SPRING 2019 NEWSLETTER
CELEBRATING OUR CONNECTIONS
WE'RE HIRING — P. 5 SUCCESS STORIES — P. 7 MORE THAN A JOB CLUB — P. 9
Thank you so much for reading Challenge’s 2019 Spring Newsletter! Inside Executive Director Joe Sammons
this edition, you’ll ﬁnd stories and photos featuring our amazing staff, with participant Dolores C.
the participants they serve, and the employers and community partners
who we work with every day. We are grateful to share this work with you Board of Directors
because we know that without you, this work would not be possible.
Since 1968, Challenge has been the leading provider of employment Jennifer Tavares
supports and services for people with disabilities and barriers in Tompkins
County—creating “pathways to employment” so that everyone in our John Sammis
community has a chance to develop and demonstrate their skills. Last Kelley Yeomans
year, we served more than 800 people, over 90 percent of whom are in
community-based workplaces with more than 120 different employers. Kellie Page
As we shared in our Annual Event last month at the Hangar Theatre, there Sheila McEnery
is a powerful theme that runs through all of the work we do at Challenge:
connection. We connect people with disabilities and barriers who want to Steve Savage
work with employers who want an inclusive, reliable, and committed staff. Teri Tarshus
We do that work with assessments, training, job development, placement, Todd Baker
and coaching. But there is something more to connection than simply Tony Eisenhut
putting people together—the key to our success is believing in people and
treating them with kindness and love. That is the source of personal power Member Organization
and strength that we all need to thrive.
We live in a world where there is daily evidence that kindness and love are
in retreat, overtaken by fear and fury. But if you turn off your TV and close
out of your Twitter feed, you will ﬁnd that is just not so. Every one of our
staff and volunteers and Board members at Challenge spend their time
every day seeing, hearing, and valuing the people we serve for who they
are, creating a future of possibility built on a foundation of kindness—a
foundation of love.
At our event, we shared the power of this connection, and we showed
that our goal is to live in a community ﬁlled with connection and a love
that grows—that doesn’t yield to a world gone mad, but persists and lifts
and sustains. We do this at Challenge one person at a time, one day at a
time, one job at a time. It’s not just a “workforce solution”—it’s the key to
building a better world. Let’s do this work together!
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SUCCESS STORIES: JOANNE
We recently learned that JoAnne G. was awarded a Although JoAnne has been part of the Challenge
Happy to Help Award by her employer, Walmart Ithaca. Workforce Solutions family for many years, she is
Says Susan Haﬂett, Assistant Store Manager, “This relatively new to Walmart; she was hired on about
award recognizes sales associates who go above eight months ago, after she returned to the Ithaca area
and beyond their job duties to help customers and following a three-year stint in West Virginia where she
coworkers. JoAnne always knows what needs to get was employed at a skilled nursing facility. Before that,
done and is always willing to lend a hand. She is a great JoAnne worked as a lobby attendant at McDonald's,
asset to our store and we love having her here.” with regular support from Challenge’s job coaching
staff, for nearly a decade.
JoAnne says that her favorite part of her current
job—aside from helping shoppers and fellow sales
associates—is “zoning,” which in retail parlance means
going through shelves and displays to ensure that
all of the merchandise is organized, accessible, and
appealingly arranged. With Walmart Supercenters like
ours stocking over 140,000 different products, this is no
small task, but Joanne cheerfully exclaims, “I just like
Employment Specialist Gabe Malone, who has been
working with JoAnne over the last few months, says
that JoAnne’s positive spirit is not only an asset to
Walmart but an inspiration to other job seekers at
Challenge: “Her energy, leadership, and work ethic
have proven contagious, and she has helped to create
a more welcoming and productive environment for
new Challenge participants embarking on their own
ARE YOU FOLLOWING OUR SOCIAL MEDIA?
Spring 2018 Newsletter
Spring 2018 Newsletter
Make sure to follow our Facebook page (facebook.com/challengeworkforcesolutions) for our
latest photos (like this one, from our annual Contract Staffing Picnic, featuring Employees of the
Year Angkana Nathabheem and TJ Marshall), inspiring success stories, community employer
profiles, invites to events, thought-provoking articles on disability employment, and much more!
EMPLOYEE PROFILE: BETHANY DUKE
remarkable openness, authenticity, and perseverance,
sprang immediately to mind.
Says Bethany, “I never thought about working in this
ﬁeld—originally I thought I would be in academia
studying pre-Columbian art—but now that I’m in it, it’s
so natural and rewarding. And since she is a successful
graduate herself, she can truly empathize with the
participants, particularly those who are a bit reluctant:
“I am totally upfront with them—‘I was on public
assistance, I went through this too’—and pretty soon
they relax and start to see that something valuable can
be gained. The class covers a lot of important concrete
skills, like résumé building and job search strategies,
but I think the most important thing we do in Job Club
is show people that they already have more strengths
than they think they do—that they really are capable
and they can advocate for themselves.”
