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“Our program members tell us in surveys and feedback sessions that Viability staff members are rock stars!” said Colleen Holmes, Viability’s President and CEO.  On January 25, Viability recognized four such staff members who were selected to receive our Richard Venne Heart and Soul Staff Member Excellence Award, at a Staff Recognition event held virtually and in-person. This new award was named in honor of Richard (Dick) Venne, Viability’s first President and CEO and a long-time leader with a special heart for serving individuals with disabilities.

The awardees were nominated by their supervisors and selected by a Recognitions Review Committee comprised of staff members and the Vice President of Human Resources.  Viability’s Board Chair Frank Fitzgerald gave a welcome and presented the awards. Chair Emeritus Timm Marini , gave a tribute to Dick Venne.

Meet Viability’s 2021 Richard Venne Heart and Soul Staff Member Excellence awardees!

Gwendolyn Drummond

Community Living Support Professional Level 2,  

East Hartford program, 5 years of service

Gwen always encourages health and wellness bringing ideas for everyone she supports, remains positive when dealing with difficult situations, and is comfortable introducing new ideas to support help our program participants realize their potential, and find ways to achieve our mission.


Christopher Abraham

Employment Specialist Level 1,

Enfield Advanced Auto employment site, 4 years of service

From his willingness to sub in at other job sites (even on third shift) to taking it upon himself to start learning basic sign language, to helping former program participants and their employers even after they have graduated, Christopher’s positive energy is contagious.


Brenda Pettit

Community Living Support Professional Level 1,

Pittsfield home support services, 14 years of service

While on vacation, Brenda came to be with a program member who was transferred to a hospital. Brenda didn’t back down when a doctor wanted to move that program member to end-of-life care following a massive stroke. Because of her advocacy and persistent presence at the hospital, that member is now on the road to recovery in a nursing rehabilitation facility.


Justin Fernandes

Training and Employment Support Professional Level 1,

Holyoke Community Employment program, 6 years of service

Justin was creative and resourceful in adapting training classes and overcoming the disruption and learning curve for using technology while still meeting the standards of clearly following the class objectives and reporting requirements. He helped create skills training classes for members in our Department of Transitional Assistance program, increasing our service delivery and billing ability, and helped the Pre-ETS team create a Facebook page and increase their social media presence.

According to Ms. Holmes, “Gwendolyn, Christopher, Brenda and Justin are four great examples on our team of the heart and soul, ingenuity and persistence, that makes acceptance, inclusion, and access for individuals with disabilities or disadvantages, not just the agency’s mission, but their personal mission, year after year.”



A Lead Sponsor for VIABILITY’s Inclusion & Access initiatives.