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AWARE Ink Newsletter

AWARE presents annual awards during Corporate Congress Banquet

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Corporate Congress Award Winners
Corporate Congress Award Winners

AWARE presented 13 awards (scroll to see award winners) during its Corporate Congress Awards Banquet June 17, 2021. A tradition since the 1990s, the Unconditional Care Principle, Employee of the Year, Independent Spirit, and George Groesbeck award winners are nominated by peers. The results are announced during AWARE’s annual Corporate Congress Award Banquet.

This year, nominations for the awards began in April. More than 60 recommendations were submitted with some amazing, inspiring stories. A special thanks goes out to everyone who took the time to share their nominee insights.

The nominations definitely reflected the work we do, which is difficult, yet rewarding. They show our staff rising to the occasion during these challenging times and adapting to ensure those we serve receive the care they need most. Each and every nomination exemplified AWARE’s mission of helping people live independent lives.

It was difficult to narrow down the final recipients. Leadership combed through each submission giving great consideration to each nomination. We did our best to spread the awards across the state and throughout each of our services.

The 13 award categories are specific to AWARE’s values, inspiring the way we provide care to the people we serve. Each staff member who received an award has demonstrated dedication to these values.

  • Ten Unconditional Care Principle (UCC) awards recognize staff who exemplify one of the 10 principles.

  • The Employee of the Year award recognizes a staff member who embodies all 10 UCC principles.

  • The Independent Spirit award recognizes a person AWARE serves who demonstrates great strength, commitment and resilience.

  • The George Groesbeck award recognizes a community partner who has made a difference in the lives of people with a disability.

We are excited to share the award results!

Keep scrolling to read about each of the award winners. You can also find a recorded live video of the Corporate Congress Awards Banquet ceremony here.

Employee of the Year Award

Charity Symonds

Program Director, Great Falls

Charity doesn’t just talk the talk - she is a model of dedication and true example of someone who loves what she does. She is always willing to roll up her sleeves, lend a hand, and dive into a situation. She’s a role model who inspires others to be the best they can. She works hard to provide the best care for both clients and tam members. She takes time to provide teddy bears for new residents when they arrive. She’s gone above and beyond supporting kids as schools closed during the height of COVID. And she’s dressed up for theme days and waved at residents from their driveways to boost morale. She is always there for everyone anytime and in any way she can be. She embraces a mentality that encompasses all 10 of AWARE’s UCC principles.

Independent Spirit Award

Danessa Kuck

Customer Support Representative, Billings

Danessa has excelled beyond all standards and stands out as an example for others by demonstrating strength, commitment, and resilience. She has demonstrated all of these things as she navigated her duties alongside a pandemic. She adapted to whatever came her way without skipping a beat. She’s a welcoming presence to anyone who meets her, and her cheerful demeanor never fades.

George Groesbeck Award

Kellie Wilson

Thrifty Drug, Anaconda

Kellie Wilson of Thrifty Drug has always been a joy to work with. This last year truly illustrated her commitment to not only AWARE, but to providing care to Montana’s most disadvantaged populations. She has leaned in 100 percent. Her unique approach to care and customer service is remarkable in its energy, compassion, and innovation. Without hesitation, she responds to all issues and requests for assistance – and she does so with an infectious desire to just do the right thing; nothing gets in her way of providing care and treatment. She not only assisted AWARE’s clients, but also our employees, by assuring we all had the opportunity to take part in COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics - - even traveling to other communities. Quite simply, she embodies the spirt and soul of care; treating all like family members and with dignity, respect, and humor. You cannot help but feel uplifted in her presence. AWARE has been honored to work alongside her.

Unconditional Care Principle Awards

1. Building on strengths is the key to success

Julia Allison

Residential TST, Missoula

Julia fully embodies the spirit of this UCC Principle by truly getting to know every kiddo in her care. She’s insightful – bringing out the best in those around her - and she goes out of her way to engage in activities and conversations that help her connect in meaningful ways. Her dedication has helped fulfill the hopes and dreams of many kids in our care.

2. We take on and stick with the hardest challenges

CFE Day Treatment Team


The Center for Excellence Day Treatment Team works with some of the most challenging individuals in the state. Every day they dedicate themselves to helping kids manage emotional, educational, and physical struggles. They keep kids in school – and they help them graduate and become successful adults.

3. We are agents of change

Christina Bugni

ECS Education Manager, Butte

Christina has truly embraced change. She has traveled the state supporting teachers and has been instrumental in developing a remote classroom service. She focuses on the positive – and always celebrates success. She’s remained flexible and resilient during a challenging year and has always kept a level head in the midst of chaotic situations.

4. Everything is normal until proven otherwise

Kassie Fjare

DD TCM, Bozeman

Kassie has gone to bat for her clients’ time and time again. She always finds a way to meet their needs – even if that means going the extra mile to secure new placements with new providers. She truly embodies the meaning of this UCC Principle in every way.

5. Families are our most important resource

Janet McDonald

DD TCM, Missoula

While this next recipient represents many of the UCC principles, she holds this value especially true to her heart. She has been a role model for others as she devotes herself to supporting the whole family as part of the care team. And with many of her families, they come to treat her as one of their own.

6. I’m OK, you’re OK

John Jackson

Residential TST, Great Falls

John is known for accepting people for who they are - without judgement. He maintains a calm presence. One that brings people together during times of crisis. He’s reliable and always sets a positive tone.

7. It takes a team

Deanne Wigen

YCM, Billings

Deanne fully embodies this principle. She’s seen as a mentor by many and goes out of her way to help others. She’s flexible working both among and across teams – whether they’re clients and families, other providers, community resources, or other service lines. With this recipient, there’s simply no stone unturned in the pursuit of the highest quality care.

8. Our connection with our communities is vital

Rachael Boyle

Administrative Assistant, Helena

Rachael is the central component of her community. She is efficient, provides attention to detail, and provides tremendous care for the people we serve. She is a “get it done” kind of person that knows her community in and out. Her connections multiply the effectiveness of everything that comes her way.

9. We strive to the highest quality of care

Eric Boroni

Residential night watch, Butte

Eric is committed to every one of those words. He puts other’s needs before his own and is always willing to pitch in. He’s dependable and pushes himself - and those around him - to rise to the occasion.

10. Lighten up and laugh

Celeste Willis

CSCT Clinician, Missoula

Celeste has a sense of humor that can light up any room. She can make any task more enjoyable with a quick-witted joke, infectious laughter, or a simply radiant smile. She knows how to reduce the stress of strong emotions while encouraging the people in her care to see the positive side of things. She’s an expert in happiness – and it translates to the clients and families she works with every day.

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