Archive for November, 2012

Leonila Vega: The Making of an Advocate

Posted by on November 29th, 2012 at 12:54 pm | 3 Comments »

The following was excerpted from a biography compiled by Maureen Traverse from a series of interviews conducted with Leonila Vega over several months.

Leonila in her early 20s, getting her portrait done.

Leonila Bautista Vega was born in the rural town of Ezequiel Montes, in the central Mexican state of Queretaro. “When my parents came together,” she said, “It was like the meeting of two universes.” Her mother was a young woman, just 25 when she married Leonila’s father, and descended from native Aztec heritage. Leonila’s father was of Spanish descent, 50 years old and already retired from the Mexican military. It was her father who named her, picking the name for the strength it conveyed. While she spent her first years in the United States going by the nickname Lanny, she would eventually return to introducing herself as Leonila.

Graduating from college, with her friend Jim Locke.

Leonila learned about the power of hard work and of organizing people at an early age. Leonila’s family and the other inhabitants of their village relied on water carried from a nearby river for cooking and washing. She remembered going to the river with her mother to wash clothes. No one had access to electricity either. Her father wanted to bring these conveniences to town to improve life for his family and his neighbors, so he was stunned to learn that some of their neighbors didn’t want them. Yet her father understood that they would need everyone’s support if they were going to petition the government to bring utilities to their town. Her mother visited reluctant neighbors again and again until she’d convinced them of the benefits of running water and electricity. Once her parents had secured unanimous support, her father traveled to Mexico City to meet with government officials, taking young Leonila with him. She still remembered sitting outside the office, waiting anxiously to hear the decision. Her family’s efforts were successful, and their house was the first one in town to have running water and electricity. Her memories of her parents’ perseverance remained with her. She had seen the challenges, but also the success that came from organizing people to demand better living conditions. Continue reading »

Paying Tribute to Leonila

Posted by on November 29th, 2012 at 12:46 pm | 9 Comments »

The following tributes are excerpted from messages shared between Leonila Vega’s friends and colleagues in the days immediately following her passing.

Leonila Vega

I’m sorry to say that early Monday morning Leonila died peacefully in her sleep from the effects of the cancer she called “the Monster.” I believe she decided to fight “the Monster” another way by going to a better place where there is no illness and disease, where she can watch over all of us and continually reach out to us through our memories of her and how she envisioned and communicated ways to make sure that the DCA remain the greatest advocate of direct care workers in the country.

I will miss Leonila tremendously, as I am certain you all will. For the twenty-five years I’ve known her, I always knew that she was one of a kind.

Brad Nelson, Leonila’s partner and caregiver, on Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Leonila believed in me before I believed in myself. I remember the first time I met her. I was in awe of her confidence and knowledge of the issues direct care workers face. I sat quietly in that meeting. I kept seeing her at meetings and I kept sitting quietly. Then I attended the first Voices Institute. I can remember having to write a speech, and I was scared to death. I was fortunate enough to be in the group who gave our speeches to Leonila. She planted a seed that day and continued to encourage me at every opportunity. Continue reading »

Honoring Leonila

Posted by on November 29th, 2012 at 12:12 pm | 2 Comments »

Leonila and Solín in June, 2012

On November 19, 2012, DCA lost a visionary leader and undying source of inspiration with the passing of Leonila Vega. This is a very sad time for all of us, but she also leaves us with much to celebrate, including the legacy of worker leadership and empowerment that became DCA’s identity under her direction.

Fourteen months ago, Leonila took a medical leave from DCA. She had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer, and she decided to receive care in Milwaukee so that she could be with Brad Nelson, her partner and caregiver, while she fought the disease she called “the Monster.” Though she intended to return to DCA, we felt her absence immediately.  Continue reading »

New Mexico Caregivers Convene for Educational Conference

Posted by on November 12th, 2012 at 11:03 am | Comments Off on New Mexico Caregivers Convene for Educational Conference

Retta Ward, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services Department.

The third annual New Mexico Direct Caregivers Summit for family and professional caregivers took place on November 2 at Sandia Casino and Resort in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The event was held by the New Mexico Direct Caregivers Coalition, which scheduled it just prior to the 2012 elections to emphasize the importance of advocating for caregivers at the state and national levels, as our population ages and the demand for care increases.

