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From the Team

The First Place–Phoenix team celebrates a year of firsts by sharing their favorite memories.

Nancy Ottmann, Executive Director

Favorite “first:” Attending my first Global Leadership Institute symposium was one of the most inspirational and emotional professional experiences of my career. No price tag could be placed on Denise Resnik’s knowledge, expertise—and above all, passion—she shared on how to build a supportive housing community for adults with autism and other neuro-diversities. Her mission is going viral across the globe and I’m excited to be a part of this powerful movement!

A memorable moment: I attended a CORE meeting where the members wrote “Act of Kindness” cards. They all noted how thankful they were to be at First Place. Someone wrote about a staff member, “April is always kind and hardworking. She cares about supporting the residents and makes sure they succeed.” It was heartwarming to hear how thankful and happy they were to have a place to call home.

Best part of my day: I enjoy ending my day seeing residents socializing and actively participating in our community life activities—and I always look forward to seeing what’s for dinner on Wellness Wednesday!

Zach Zaborny, Lead Concierge

The best part of being on the First Place team is being able to help not only our residents, but their families, too. It’s always nice to help give parents and family members peace of mind, knowing that their son or daughter is in a safe environment that they enjoy. My most memorable moment at First Place was meeting Arizona Governor Doug Ducey when he came for a press conference promoting employment partnerships here at First Place. It was neat to see the positive impact that First Place is making—not only on the lives of our residents, but also on the community at large.

Nina Bernardo, Community Life Coordinator

The best part of my day is when the residents are returning home from work or volunteering. Words can describe what I’m witnessing, but only the experience can be felt. As soon as they walk through the front doors, the lobby area fills with laughter as they share conversations about their day out in the community. Kindness is spoken, celebrations are sung, forgiveness is extended, appreciation is accepted, friendships are strengthened—and weekend plans are made! For me personally, it’s a chance for reflection but also a time when I learn something new from a resident. It’s a reminder that I’m part of something so innovative and meaningful here at First Place. It’s a time in my day when I feel closest to being a part of the residents’ home—and I sometimes don’t feel ready to go home yet because the community at First Place is so welcoming…because #weretheplaceforthat!

Mary Ann Bashaw, Communication Specialist

One of my tasks as communication specialist for First Place is to create quarterly reports. It’s a time-consuming effort that involves lots of researching, collaborating and compiling before I put the pieces together. Once the reports are complete, I always enjoy sitting back and taking stock of how they’re like treasure chests packed full of shiny, colorful, multifaceted gems that represent the many remarkable things happening at First Place each and every day!

Renée Greene, Executive Liaison

Seriously, the best part of my day is when one of Transition Academy students walks by my office window and waves to me. He’s a very quiet guy and it brightens my day that he makes the effort to say hello. My most memorable moment so far was at the recent celebration of the third cohort of Transition Academy students graduating from the program. The off-site event was being live-streamed from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, so we had set up in the Cox Community Room at First Place–Phoenix, where a small group of residents and students were watching. I sat at a table with the same quiet young man who waves at me every day. He started asking lots of questions about me and we ended up having a nice conversation. It’s so great to see the progress he’s making and the relationships he’s building with staff, residents and fellow students.

Mitch Barr, Senior Bookkeeper

The best part of being on the First Place team is the opportunity to work with passionate and caring people. I love the fact that everyone I work with enjoys coming here every day. We all share a common desire to revolutionize housing for adults with autism and other neuro-diversities and that energy is contagious. My most memorable moment at First Place so far was enjoying an impromptu karaoke session for residents on one of our recent “Feel Good Fridays.” Everyone was so inclusive and supportive of each other and couldn’t help but have a great time, whether or not they were a karaoke hero. I couldn’t help but think that all communities could benefit from such a positive environment as we have here—and that’s really special.

Sara Hetrick, Resident & Family Outreach Director

“The best part of my day is conversations and interactions with students and residents where I get to hear or see them experience new ‘firsts,’ living their best, big lives. It always causes me to reflect on early, pre-move-in conversations with families during the application process and makes me truly appreciate both the individual and collective opportunities available and successes experienced through First Place. I love being able to witness residents experiencing the enormity of their own potential. The journey toward independence is never the same for any of our families or residents and I understand their fear at times. It makes me think of a quote I recently came across: ‘A ship in the harbor is safe—but that’s not what ships are built for.’”