Marcfirst | Normal, IL
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For Immediate Release
April 16, 2019

National Disability Provider Association Names Gary Ferguson Recipient of 2019 DSP of the Year Award

Recognition honors excellence in workforce providing long-term supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Normal, IL – The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) announced that Gary Ferguson, a Direct Support Professional at Marcfirst, has been named the recipient of the 2019 DSP of the Year award. Ferguson, a 30+ year employee, joins more than four dozen other recipients of ANCOR’s 2019 Direct Support Professional of the Year awards, chosen from a field of nearly 350 outstanding nominees.

“Marcfirst is overwhelmingly proud of Gary Ferguson, for his award recognition of course, but more importantly for his dedication and commitment to true community inclusion for the individuals we support,” said Laura Furlong, CEO. “We cannot think of anyone who more clearly demonstrates the power of person-centered supports, and we’re so grateful that ANCOR has recognized Gary with this high-profile honor.” Gary is the third DSP of the year for Illinois from Marcfirst, where the amazing support of our staff makes all the difference for helping people be connected to the community through so many opportunities.

Awarded annually since 2007, ANCOR’s Direct Support Professional of the Year awards recognize outstanding professionals who provide long-term supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The awards and the accompanying presentation at ANCOR’s Annual Conference were created to celebrate the important role Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) play in ensuring individuals with I/DD can be included and empowered in their communities, and to raise awareness about a direct support workforce in crisis. Nationally, turnover rates near 50 percent amount to a significant shortage of DSPs.

“I started my career in the field of disability supports as a DSP, and so I know just how critical DSPs are to supporting individuals in their quest to live their best and most fulfilling lives,” said Robert Budd, President of ANCOR and Chief Executive Officer at FREE, Inc, in Old Bethpage, New York. “DSPs rarely receive the recognition they deserve, and for that reason I’m proud of our association for recognizing Gary and all of his significant contributions to the lives of the individuals supported by Marcfirst.”

Barbara Merrill, ANCOR’s Chief Executive Officer, added: “I often describe DSPs as ‘community navigators.’ Far more than just caregivers, DSPs do it all. From navigating civic life to supporting individuals to create a sense of community around them, DSPs make magic in their communities every single day. These awards represent just a fraction of the recognition that individuals like Gary Ferguson deserve.”

The 2019 Direct Support Professional of the Year awards will be presented in a ceremony in Portland, Oregon, on May 8, 2019, at ANCOR’s Annual Conference, Bridges to Better Outcomes. Members of the press interested in attending the awards presentation should contact Sean Luechtefeld, ANCOR’s Director of Communications, at or 703.535.7850, ext. 100.



For nearly 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 1,600+ 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.

About Marcfirst

Marcfirst serves over 800 children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families. Marcfirst’s mission is to support people with developmental disabilities in McLean County with opportunities to reach their full potential through a lifetime of meaningful services. Since 1955, Marcfirst has been dedicated to helping people and their families stay local to live, connect and thrive in our community.