We help people with disabilities age with grace and dignity.

National Social Workers’ Month Highlight – PLAN Director of Operations Kathy Vitello

Date posted: March 20, 2023

For the last 60 years, March has been recognized across the country as National Social Work Month. At all levels of our society – but particularly when it comes to people living with disabilities and people over the age of 65 – social workers play an indispensable role. From helping people access critical benefits and services, to providing companionship and helping navigate complex systems and bureaucracies, social workers do so much to improve the quality of life for so many marginalized people.

At PLAN of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, social workers comprise an integral part of our beneficiary relationships. We strive to be more than just a trustee and financial manager. The connections that our social worker team builds with trust beneficiaries, and the services we can help them access, represent some of the most important things we’re able to do.

It’s fundamental to our driving mission of helping people with disabilities live full, dignified lives while protecting their access to benefits.

Today, we’d like to highlight the career and contributions of PLAN Director of Operations Kathy Vitello, LSW. With more than 35 years of experience working with seniors, people who are mentally and physically disabled, and the chronically ill, Kathy is the longest-tenured social worker on PLAN’s staff, having joined our organization 10 years ago as a Service Coordinator. In 2018, she was promoted to Director of Beneficiary Services, and in 2020 took over as PLAN’s Director of Operations.

Kathy draws from her work in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, in-home and hospice settings, nursing, and rehabilitation to inform PLAN’s operational philosophy, never forgetting the lessons learned from her long career in social work:

“I started in social work in the era before licensing existed,” says Kathy. “So much has changed since, and many things have gotten better – though some things are still difficult. It’s much more professional now and less about who you know.”

“Social work is in our DNA – it’s in the roots of our organization. We work with lots of people with mental health issues, with lifelong disabilities, who have to live within government poverty guidelines. They’ve never had full control over their lives, and we help them with that.”

Looking back at her career and her experiences in the field of social work, Kathy recalls some of the people she’s worked with and stories she’s heard that impacted her the most:

“There was one young man in long-term care, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child. He was involved in an accident and became quadriplegic. He was in a very difficult living situation in Florida and came to Massachusetts, where he began to use artwork as a coping mechanism. His trust was funded by the settlement from his accident, and he was able to use it to further his art and create these incredible pieces.

“Another beneficiary had never met many members of her family – children and grandchildren – who lived in Alaska. We were able to use her fund to hire caregivers and send her to Alaska to meet all this family she’d never met before, in her late 80s, and it was just the trip of a lifetime for her.”

With the combination of responsible financial stewardship and compassionate social care, PLAN is proud to provide our clients access to the social workers we celebrate this March. We truly could not execute our vision and our work without the effort that they put in each and every day, and we’re so glad to have worked closely with Kathy for the last decade and hopefully many more!