them by emailing Ravi Simon at

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