“The information about the demographic changes expected for the United States and New Mexico is very important,” said home care worker Iliana Lopez of La Plaza de Encuentro in Albuquerque. “For this reason, we should communicate to legislators the importance of more training for domestic caregivers. And, given the numbers of Spanish speakers in our state, access to Spanish language training and materials is imperative.” Continue reading »

Closing the Circle of Care for Our Veterans

Posted by on November 12th, 2012 at 11:01 am | Comments Off on Closing the Circle of Care for Our Veterans

Read DCA Interim Executive Director David Ward’s Veteran’s Day blog post in today’s Huffington Post.

We are at our best, as human beings and as Americans, when we take care of one another. That’s something Air Force Captain Merritt Eugene Lawlis (or Gene, as he’s known to everyone but the armed forces) knows well.

When Gene was shot down in the South Pacific in WWII, Japanese troops imprisoned him and his surviving crew mates in a POW camp for five and a half months. “He’s about 6 feet tall and he usually weighs about 170 pounds, but he was down to 125 when the war ended,” says his wife Naomi. “All they had to eat was two little rice balls a day, so they got beri beri. They didn’t get any medical care either. His plane caught fire when it went down, and his leg was pretty badly burned. They got malaria, because there were flies all around. At least a couple of the boys died.” Read more.

Looking for a Few Good Direct Support Professional Employers

Posted by on November 12th, 2012 at 10:01 am | Comments Off on Looking for a Few Good Direct Support Professional Employers

The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) and the Research and Training Center (RTC) at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration are seeking nominations for the 2013 Moving Mountains Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize organizations using best practices in direct support staff workforce development that result in improved outcomes for the people being supported.

These nominations are a component of a national research project in which the RTC will conduct in-depth case studies to richly describe the characteristics, objectives, and outcomes of best practice initiatives designed to improve competence, status, compensation, and stability of direct support staff. Descriptions of the case studies will be disseminated and shared with provider agencies, policy makers, and interested stakeholder groups in a number of ways, including: on the RTC and NADSP websites, as practical illustrations in RTC/NADSP publications and presentations, and in a final publication on best practice.

Learn more or submit a nomination.

Election Season Over, the Time for Action is Now!

Posted by on November 7th, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Comments Off on Election Season Over, the Time for Action is Now!

After a long and grueling election season, Barack Obama was re-elected President of the United States while Democrats retained a majority in the U.S. Senate and Republicans in the House of Representatives. Voters made it clear that they want the President and Congress to focus on creating quality jobs. As the fastest-growing sector in our economy, the direct care workforce can play an important role in this effort. President Obama and Congress have supported various initiatives to stimulate the economy through investments in critical sectors such as teaching, manufacturing, construction, and green jobs. DCA will continue to educate the Obama Administration and Congress about why now is the time for direct care jobs to receive similar attention. Continue reading »

DCA Regretfully Accepts Leonila Vega’s Resignation

Posted by on November 5th, 2012 at 4:56 pm | 14 Comments »

Leonila Vega

I’m writing to let you know that I have decided to resign as executive director of Direct Care Alliance. It took a long time to reach this very difficult decision, but I recently realized that I need to reserve my strength and spirit for fighting the cancer I have been battling for more than a year. It’s time for DCA to find its next executive director, who will support and nurture direct care workers to lead the movement to improve direct care jobs. I will come back to the organization that I built, but I’m not sure when or in what capacity. In the meantime, the work must go on and DCA must move forward. — Leonila Vega


Tracy Dudzinski

It is with great sadness that we accept Leonila’s decision to resign so that she can focus on fighting this terrible disease. This was not an easy decision for her to make, or for us to accept. Under Leonila’s visionary leadership, DCA’s impact and influence has grown substantially. Thousands of direct care workers have been empowered to advocate for their profession who might not ever have made their voices heard without her leadership and encouragement.

While we are saddened by Leonila’s departure, we look forward to welcoming a passionate, creative and clear-sighted leader to build on the foundation that she leaves us with. — Tracy Dudzinski

Read more from Leonila and Tracy about Leonila’s decision and DCA’s next steps.