Tammy RyanNewburgh Director — Sunshine ADC
If you ask Tammy Ryan what goes into planning activities at Sunshine’s three locations, she’ll tell you: “It’s all about having fun. If it’s not fun, we really don’t want to do it.” In addition to overseeing Sunshine’s centers, Ryan spends time with members every day at the Peekskill and Newburgh locations.
Ryan’s interest in working with the older members of our communities was first sparked when she was earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and wrote her thesis on the benefits of wellness programs for the elderly. She went on to receive a Master of Education degree in Health Promotion and Wellness Management, and began her working life as a health counselor developing employee wellness programs for large companies. Along the way, Ryan also gained certification in first aid and CPR.
After a career managing health and wellness centers and a hiatus to devote herself to motherhood, Ryan returned to the field that had first inspired her as a college student, managing residential communities for the elderly. “I found a passion for the elderly when managing retirement communities,” she says.
That passion guides her work as Sunshine’s regional director. “You can genuinely see with the population we serve that we’re positively affecting their lives,” she says. “We have a duty to keep our members healthy and strong, in mind and body, to postpone placement into institutions and also to offer a much needed respite for caretakers. I make sure that our members are having a good experience and that we’re providing them compassionate care.
Ryan credits the success of Sunshine ADC to her staff. “They enjoy working with this population,” she explains. “That’s what makes for a successful daycare.” Ryan has built a staff of experienced, certified home health aides who find the time they spend with Sunshine members as meaningful as she does. “They’re truly compassionate people who are amazing,” she says. “I couldn’t be more proud of our staff.”
Sharing days that are filled with engaging activities and a spirit of camaraderie makes Ryan, her staff, and Sunshine’s members a vital part of each other’s lives. “When you get older, you can become lonely and isolated, and sometimes a victim of illness,” says Ryan. “We create these awesome programs and centers that are clean and friendly and warm and comforting for our elderly members to find a place to reach their optimal levels of functioning and to feel loved. And that’s rewarding. No paycheck could ever give you the type of intrinsic reward that these members give back to us when we treat them the way they deserve.”
Jasmin TejeraMonticello Director — Sunshine ADC
“We’ve created a family here,” says Jasmin Tejera. “It’s magical, and it doesn’t happen everywhere.” Tejera is Director of Sunshine’s Monticello center, overseeing activities for both the adult home population and the group of social daycare members who share their time together at Sunshine.
Tejera holds a bachelor’s degree in Education and came to Sunshine with long experience managing community service programs ranging from health education to maternal and infant services. She has sat on numerous community boards and coalitions in Sullivan County, including Sullivan Renaissance, Latino Service Providers Coalition, Tobacco Free Action Communities, and the AIDS Council. Born and raised in Manhattan, Tejera has lived in the county for more than twelve years and is bilingual in English and Spanish.
In addition to her work directing the Monticello center, Tejera visits community members in their homes to bring them information about Sunshine. That outreach work allows her to see the difference that joining Sunshine can make in members’ lives. “It changes their way of life,” she says. “It gives them back their freedom, independence, and creativity. I have people who were painters once, and because they had a stroke, they weren’t able to pick up a drawing pad again. When they came to the center, they realized they could develop that skill again.”
To create the kind of environment that transforms members’ lives, Tejera works with Regional Director Tammy Ryan to program a wide range of activities tailored to the needs and interests of Sunshine’s Monticello members. She also organizes special community events where members sell craftwork that they’ve made and give musical performances together.
But even more than activities and events, Tejera points to her staff as Sunshine Monticello’s greatest strength. “I believe that the success of the program is determined by the staff,” she says. “You can have a million activities, but if you don’t have the proper staff to engage the clients in them, you’re not giving them heart and soul.” Tejera and her staff meet every day to make sure they’re responding to members’ needs, and they keep the lines of communication with members open. “It’s a give and take,” she says. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
Tejera feels that the daily give and take with members has changed her life for the better, too. “I don’t think I ever want to do anything other than what I do,” she says. “I recently had a woman write a letter to us that said we gave her back her life. That itself is my reward.”
