Denise Lee Named Louisiana’s 2023 Direct Support Professional of the Year

NEW ORLEANS (April 19, 2023) – The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) has announced that Denise Lee, a direct support professional at Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana, has been named the recipient of the 2023 Louisiana Direct Support Professional of the Year award. Lee joins 53 other recipients of ANCOR’s 2023 Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards, chosen from a record-breaking pool of more than 350 outstanding nominees.

Volunteers of America is overwhelmingly proud of Denise, for her award recognition of course, but more importantly for her dedication and commitment to true community inclusion for the people we support” said Voris R. Vigee, President & CEO of Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana. “We cannot think of anyone who more clearly demonstrates the transformative power of community-based supports, and we’re so grateful that ANCOR has recognized Denise with this high-profile honor.”

Since 2007, ANCOR’s annual DSP of the Year awards recognize outstanding direct support professionals (DSPs) who deliver long-term services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). The awards celebrate the important role DSPs play in ensuring people with IDD have what they need to thrive and be included in the community. These awards also seek to raise awareness about a direct support workforce in crisis. Inadequate investments in this essential workforce have led to a decades-long severe shortage of DSPs, which has only been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic and has accelerated into a crisis that threatens access to critically needed services.

“From voter education and self-advocacy initiatives to supporting people to pursue their career aspirations and so much more, direct support professionals like Denise make clear the crucial role this workforce plays in communities across the country,” said Diane Beastrom, president of ANCOR’s Board of Directors and president & chief executive officer of Koinonia, a disability service provider based in Independence, Ohio. “ANCOR is proud to celebrate Denise and the 53 other professionals who comprise the 2023 class of outstanding honorees.”

Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR, added: “For 17 years now, ANCOR has presented the Direct Support Professional of the Year Awards to recognize the outstanding professionals who power community inclusion for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The outstanding DSPs being honored this year deliver life-enhancing supports amid no shortage of significant challenges, not the least of which is a long-standing crisis in the ability of providers to recruit and retain qualified DSPs. Through it all, these professionals demonstrate an unwavering commitment to community inclusion and to the people they support. That’s why we feel honored to celebrate Denise and more than to other DSPs who exemplify excellence in our field.”

The 2023 DSP of the Year awards was presented in a ceremony at ANCOR’s 2023 Annual Conference in Chicago on April 26 at 2:30 pm CDT.

About Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana:
Volunteers of America is one of the nation’s oldest and largest comprehensive human services organizations with 16,000 paid professionals, dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. Founded in 1896, the faith-based nonprofit has affiliates in over 400 communities in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and serves more than 1.5 million people a year.

For over 127 years, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana has empowered and uplifted individuals including veterans, at-risk youth, low-income seniors, men and women returning home after incarceration, homeless individuals and families, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families in need of affordable housing, and those recovering from addictions. Our work touches the mind, body, heart – and ultimately the spirit – of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services. Visit for more information.

About ANCOR:
For more than 50 years, the American Network of Community Options and Resources ( has been a leading advocate for the critical role service providers play in enriching the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). As a national nonprofit trade association, ANCOR represents 2,000+ organizations employing more than a half-million professionals who together serve more than a million individuals with I/DD. Our mission is to advance the ability of our members to support people with I/DD to fully participate in their communities.

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