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Published by evanw, 2018-11-30 12:39:09

Challenge Workforce Solutions Newsletter Fall 2018

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“Gratitude is an opener of locked-up blessings.” –Marianne Williamson Executive Director Joe Sammons
with Youth Services participant Jeremy
Every day at Challenge Workforce Solutions, we are amazed by the
commitment, the heart, the pride, and the resilience of the people we serve. Board of Directors
Our mission is to create pathways to employment for people with disabilities
and other barriers—to make sure that everyone in our community has the Beth Mielbrecht
chance to develop and demonstrate their skills. Derek Burrows

It is incredibly rewarding to be a part of such important work, and we are so Jacob Yale
excited to share the stories of some of the people who make this work happen. Kelley Yeomans
People like Gina, who came to Challenge over 20 years ago and has worked
at Wegmans for 18 years—and is looking forward to another 18 years! And Kellie Page
people like Jeffrey, one of the hardest workers and most reliable volunteers Matthew Valaik
in our agency, whose artwork has been selected for a juried exhibition at a Sheila McEnery
gallery in Orange, New Jersey. Steve Savage

It is a blessing, too, working with employers like Gregar Brous from Collegetown Teri Tarshus
Bagels, whose support of our mission results in a true “win-win” that helps his Todd Baker
business thrive and helps our participants work in a setting of dignity and Tony Eisenhut

We live in a time where the news and social media is often very discouraging,
and every day it seems we need to work hard to replenish our reserves of
optimism and gratitude. But as Marianne Williamson says, we do have
blessings all around us, “locked-up” behind a door that can only be opened
with gratitude and appreciation.

So as we look back on our 50th anniversary, we are reminded about how
fortunate we are to live in such a special community and to work with people
whose spirit and perseverance enriches our hearts. On behalf of all of us at
Challenge: thank you!


Member Organization

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copy version, call us at 607-27S2p-8ri9n9g02e01x8t. N12ew0.sletter


and their challenges.” In her new position, Latoya will
be drawing equally on her professional contacts in real
estate, news media, and other areas of the local private
sector. “Also,” she adds, “I was a former youth worker
through Youth Employment Service—that’s how I got the
internship at the Ithaca Journal—so I’m looking forward
to working with our Youth Services program (follow @
challengeyouthemployment on Instagram) to pair high
schoolers with local businesses for work experiences.

“Overall,” Latoya says, “I really enjoy the flexibility, the
diversity, and the dynamism at Challenge. In every job
I’ve had, I’ve just wanted to learn new things. This will be
a great opportunity for that.” Please join us in welcoming
Latoya to a new adventure!


Here at Challenge Workforce Solutions, the essential All of us at Challenge are very grateful for all
functions of a Job Developer are working one-on-one the support that our community has shown
with job seekers with disabilities and other barriers and
building relationships with area employers who might us this past year!
be able to take them on. Promoted from within just last
week, Latoya Peterson is stepping into this new role with We are pleased to announce that our one-
many years of direct care experience and a diverse array day campaign for #GivingTuesday (which
of community connections within and beyond the human kicked off with a video featuring Jacob and
services field. Kip, above) yielded $1,160.00—enough
to purchase 10 new locking bins for our
Latoya was raised in Ithaca and attended Ithaca shredding operation, which is an essential
High School, during which time she interned in the first step to community employment and / Ithaca Journal newsroom and
competed in varsity track and field. After graduating, she greater self-sufficiency for many of our
held administrative positions at several local agencies prevocational participants like Jacob.
and businesses—including Tompkins Workforce New
York, Tompkins Community Action, and Warren Real This year, Challenge is offering a new
Estate—before pursing certification as an Administrative opportunity for our supporters: the Pathways
Medical Assistant at Tompkins Cortland Community
College in 2013. For the next five years, Latoya worked Society. This new initiative grants special
as an aide at The Finger Lakes Independence Center and access to special events and behind-the-
Brookdale Senior Living, where she provided daily care to scenes opportunities for donors who pledge
people with physical disabilities and progressive memory to give yearly at a designated level. Look
disorders. She then returned to Tompkins Cortland for an for more information in our annual appeal
A.A.S. in Human Services and joined the Challenge family letter, or contact Kim Pugliese ([email protected]
as our DSS Employment Support Associate in early 2018. or 607-272-8990 ext.
177.) She'd love to hear from you personally!
In that role, Latoya was responsible for handling intake
assessments for job seekers who receive government
assistance in the form of TANF or SNAP. Because of her
experience in workforce development, housing services,
and healthcare, she was a familiar and welcoming face to
many of these new arrivals: “I probably knew nine out of
ten people that came in, and I was able to relate to them


