St. Vincent Special Needs names Employee of the Year

Frances Hernandez of Seymour was named St. Vincent's Special Needs Employee of the Year at St. Vincent's Health Services Annual Service Award's Dinner. At the event, employees from St. Vincent's affiliates, including the Trumbull-based St. Vincent's Medical Center, received service awards.

Hernandez joined St. Vincent's Special Needs Services in March of 1989. Although she has served in many different roles, since 2006 she has been the administrator of Adult Day Services, which provides programs to adults with significant disabilities.

Hernandez oversees the educational, vocational, recreational and spiritual needs of 144 adults with developmental disabilities in Special Needs' Stratford and Norwalk Adult Day Programs. She is usually the first point of contact for parents and school personnel seeking adult options for high school graduates.

In addition, Hernandez is an advocate for healthy living for both staff and persons served. She has been the team leader the past two years for the 10,000 steps a day challenge and has supported staff in the Smoke Stoppers program. With assistance from some creative staff, she was able to provided valuable time and space for Zumba/movements sessions as an enrichment opportunity for special Adult Day Program participants.

Hernandez is currently working on creating a small gym at the Stratford location so participants would also have the opportunity to exercise and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Beyond normal working hours, Hernandez has organized dinner dates at local restaurants and recently led a team to voluntarily clean out the home where one participant and her family were living in squalor, creating an unsafe situation. Lastly, as a way of showing thanks to her employees, she is famous for preparing and serving an annual Thanksgiving breakfast the morning before the holiday.