“EPI feels like home.”
Fifteen years ago Cleo took a job as a part-time community worker for the Epilepsy Foundation of Rochester-Syracuse-Binghamton (now known as EPI) helping residents of the agency’s group homes learn everyday tasks like cleaning and shopping. She immediately embraced the mission of the organization that gives people with developmental disabilities the opportunity to live their best lives and she found joy in what she could do to help others.
Cleo’s compassion and skills were noticed by leadership and she was offered opportunities to grow. She was quickly promoted to assistant house supervisor and then house supervisor at Sheila’s House). What started as a part time job became a meaningful career and now EPI, the staff, and the residents she serves feel like home to her.
Those who know Cleo call her “the heart and soul of Sheila’s House,” where she inspires staff and residents to take pride in their home. She is steadfast in ensuring that the home adheres to all regulations but she is equally steadfast in making it a warm environment.
“Sheila’s House is where our residents live,” she said. “We are visitors in their home and we encourage them to set up the home and their rooms the way they feel comfortable so it is a place they take pride in.” Sheila’s House is one of the 8 houses plus a supportive apartment program that EPI runs in Monroe County. The agency also has one house in Ontario County and 2 in Broome County.
EPI president Jeff Sinsebox says that Cleo is doing amazing work at Sheila’s House. “People who live there love and respect her,” he said. “Staff do too. She is proud of the work she does and she runs a house that follows all the rules, but is also warm and welcoming. She has a big heart. Residents are safe and achieving their personal goals because of what Cleo and our other staff are doing to help them.”
Cleo’s dedication to Sheila’s House runs deep and she cares for the house and the people very much. She looks at each as an whole person with specific needs and addresses those needs and makes sure the right supports are available.
The Mississippi native is known for her communication skills and her strong commitment to ensuring all involved are up to speed. She has great rapport with families and speaks with them regularly and they are comfortable reaching out to her. She is invested in her team at the house and that can be seen in everything she does.
Cleo is involved in every aspect of the house. And sometimes, to the great joy of residents and staff alike, she cooks. Everyone who knows her will mention that she is an incredible cook who makes the best macaroni and cheese on the planet. Cleo takes great pride in her work but is humble and unassuming about herself and the impact she is making on the lives of others. She likes working for EPI because she says it is “small enough that you get to know people.” Cleo didn’t realize how important EPI would become to her life when she accepted her first position but has found a place where she can make a difference every day. “I feel so good here and I’m glad my daughter and son convinced me to move to Rochester,” she said.