As a Black Hills Works volunteer, Makenzie Ovenstone fills a vital need by teaching staff ASL (American Sign Language) in several homes where the people we support have hearing loss as well as other disabilities. Importantly, her unique skills help DSPs communicate more effectively with the people they support.
Makenzie works at CSD (Communication Service for the Deaf) as a community support specialist. She learned about the need for ASL instructors at BHW when staff contacted her agency for advice on how to best help some of the people we support. She didn’t just provide advice, but generously offered to come directly to the homes as a volunteer!
Makenzie’s enthusiasm for her volunteer role is undeniable. She says, “I love to see everyone doing their best to communicate with hearing loss adults without frustrations at the end of each session. I also love to teach ASL!”
Most recently, Makenzie has volunteered at Quincy Apartments for almost a year. She has taught Terri Elkins and staff ASL in order to help them communicate with Kevin Carpenter, a person supported.
During her time at Quincy, she says, “I always see in Kevin’s eyes that he enjoys joining the signing sessions and quizzing his staff. He feels proud of himself to teach his staff . . . I love to see that!”
Kevin is not the only one who enjoys Makenzie’s sessions. Terri Elkins, DSP at Quincy, says “Since Makenzie has volunteered . . . we can better communicate with Kevin. She has had amazing patience with teaching us as we were all pretty new to sign language and now we can sign to him and he lights up!”
Makenzie also sees how much staff have learned. She says, “Volunteering at several different homes, I have seen staff’s energy and enthusiasm with learning during their ASL sessions.”
Through her generous gift of volunteering, Makenzie has made an enormous difference in many people’s lives. Terri happily says, “Makenzie is an amazing person and we are so grateful to her.” Thank you, Makenzie!