Collegetown Bagels—better known to its regulars as Gregar owns two independent full-service restaurants,
CTB—bakes over four million bagels a year. If you Agava and Rulloff's. Aside from serving thousands of
were to stack all of those bagels up, you’d end up with hungry eat-in and take-out customers every day, these
a sesame-studded spire that would reach all the way businesses do a brisk wholesale business and have
to the International Space Station. Want coffee with catering operations that are particularly in demand during
that? CTB brews about 500 metric tons annually, Cornell University's graduation and reunion seasons.
and if coffee were indeed rocket fuel—as caffeine
addicts often imagine—that would be enough to In an industry with a notorious failure rate—by some
keep the Space Station in orbit for the next century. estimates, more than 80 percent of restaurants go
under within three years—CTB’s devoted customer
There is another CTB statistic, though, that we at base and decades of sustained growth within a small
Challenge Workforce Solutions find just as stellar: over market are exceptional. Brous says that the key to
the last three decades, the company has hired over 100 longevity is embracing change: “You have to be willing
of our job seekers with disabilities and other barriers. to look at your operation and the overall business
environment and be willing to adapt. We’re always
Ithaca native Gregar Brous got into the bagel business while looking for new ways to connect with our customers
still in school at Ithaca College. Even before that, he evinced and with other businesses. Being in a college town,
an entrepreneurial streak—in his teen years, he operated there is constant turnover, but rather than being
a printing press among several other ventures—so when afraid of that, we find it invigorating. New customers
he was offered the opportunity to buy the bagel shop he and new employees bring energy and fresh ideas.”
had been working at, he rallied his family and dove right in.
Brous’s openness to fresh ideas is also what has made
Today, in addition to the original location on College him an ideal community partner for Challenge. Quite
Avenue—which Huffington Post recently named one of early in his ownership of CTB, he was approached by
the “most iconic college town food joints in America” Challenge staff in search of placement options for
—Brous’s delectable empire includes three more stores program participants who were ready to make the
under the CTB flag and two more branded as Ithaca leap into community employment. Brous immediately
Bakery, which are all co-owned by Anne Brous, Ira J. foresaw a mutually beneficial relationship: “I thought,
Brous, Ramsey Brous, and Mimi Mehaffey. Additionally, this is a really cool dynamic. We could meet our staffing


needs and support an underserved population.” I knew that she was just trying to establish a comfort
level before coming in to interview in person. So, we
Over the years, Brous has taken on scores of job seekers talked for a while and then I set her up to meet with
from nearly every program at Challenge. He has hired our manager. She got the job and she’s doing great.”
numerous people with developmental disabilities and
mental health diagnoses who have received continuing Even beyond his vital role as an employer, Brous has found
onsite supports from Challenge’s job coaches. He has other ways of supporting the Challenge mission over
also employed graduates of our Job Club program for the years. He has been a client of several of Challenge’s
people with income barriers or legal issues, and has social enterprises, including our hydroponic lettuce
provided short-term, individualized experiences for operation and our commercial cleaning service. He has
both youth and adults who are still striving to gain the also partnered with us in some of our fundraising and
necessary skills to succeed in the competitive workforce. outreach efforts, the most recent and adorable of which
As it turns out, Brous’s latest Challenge hire was also is #BAGELPUPS 2019—a wall calendar featuring some of
one of his first. In going through a pile of résumés a few CTB’s favorite canine customers—which is now being sold
months ago for a prep cook position at Agava, he saw at all four CTB locations (College Avenue, East Hill Plaza,
a familiar name—Emily—a woman he first hired at CTB Downtown Ithaca, and CTB Fresh at Island Health &
in 1988. She had retired many years back but was now Fitness) with 100 percent of proceeds going to Challenge.
looking for something part-time near her senior living
community on East Hill. Says Brous, “I called her right Brous explains, “Basically, anytime Challenge comes to me
up and she was so excited to hear from me again. She and says, this is the new direction we’re going in, I say, OK,
had a lot of questions up front—good questions, but count me in. I really believe that a diverse and integrated
some really specific ones that you don’t usually hear workforce makes us a better business, so anytime I can help
so early on in the hiring process. But I knew Emily, and Challenge to be successful, I’m helping us to be successful.”


