Cindy Cepparo

Cindy Cepparo

2014 Dedication Award - York Region

The Vitanova Foundation

Nominator Comments:

Cindy has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the goals of the organization, if only by virtue of the fact that she was the first person hired to fill a paid position and remains Vitanova’s longest-serving employee—over 25 years. By way of example of that commitment, during that time (and particularly after receiving her MSW degree) she has had ample opportunity to move on to more financially-rewarding positions. Yet she has stayed, continues to be a key player in the growth of Vitanova and a key shaper in the on-going development of its client-centred, wrap-around, whatever-it-takes approach to addiction treatment.

Cindy demonstrates excellent and consistent performance and professionalism. To the clinical staff she directs, she is a model of fairness and unflappability, always finishing what she starts, always retaining the clients’ respect, always eager to share her knowledge with placement students. By way of example, she has recently introduced and operated an entirely new program by which the children of clients receive counselling around the fact that one or more parent has a substance use issue.

Cindy is always ready to participate in special projects and committees. She is Vitanova’s representative at the local Concurrent Disorder Network, and its liaison with the Me-to-We working group (a high school-level project that engages youth in positive, socially-oriented initiatives). By way of a special example: a year or so ago, knowing that accreditation was a goal very much on the collective mind of the board of directors, she volunteered to be part of a sector-wide panel convened to discuss how small-to-medium sized agencies might best manage the multi-year lead-up to formal accreditation. She brought back what she learned to Vitanova and has for the last four months headed up a staff/volunteer working group doing the detailed preparation for a May 2016 visit by representatives of the Canadian Centre for Accreditation.

In the past year, Cindy has consolidated the excellent start made to a new program at Vitanova (as briefly mentioned above): the counselling of the minor children of our clients. Among the latter group—substance users/abusers/addicts—are a number of parents with children who have been exposed to their parents substance-related behaviour and show signs of such exposure in terms of negative intra-family and in-school behaviours. It became clear to Cindy that these children were in need of assistance in dealing with the emotional and psychological effects of their family situations.

To that end, Vitanova secured external financial support to set up and deliver an individual counselling program targeting these pre-teen (as young as 3 or 4 years of age) and teenage children of our clients (and sometimes, with the consent of a custodial parent, children of substance users/abusers/addicts who are not in the Vitanova program).

Cindy has been in charge of this program since its inception—not simply in her capacity as program director at Vitanova, but also as the front-line provider of the service the program offers. While the current (second) year of the program is expected to demonstrate statistical improvements versus the benchmarks established in the first year, all reports and observations indicate the children who are going or have gone through this program are happier, less isolated, and interacting better with their peers.

Many years ago, Cindy was assigned a client (we’ll call him “Mick) who was attending Vitanova’s day treatment program. Mick’s life—by any standards—was a mess, compounded by the fact that he was unemployed and had a wife and three children from whom he was estranged. Cindy worked very hard with Mick, and eventually he met with success, achieving a stable recovery.

But while he was undergoing that recovery, Cindy did not stop there. She reached out to Mick’s family, got a good idea of their predicament, and made sure that they received all of the support they could while Mick continued his recovery, and during which he had no income to support his family.

Recently, Cindy has an unexpected visitor. Mick’s son—whom Cindy had not seen in approximately 17 years—came to visit her, to thank her for what she did for his father and his entire family. Cindy, of course, did not recognize him at first. She had long ago forgotten the fact that she had gone well beyond her duty as Mick’s counsellor. But someone remembered, and is still grateful.

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