Laura DupreyNewburgh Manager— Sunshine ADC
“Everybody has different passions,” says Laura Duprey, Manager of Sunshine’s Newburgh center. “Some people like to cook, and that’s their passion. My passion is my seniors.” Duprey has been following her passion for helping others for more than 30 years, first through her work in Veterans Administration hospitals and then as a home care provider for elderly patients.
She also puts her talents to work hosting a weekly radio show on Radio Alcanca, where she brings news and information about Sunshine ADC to the public and discusses community issues with callers from the Newburgh area. “I’ve always been a people person,” Duprey says. “My mother raised me to reach out to people.” Duprey herself is a mother of four grown children and a grandmother of five. Born in Brooklyn, she has lived in upstate New York for over 55 years. She is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Duprey feels a camaraderie with Sunshine’s Newburgh members not only through her experience as a caregiver but also through her own life experience. “I’ve battled cancer and lost a kidney,” she explains. “But here I am. We all have a chance in life to continue if we want to.” Bringing that spirit of strength and optimism to Sunshine members is an integral part of her work. “If you’re going to help somebody, I believe you have to feel it in your heart,” she says. “You have to have compassion toward people to be able to help them. Not everybody can do this kind of work. If it’s not in your heart, it’s not going to help anybody.”
Working with Newburgh Director Tammy Ryan, Duprey programs a wide range of activities and events at the Newburgh center. She enjoys making breakfast for the group and spending time with members. “Everybody becomes friends here,” she says. “They become family, and they look forward to seeing each other when they get here.”
Duprey looks forward to her work at Sunshine every day. “I’m always here before eight o’clock,” she says. “People ask me why I get up so early. It’s because I look forward to my work. I never want to leave this field, because it’s something I really love to do. This work is something more than just a paycheck. It’s something you want to give to others.”
Coming from a large family that includes five sisters who are registered nurses, Aida Garcia began working as a caregiver for seniors at the tender age of 16. Garcia now lives in Newburgh and enjoys reading, dancing, and spending time with her two growing boys.
“My mission at Sunshine is to show our members that there is more to life than being alone or being mistreated,” Garcia says. “I love each and every one of our members. I love to make them smile, feel happy, and overall feel loved. I honestly don’t think of it as just my job. It’s my life.”
Milagros Caceres came to Sunshine with a lengthy career in community service already behind her. After moving from Puerto Rico to New York City as a child, Caceres raised a family in NYC with her husband, Heriberto, and put her bilingual skills to work as an advocate for Spanish-peaking residents seeking help with housing, education, and immigration issues.
Caceres has been honored for her service by organizations including the Lions Club and Latinos Unidos, and continues to contribute her time and talents to Newburgh City events such as the Spanish Heritage Festival, National Night Out, and Annual Hispanic Heritage Cultural Celebration.
Krishna Zamora gets everyone on their feet with classes like Zumba Gold and salsa dancing at the Newburgh and Peekskill Sunshine locations. She also works as an outreach coordinator for Sunshine in Peekskill, helping seniors in the community learn about what Sunshine has to offer them.
Zamora started teaching dance at the age of 15 in her native Chile and enjoyed a successful career as a marketing manager after moving to the U.S. 22 years ago. Now a mother of two young boys, the Newburgh resident devotes her free time to fundraising for worthy causes. “This job makes me smile every day,” Zamora says. “Making seniors happy, helping them move and enjoy themselves, and giving them a better way of living is amazing.”
Margie Carrasquillo came to Sunshine a year ago after working as an aide at a senior center in the Bronx. She had previously worked for New York City’s Department of Parks and Recreation, specializing in maintenance and safety programs, and is certified in CPR and first aid. She is also bilingual in English and Spanish.
A busy mother of five—including twin sons—Carrasquillo lives in Peekskill and enjoys reading and relaxing with her dog Princess when she gets a little free time.
Amanda DeJesus came to Sunshine over two years ago to pursue her dedication to community service. “As a young girl growing up in NYC, I always enjoyed the feeling of helping others,” she says. “I absolutely love the capacity in which I perform here, as well as the members we provide service for.” Now a Monticello resident, DeJesus spends her time away from Sunshine raising a young son of her own.