SIMHS congratulates our three staff members who received 2016 Community Service Awards from the Staten Island Not-for-Profit Association on November 20 at the Vanderbilt in South Beach.
Head Start Fiscal Officer Patchara Changpertitum; Early Recognition Screening Specialist and Chief Staff Nurse Jane DiFortuna, RN; and Superintendent for Facilities Management Daniel Rothmund will be honored, along with staff of other Island charitable organizations, as “unsung heroes” who work above and beyond their official duties.
When your name – Patchara – means “diamond,” you have to be bright, tough, and many-faceted….adjectives that describe Patchara Changpertitum to a tee.
With a college degree in music and employed as a primary school music teacher in her native Thailand, Patchara traded notes for notation to pursue a new career in math – her school forte – when she came to the US in 1983.
After working as a bookkeeper at a New Jersey firm for more than 20 years, in 2008 Ms. Changpertitum took a part-time job as a staff accountant with the Society, that soon expanded to full-time.
Thanks to her outstanding mathematical abilities, her hard work, strong sense of responsibility and personal warmth and charm, in 2014 Patchara was promoted to Chief Fiscal Officer of our SIMHS’s Head Start program, which encompasses four Head Start centers that serve more than 300 preschoolers. In this position, she’s in charge of accounting and reporting Head Start’s complex federal, state and city governmental funding streams and ensuring that the program complies with all required statutes. She also supervises and mentors her own staff.
According to her colleague, “Patchara ably filled the shoes of her predecessor, who had retired after many years, because of her proven capabilities with fiscal details. “Although the transition presented challenges, she displayed great energy and motivation, not only during the workday, but often after hours and on weekends, without compromising her role as wife and mother of two. She mastered this new, intricate set of responsibilities with the shine and toughness of a diamond.”
Jane DiFortuna, RN
President Obama has called nurses, “…the beating heart of our medical system.” He was surely referring to nurses like Jane DiFortuna, a vital member of the Staten Island Mental Health Society’s health team for 26 years. Her strong nurse’s heartbeat echoes among her extended family – 3 children, 11 grandchildren and her centenarian mom – as well as throughout just about every program the agency runs.
For more than two decades, Ms. DiFortuna assisted SIMHS’s staff developmental pediatricians in assessing and promoting the developmental health of hundreds of clients. As she fondly recalls, “I still have a bond and a chemistry with every child we diagnosed, reached out to, and supported. They remain close to my heart.”
While these duties continue, for the last four years Ms. DiFortuna has expanded her responsibilities to include Early Recognition Screening (ERS) Specialist, evaluating individuals from infancy to 21 for possible mental health disorders.
As ERS specialist, she leads her team to various sites, where they conduct candid screenings of young people that promote early recognition of mental health problems and links to community resources and services that can provide assistance. She also crisscrosses the Island giving informative and thought-provoking talks to schools, parents, teachers and community leaders on how to decrease the stigma still attached to mental health services.
Her colleague noted, “Jane goes above and beyond in every way. She has taken the ERS program to a new level, surpassing the quota of screenings and creating connections with pediatricians who have made this screening part of their overall health evaluations. Her career is a lifelong mission that combines professionalism with kindness and generosity of spirit. At every event, there is someone who benefits from her presence; she’s there to talk to anyone who needs advice on mental health. I’ve seen her turn a moment of desperation into a moment of hope.”
In late 1991, Danny Rothmund needed to earn some extra cash for Christmas shopping, so he took a temporary part-time job working in the Society’s copy room. Twenty-five years later, he’s still here, but now holds the full-time position of Superintendent for Facilities Management, second in command of the department and his boss‘s right-hand man. His responsibilities include all phases of facilities and grounds maintenance, as well as extensive record-keeping and fire logs, at the Society’s 23 program sites stretching from Port Richmond to Princes Bay.
But whether he’s hauling a copy machine from one location to another, painting an office on a Saturday morning, entering important data into a computer, or training a new member of the maintenance team, Mr. Rothmund is known not only for his hard and skillful work, but for his ready smile and friendly demeanor.
According to his colleague, “Danny constantly goes way above and beyond his set duties, always at the ready and prepared to sub for an absent or vacationing team member. He takes pride in his work and he’s liked and respected by both our staff and our clients. He’s the one member of the team who can take full charge if necessary.”
A husband and dad, Mr. Rothmund often feels a bond with clients. “This part-time gig turned into a motivation for me when I was young. While doing my job, I met a lot of kids who came for services, and still see many who come back as adults or with family members. It’s a blessing to see them all grown-up and living better and healthier lives because of the place where I work.”