Heritage Christian Services staffer's rec project is a hit with clients

Marc O'Mara

Marc O'Mara certainly realizes that sometimes it's the little things that can make all the difference. 

O'Mara works the night shift as a direct support professional for a residential complex for individuals with developmental disabilities in Hamburg operated by Heritage Christian Services, which is headquartered in North Tonawanda. When he realized that his location differed from the organization's other facilities in its lack of a common area, he decided to do something about it. 

"We had some extra office space for our particular site," said O'Mara, who also works in construction. "So I transformed it into more of a common area where resident can hang out, share meals (and) watch movies." 

With a little drywall and electrical work, O'Mara spent his night for several weeks carving out a smaller office space for the complex staff and turned what was left into a recreation room. He said he included the residents in the process to see what amenities they'd like. The room has a flatscreen television and a small kitchenette to allow residents to cook meals to share with their neighbors. 

"They enjoy it immensely," he said. "They eat meals in there at least five days a week, they watch movies and they play board games." 

Recently, O'Mara received the Ancor New York State Direct Support Professional of the Year award due to his work with the clientele of Heritage Christian Services. Those who work with O'Mara at Heritage Christian Services say that he's a one-of-a-kind employee who goes above and beyond for the people who he serves. 

Chuck Collard, regional vice president of Heritage Christian Services, said that O'Mara "leads by example" and that he's "remarkable at what he does." He said it was an honor to see O'Mara receive recognition for his efforts. 

"What we appreciate most about Marc is his ability to form strong relationships with those he supports," Collard said. "Those are relationships that are true friendships."

Samantha DeMart, manager of communication and advancement for Heritage Christian Services, says that this isn't the first time that O'Mara has received recognition for his efforts with the organization. She said he has also won the organization's own Anne Wolf Award, which is given to employees who are nominated by their peers. 

She said the new space O'Mara made for the residents of their Hamburg facility was "beautiful" and that O'Mara went "above and beyond" to get it done. Not only did he take it upon himself to make the new room, but she credited him for taking the time to work with the residents to ensure that they'd be happy with the finished product.

"Everybody loves Marc, the construction project has really changed things for them in a positive way," DeMart said. "To feel isolated is a terrible feeling, so for people to have the opportunity to come together and have a time for fellowship and have their friendships deepen ... thats really great."