Bethany Duke, our new Job Club Coordinator, ﬁrst While she’s just “Bethany” to us, our new hire may be
arrived at our ofﬁces earlier this year not as an eager better known to fans of the Ithaca League of Women
candidate but a highly skeptical program attendee. Rollers as “Dukes A Hazard”—#24 for the BlueStockings.
She is taking this season off, but look out for her on
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Bethany earned the track in 2020. Among Bethany’s other avocational
an associate’s degree in anthropology from Austin pursuits is B-Side Art, a nascent organization dedicated
Community College District and then a bachelor’s and to using art to raise funds for various charities in the
master’s in art history from The University of Texas at Ithaca area. Their ﬁrst recipient is the Advocacy Center
Austin. During these years, she and her partner had of Tompkins County, for which Bethany created a
three children, and after she ﬁnished her schooling, stunning mandala rendered in Coptic market and
they started searching for a more suitable city in which watercolor pencil (a detail of which is shown on the
to raise kids and decided on Ithaca. Not long after back page of this newsletter); to purchase prints and
moving here, Bethany and her partner separated, and view other upcoming projects, visit Faeries Wear Boots
she found herself in a difﬁcult position that is quite on Facebook.
familiar to us at this agency: a single mother with a
great education and work ethic, but limited means and DONATE TODAY!
connections in the local job market.
“At ﬁrst, I really didn’t want to be here,” Bethany freely Spring 2018 Newsletter
admits. “I came in with the attitude that I already
knew enough—but then I met Marilyn Rodriguez. She Go to aboutchallenge.org > Donate for
was able to get me to stop and listen and recognize the a secure and instant way to support
great opportunity that was being offered to me. She our mission. Or, if you prefer another
said, ‘We’re here to help you,’ and I put my trust in her form of payment (cash, check, or even
and in the process and I did my part.”
cryptocurrency!), call Kim Pugliese, Director
Shortly thereafter, Marilyn was offered an internal of Development, at 607-272-8990 ext. 177.
promotion to serve as Challenge’s Human Resources
Recruiter, and among her ﬁrst tasks was to recruit
someone to run the Job Club program. Bethany, with her
Miss our Ann
If so, g
to see the wh
Vitamin L, under the leadership of Janice & Jan Nigro, kicks
off the program with their hit tune, "Walk a Mile"
American Sign Language interpreter Flowers grown a
Jennifer Giroux signs "Challenge" Challenge's Ability
Participant Mary S. and Board member Kelley Yeomans Participants serving as catering staff during the cocktail hour,
team up to conduct the ice-breaker poll with the help of Employment Specialist Erinn Seward
, and all!
and arranged by Executive Director Joe Sammons sharing
y in Bloom program Brené Brown's definition of "connection"
Andy Sciarabba and John Alexander, charter members of
Challenge's Pathway Society, share a laugh
Participant Jacob M. ("The Voice of Challenge") at the mic The Challenge Dancers performing "Better When I'm
with Director of Prevocational Services Briggs Seekins Dancin'" choreographed by HR Recruiter Marilyn Rodriguez
THANKS TO OUR
Thanks to our sponsors
and to everyone who
came out to join our
annual celebration of
achievement on May 8 at
the Hangar Theatre!
The success stories of
Jimmy, Mara-Beth, Marco,
Ed, and Sophaul are just
a few of the many that
inspire our staff and bring
meaning to our lives, as
well as the lives of the
people we serve every day.
We are truly delighted
to be able to have this
experience on a daily
basis and to have had the
opportunity to share it
with all of you.
Achievement Award: Avchievement Award: Achievement Award:
Jimmy C. (with Matt Dankanich) Mara-Beth M. (with Harrison Rumsey) Marco P. (with Yakua Banks)
Longevity Award: Employee of the Year: Community Partner of the Year:
Ed M. Sophaul Oeun Purity (Izzy M. and Heather Lane)
In addition to the above awardees, we also recognized nine outstanding participant nominees (Robin, Sabrina, John, Kyle,
Kristin, Nicole, Jennifer, Jacob, and Mark) as well as five valued community partner nominees (Grainful, New York State Parks
Recreation & Historic Preservation, Significant Elements, Ithaca Bakery, and Walmart.) To learn more about these nominees
(as well as those from last year) check out our series of posters at our offices at the South Hill Business Campus.
Challenge is currently looking to fill the following positions:
CONTRACT STAFFING MANAGER
CONTRACT STAFFING SUPERVISOR
DISHWASHER (MULTIPLE POSITIONS)
FOR MORE INFO CALL 607-277-8990
OR VISIT ABOUTCHALLENGE.ORG > JOBS