The MENTOR Network

Lou Perkins Direct Support Professional, REM West Virginia

Direct Support Professional Lou Perkins, better known as Phoenix to his colleagues at REM West Virginia, has combined his passion for art with his dedication to supporting people facing significant physical and emotional challenges.

“He has gone above and beyond in his duties as a direct support professional to provide additional resources, tools and personal time to empower those we serve,” said Tiffany Allen, area director at REM West Virginia and one of Phoenix’s nominators. “He has demonstrated amazing advocacy for the members he works with and the community as a whole.”

Over the past five years, Phoenix has spent much of his time supporting a fellow artist and rights advocate, and his wife, who are both aging with challenges and receive services from REM West Virginia. He attends advocacy events with the gentleman, patiently translating speech patterns altered by Cerebral Palsy. Together, they can be found fighting budget cuts at the state capitol to preserve funding for individuals with disabilities, on YouTube speaking out at Disability Advocacy Day, and out of the spotlight talking to committees, Medicare panels and other lawmakers and advocates. Every Friday you can find them at REM West Virginia’s day program, The Tree House, helping program participants express themselves through art.

Phoenix has had several roles as an artist, teacher and caregiver before joining REM, but calls his current role his favorite.

“I don’t think of my work as extraordinary,” said Phoenix of what he does. “I feel like I am having an extraordinary experience.”