Spring 2018 Newsletter

On November 2, we celebrated the release our first-ever #BAGELPUPS calendar at CTB Aurora, with
several of the featured models in attendance, including Taco Max (above; photo courtesy Liana
Sicroff). Bo's Bones was also on hand to provide samples of their gourmet dog biscuits. Calendars
are now for sale for $15.00 at all CTB locations and the Challenge reception desk. They make
excellent last-minute holiday gifts!


Director of Marketing Kim Pugliese expertly working the
grill at the annual Rotary Pancake Day

Tracey Reaves, a post-incarceration Glen Robertson at
employment expert in Pittsburgh Resource Fair fo

Adam D. at the opening of A Moment of Recognition: Art Dr. Temple Grandin with Marketing Associate Evan D. Williams
by Challenge Participants & Staff at the Hilton Garden Inn at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine


t the Community Football player and executive Pinball
or U.S. veterans Clemons speaking at AFP in Toronto

Participants, staff, and board members staging a karaoke
flash mob during Apple Fest in celebration of NDEAM

Briggs Seekins and prevocational participants collecting Cayuga Radio Group's Dave and Jenn with Lite Rock
documents at the Free Shred Day held with Tompkins Recycles Employee of the Month Sherry Ponton


This October, Challenge celebrated National Disability and she said she knew the perfect department for me—
Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)—an Produce. And now I’ve been in Produce for 18 years—and
opportunity to educate the public about disability I want to be here 18 more years. I get to interact with all
employment issues and celebrate the many and varied kinds of customers. They’ll come up to me, and I get a lot
contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. of nice feedback.”
NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office
of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in When we asked Gina what kinds of challenges she has
the many observances held at the grassroots level across faced in the workplace, she chuckled, “Well, I am a little
the nation each year—including Challenge Workforce short! I couldn’t reach the top shelves before, but then
Solutions's karaoke flash mob to Miranda Lambert’s “All they put in new shelves that I can reach. I can do most
Kinds of Kinds” at the 36th Annual Downtown Ithaca things. People with Down Syndrome should stick up for
Apple Harvest Festival (watch the video at themselves and make opportunities.”
eywnH if you missed it!)
Gina utilized Challenge’s job coaching supports for many
October also happened to be Down Syndrome Awareness years but eventually decided she was ready to “graduate
Month—an effort started by the National Down herself” from our services: “The environment at Wegmans
Syndrome Society to encourage greater understanding is so great and supportive that I felt like I was ready to
of this often misunderstood condition. The NDSS reports be on my own. So I let Challenge know that I wanted to
that about one in 700 babies in the United States are be independent and I wanted to make sure that the job
born with Down Syndrome, which is a chromosomal coaches would be able to help other people the way they
anomaly occurring randomly across all races, sexes, and helped me. I am thankful for all the support and training I
socioeconomic levels. People with Down Syndrome have got. Without Challenge I wouldn’t have found my dream
an increased risk of certain medical conditions like heart job. I love this place!”
defects, but recent advances in treatment mean that most
are leading healthy lives. Likewise, all people with Down Wegmans is thankful for Gina, too. Says longtime store
Syndrome experience cognitive delays to some degree, manager Gary Woloszyn, “Gina has added so much in
but with the right community supports they are able to so many ways. She has great tenacity—always working
attend school, work, form meaningful relationships, and hard, always applying herself—and she really enjoys
contribute to society in countless ways. coming to work and interfacing with our customers. As a
family company, that’s what we’re all about.”
Gina F. is one of the many remarkable people in our
community who prove that this diagnosis does not FAREWELL, GARY!
preclude a fulfilling career and a self-directed life.
Best wishes to Gary Woloszyn on his
Gina came to Challenge knowing that she wanted to work retirement! Challenge is extremely grateful
at Wegmans, the family-owned supermarket that for so for all the support he have given us during
many Ithacans is a true agora—a place not only to shop
but to stroll and schmooze. Our staff helped her to create his long tenure with Wegmans. He was
a résumé and prepare for an interview. When she met instrumental in creating the working
with the Wegmans HR rep, Gina explained that she was a partnership between Wegmans and
people person: “I said that I really like people of all ages, Challenge —a great example of business

