Tammy Rhoades is the CEO at Alleghenies United Cerebral Palsy (AUCP) and has spent the last 25 years making a difference in the human services field, working in a variety of environments from early childhood settings to assisted living facilities. She enjoys spending time with her 7 grandchildren, gardening, reading, and traveling. She also loves to ride her motorcycle!

AUCP and the HUB

AUCP’s mission is to assist individuals with disabilities in meeting their basic needs, enhancing their quality of life, and promoting their independence, while also allowing them to be active participants in the decision-making and direction of their services. They largely accomplish this through offering several waiver programs to get people the services they need at no cost.

Since she started as CEO in 2015, she has helped to grow AUCP from 20 to 70 staff and 600 to 3,000 participants by broadening their service area across the state of PA. Tammy and her team have also worked recently to earn their NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance) certification for the second time, with a score of 100%.

When she saw the opportunity to apply to join the Community Care HUB and expand their reach even more, she was all in. “We felt it was an extension of what we were already doing from a social and human service perspective. It brought a new opportunity to diversify our services and to reach others in our community.”

Now, as a HUB Care Coordination agency, AUCP has brought on two community health workers (CHWs), and Tammy couldn’t be more excited about what they add to the team.

CHWs and self-empowerment

“Community health workers are bringing a fresh perspective – they’re looking at things from a different viewpoint,” Tammy said. “I see them growing in their role, too, as they start working with their clients. They bring a fresh outlook to our program and our agency, and that’s how they fulfill our mission.”

HUB CHWs at AUCP not only quickly recognized the barriers in place for their clients, but they acted on the needs they saw. CHWs got to work creating a Reuse-It program for baby items and furniture for HUB participants. This kind of advocacy and self-empowerment is the attitude that Tammy loves to cultivate with her team.

“I’m super proud of my staff , how they’ve grown, and how they’ve taken on the challenges over the year,” said Tammy, “My team has stepped up to the plate and embraced everything we’ve asked them to do.”

Covid’s Impact on Direct Service

In a direct service setting during normal times, staff are out in the field conducting home visits on a daily basis; however, as one can imagine, Covid has drastically changed how AUCP can support their participants. These changes have also impacted how Tammy oversees her staff.

“We can’t go into the home the way we used to. We’re now relying on phone calls to do that, and from a hiring perspective, we’re now completely virtual.”

Figuring out how to manage staff virtually has also been challenging, and the pandemic has brought about mental health concerns all around due to the sheer isolation that a virtual world brings. To help address this, Tammy has incorporated weekly Friday lunches where staff can get together virtually and relate to one another and learn self-care and relaxation practices.

But the pandemic is taking its toll on her staff, and oftentimes, resignations due to stress, depression, and anxiety seem to happen last minute because she isn’t seeing those early warning signs in-person anymore. Staff members are working full-time from home, sometimes with several children going to school virtually and their spouses also working full-time. It’s a stressful environment. Pre-covid, she could often pick up on warning signs with staff because of social cues and other interactions, but now, it’s much more difficult.

“The work has continued. We haven’t stopped. But how do you overcome the face-to-face and personal touch interactions when you can only do virtual meetings?” Tammy questions. “We’ve been on-hold here, making phone calls – but unless there is an emergency or crisis situation, everything is done via phone call until we hear about the vaccinations.”

Thinking outside the Box

In order to serve the community outside of their typical waiver services, Tammy and her team decided to create a community fund about four years ago. This fund is strictly supported with donations in order to help people who can’t find resources elsewhere. For example, they started a holiday blessing fund which enables them to help 4 families per year with everything from holiday gifts, meals, warm coats, and even building ramps in homes to accommodate wheelchairs.

Additionally, AUCP began a scholarship program to support Cambria County and Hanover county students entering into the human services field or entering into higher education with a disability. To learn more about AUCP’s services and how you can support AUCP and these community impact endeavors, visit their website.