News & Events

Disability services leader to retire after 35-year career, empowering people to live fulfilled, meaningful lives

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Nov. 12, 2019 — Cynthia Alexander’s plan to use her bachelor’s degree in psychology to start a career helping people with disabilities at Shelby Residential and Vocational Services didn’t get off to a great start.

 “The hiring manager was skeptical about people with psychology background, so I didn’t get the job on my first try,” Alexander said. “After about a month she was desperate for help and called me. It was on a Friday, and I started work the following Monday.”

 Alexander began a 35-year journey at SRVS helping provide safe housing, community engagement and fulfilled lives for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. SRVS, founded in Memphis in 1962, provides employment, residential, children’s services and other supports to 1,800 individuals.

 “Working at SRVS has been extremely rewarding, and it’s wonderful to help supported individuals realize their dreams,” Alexander said of her time at SRVS, which concludes Nov. 30. “Most of all, I’ll miss the people we support and the SRVS staff. I’ve experienced every emotion at SRVS but coming to work never felt like a job.”

 Since joining the nonprofit in 1984, Alexander has served multiple roles, including service coordinator, director of Residential Services and quality support manager. During her career she supervised staff who supported 150 people in 65 residential homes and apartments across Shelby County. She was instrumental in the creation of SRVS’ Fall Banquet, an annual gathering highly anticipated by individuals supported by the agency.

 “Cynthia has had a tremendous impact at SRVS,” said Dr. Jaqueline Green, director of Residential Services. “When I think of Cynthia I think about the Mahalia Jackson song lyrics, ‘If I can help somebody as I travel along, if I can help somebody with a word or a song, if I can show somebody that he's traveling wrong, then my living won't be in vain.’”

 Alexander also has firsthand experience in living with a disability. Six years after joining SRVS, she was injured following an accidental shooting involving a friend with a firearm. She lost part of her hearing and vision and had to relearn how to walk, talk and feed herself. Four months after the accident, she returned to work at SRVS.

 Upon Alexander’s return, her commitment to attending to the needs of the individuals supported grew, helping them live lives of dignity in their own homes, engage in community life and achieve individual goals.

 That dedication led Alexander to being recognized for her excellence in providing supports for people with disabilities. In 2006, she was named Professional of the Year by Arc Mid-South and was invited to speak at its gala in 2010. In 2011, Alexander traveled to Washington, DC to accept an award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for outstanding management of a multifamily housing project.

 In her retirement, Alexander said she plans to travel with her husband Rudolph, visiting family in Las Vegas, Nashville and Nebraska. She added that she likely won’t be a stranger at SRVS after retirement as she may volunteer at agency events.

Posted by SRVS PR at Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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SRVS Awarded $150,000 by Assisi Foundation for Program

MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sept. 3, 2019 -- Shelby Residential & Vocational Services (SRVS) has been awarded $150,000 by the Assisi Foundation to expand the non-profit disability services agency’s Independence Coach model of support that increases self-determination and independence for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Independence Coaches are intentionally trained to provide support that encourages an individual’s autonomy and community participation, empowering people with disabilities to live meaningful lives of their choosing,” said Tyler Hampton, SRVS executive director. “We are very thankful to the Assisi Foundation for their investment in this innovative concept.  This funding will help people have richer lives and improved health outcomes, both physical and mental, through the addition of 120 new independence coaches over the next two years.”

According to the American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and The Arc, historically people with disabilities “have not had the opportunity or the supports to make choices and decisions about the most important aspects of their lives. Instead, they have often been overprotected and involuntarily segregated, with others making decisions about key elements of their lives.”

Focusing on coaching, teaching and mentoring, SRVS seeks to transform services from the traditional, tightly controlled caregiver model to one where staff are trained to become more aware of the independent needs of people they support and provide tools so people can make their own decisions.

“This is a dramatic change from the way services have been delivered, where direct support staff, typically in settings with multiple people, would do practically everything for the people they support,” Hampton said. “Now, by allowing more dignity of choice, giving people the space to make more independent decisions, staff are seeing the people they support become happier, healthier and better adjusted.”

SRVS currently employs 13 independence coaches supporting 10 individuals in four homes. By training up to 120 additional independence coaches, SRVS expects to impact the lives of 465 people in the next two years through the independence coach model.

Posted by SRVS PR at Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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21st annual SRVS Sparkling Nights Set for Aug. 17

MEMPHIS, Tenn., July 24, 2019 – The 21st annual SRVS Sparkling Nights premier auction, food and wine tasting gala will be held Saturday, Aug. 17, from 6:30–11:30 p.m., at Hilton Memphis, 939 Ridge Lake Blvd.

 The event has raised more than $2 million since its inception in 1999 as a fundraiser to support SRVS programs. The founding of Sparkling Nights, originally called the Spirit of SRVS, grew out of conversations between SRVS board member John Barzizza and SRVS staff. The idea was to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit.

 Sparkling Nights has grown considerably in the past 20 years, with the first event attracting approximately 90 people and raising $10,000. Today, Sparkling Nights is SRVS’ largest fundraiser and attracts more than 700 attendees and raises an average of $200,000 each year. In 2018, a record $224,395 was raised. Funds from Sparkling Nights support SRVS programs that include children’s services, residential supports and employment.

 “As a non-profit organization committed to helping others, the people we support rely on your contributions so SRVS can continue to provide services that people with disabilities need to live meaningful lives as members of their community,” said SRVS board member and Sparkling Nights chairwoman Jerilyn Hayward.  

 Each year an original painting is commissioned by a local artist to be auctioned at Sparkling Nights. The 2019 painting, “Success in the City,” is by artist Michael Maness. The painting includes handprints of people SRVS supports scattered around a heart with the skyline of Memphis serving as a backdrop. Maness’ artwork is often displayed and sold around Memphis and the mid-south.

Posted by SRVS PR at Wednesday, November 13, 2019
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