caring about community.


Spring 2018 Newsletter

Several of our prevocational participants have been busy these last few weeks making various
crafts (including beaded items, scarves, and decorated clips) to be sold at the Alternatives Federal
Credit Union Holiday Market on December 10 and 17 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Proceeds from

the decorated clips will go to support Challenge while the other proceeds will go to the crafters
themselves. We will also have some #BAGELPUPS calendars on hand!


Spring 2018 Newsletter Are you (or someone you
know) receiving SNAP?
Go to > Donate for
a secure and instant way to support our We have a proven track
mission of creating pathways to employment record of helping people
for disabilities and other barriers. Or, if you
prefer to use another form of payment (cash, on public assistance
check, or even cryptocurrency!), just call us at to find long-term

607-272-8990. ext. 177. Spring 2018 Newselmettpelroyment.

Call us at
607-272-8990 ext. 166
Go to > Donatetoday!
or contact Kimberly Pugliese
at 607-277-8990 ext. 177
or [email protected]
to learn more about our Annual Fund,
Lauren Comly Fund, and other opportunities
for supporting our mission.


Two pieces of art by our participant Jeffrey R. have been
selected for a juried exhibition at Arts Unbound in Orange,
New Jersey this coming February.

The show, entitled No Shame In My Game, will “celebrate
Black History Month by highlighting the achievements of
black artists while bringing attention to the issues around
disability in the black community.”

Founded in 2000, Arts Unbound is an art gallery and studio Jeffrey R. shadowing a Challenge Commercial Cleaning
dedicated to the artistic achievement of people living with crew at Tompkins Cortland Community College
disabilities and to the continuing artistic enrichment of
seniors. Celene Ryan, their Director of Artist Development,
previously worked with self-taught artists with special
needs at the American Folk Art Museum and the Ricco/
Maresca Gallery in New York City; she proclaimed Jeffrey's
work "really wonderful."

Jeffrey was born in Atlanta in 1964 but has only been
making art for the last seven years. A recurring subject is
vintage album covers, which he reimagines with an offbeat
pop sensibility. Jeffrey’s monochrome rendering of a Duran
Duran LP was included in A Moment of Recognition: Art
by Challenge Participants and Staff at the Hilton Garden
Inn Ithaca earlier this year. His contributions to the Arts
Unbound show commemorate Elton John and Atlantic

When he's not making art, Jeffrey has been taking part One of the two pieces by Jeffrey R. to be included in the
in a variety of community-based prevocational work and Arts Unbound exhibition in Orange, New Jersey
volunteer experiences through Challenge, including stints
with New York State Parks, Tompkins Cortland Community
College, the ReUse Center, Recycle Tompkins, and Women
Swimmin' for Hospicare.


Spring 2018 Newsletter

In addition to our Facebook page ( we also have an
Instagram account dedicated to our Youth Services program (challengeyouthemployment). Be sure

to like us on both platforms to get the latest news and stay in touch!


We are currently looking to fill the following positions:

Commercial Cleaning Supervisor
Custodian (Dryden and Ithaca)

Dishroom Supervisor
Table Attendant
Prep Cook

FOR MORE INFO CALL 607-277-8990

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