50 YEARS BELIEVING! 50 YEARS ACHIEVING!
TIME TO BLOOM
ABILITY IN BLOOM TAKES ITS MISSION-DRIVEN WORK TO THE ITHACA COMMONS
SWEET SUCCESS (P. 6) TIME TO CELEBRATE (P. 3) ANNIVERSARY UPDATE (P. 7)
Welcome to spring!
It’s a special time of year for us at Challenge, as springtime brings new ways
for Challenge the people we serve the chance to grow and show their skills,
and to celebrate the incredible progress they have made.
For instance, our Ability in Bloom program, which is featured in this newsletter,
is entering its third year with exciting news that we will be using a new mobile
cart on the Commons to showcase our flowers and arrangements and other
products hand-made by participants! It will be a great way for our participants
to gain communications and retail skills, and show the skills they’ve gained
over the past few years learning to cultivate and arrange fresh local flowers.
We also just finished our third-annual Reverse Job Fair, an innovative program Joe Sammons, Executive Director
where job-seekers interview the organizations looking for talent. After two
years of holding this event at our offices in South Hill, we moved this unique BOARD OF DIRECTORS
program downtown in the Hilton Garden Hotel, and dozens of job-seekers
interviewed with nine employers, including some of the largest employers in Steve Savage, Chair
town, such as Wegmans, Cornell, and Ithaca Bakery. Check out the full article Kelley Yeomans, Vice Chair
on page 6.
Kellie Page, Treasurer
These are just two of the incredible programs we run at Challenge that Jacob Yale, Secretary
serve over 1,000 people each year, creating pathways to employment for
people with disabilities and barriers. And this is a particularly special time for Todd Baker
Challenge, as we are celebrating our 50th Anniversary! Derek Burrows
Founded in 1968 by Bob Sprole, Sr. of Therm Incorporated, Challenge Sheila McEnery
has evolved from a provider of sheltered workshop services to those with Beth Mielbrecht
developmental disabilities to its role today as an innovative organization that
gives people with a wide range of disabilities and barriers to employment Teri Tarshus
the chance to earn valuable skills and employment in community-based, Matthew Valaik
integrated workplaces. We are proud that 150 employers in Challenge trust
our organization as a partner that helps them create a diverse, reliable and SENIOR MANAGEMENT
We have much work to do in the months and years ahead: uncertainty in Executive Director
government funding, rising costs along with rapidly changing workforce
reminds us that word “Challenge” applies not only to the struggles our Marty Gold
participants face, but that we have faced as well. And just as the people we Director of Employment &
serve rise to meet their challenges every day, so do we.
Thank you so much for your support and partnership, now and over the
past 50 years. I hope to see you all on May 8th to honor those who have Kimberly Pugliese
brought us this far, and to renew our commitment to this important work for Director of Development &
generations to come.
CONSIDER A GIFT
TO CHALLENGE TODAY! Melissa Chiusano
Director of Human
ABOUTCHALLENGE.OSpRriGng 2>01D8 NOewNsleAttTerE Resources & Compliance
2 Roy Murdough
Director of Social Enterprises
JOIN THE CELEBRATION!
Our favorite time of the year is here, as Challenge gets to celebrate the accomplishments of the nearly 1,000
people we serve, plus our staff, and the support of this wonderful community.
Challenge will hold its 50th Annual Awards Event on May 8th, 2018, at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, beginning
at 5:30 p.m.
The event serves as a celebration of spirit and achievement. This year's event will also feature a
Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as a tribute to Robert Sprole Sr., the founder of Therm, as well as his family.
Ticket and sponsorship information for the event can be found at our website: aboutchallenge.org.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
Challenge is looking to build a dedicated team of volunteers
that is committed to our mission, and ready to have some
Last year, Challenge participated in over 40 events organized
by staff, and we're looking for people who are interested in
being a part of our Challenge family.
You'll be helping at Challenge events such as our Annual
Awards Event in May and our Annual Recognition Luncheon
in August, as well as volunteering with Challenge at major
community events, such as the Ithaca Festival, Women
Swimmin', and the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival!
For more information on volunteer opportunities, contact Evie
Karnes at [email protected]! You can also sign up
to volunteer at our website, aboutchallenge.org, by clicking
on the volunteer tab at the top of the page.
"YOU MAKE A LIVING BY WHAT YOU GET.
YOU MAKE A LIFE BY WHAT YOU GIVE." –ANON.
A BUDDING SUCCESS: ABILITY
Launched in 2015, Ability in Bloom is a division of Challenge Workforce Solutions which aims to provide a
committed group of adults with disabilities and other barriers to employment an opportunity to cultivate work
skills and self-reliance. These adults work hard to grow beautiful flowers within a vibrant social and natural
community, and as warmer weather is just a few months away, the growing season has already begun.
Ability in Bloom was first inspired by one Challenge participant—Adam D., a talented artist with a passion for
painting flowers. Glen Robertson, an Employment Specialist at Challenge, noticed the potential within Adam
and other Challenge participants and envisioned a horticulture-based social enterprise where clients who are
not ready to make the leap into community employment could gain valuable job skills training through a stable,
community-based work opportunity. “We needed a way to help some of our program participants move from
working within Challenge’s walls to working out in the community—turning our hobby into a business seemed
like a natural step,” Robertson said. Fueled by Robertson’s determination and passion for growing flowers, Ability
in Bloom was born, and several clients were able to come together to combine their unique abilities, acting as
productive members of a team.
In 2015, Ability in Bloom began growing flowers at the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming Incubator
Farm at Ecovillage in Ithaca, NY. Ability in Bloom’s presence at Groundswell has given clients valuable team
experiences and gardening skills. In Early 2017, the organization formed a partnership with Take Your Pick Flower
Farm in Lansing, NY, providing more opportunities for Ability in Bloom gardeners to expand their skills while
Ability in Bloom’s relationships with the two farms has been mutually fruitful. Liz Coakley, Groundswell Incubator
Farm and Business Manager, often employs the help of devoted Ability in Bloom gardeners in various tasks.
“It's really cool to see such a unique group of individuals come out to the farm, put in their work and time, and
produce a field of beautiful flowers—meanwhile gaining all sorts of other experiences,” said Coakley. Robertson
incorporates a philosophy in his work where going out of one’s way to help others creates a meaningful life, and
it is crucial that farmers help one another. This philosophy has rubbed off on the Ability in Bloom gardeners, who
learn valuable life lessons along with the job training.
Challenge participant Megan P. tending the fields at the Groundswell incubator farm at Ecovillage Spring 2
IN BLOOM PROGRAM EXPANDS
Program coordinator Glen Robertson selling bouquets at GreenStar with participants Adam D. and Jackie W.
The 2018 winter months are a crucial period for Ability in Bloom as the organization has big plans for later in
the spring. This year, Ability in Bloom hopes their flowers will warm the lives of many members of the Ithaca
community. They plan on setting up a vending cart in the downtown Ithaca commons and selling flower
bouquets starting in April and going through the summer. Not only will this give the gardeners an opportunity
to show the community the products of their hard work, the gardeners will also gain relevant retail skills that will
further prepare them to be great future additions to the workforce.
The bouquets will be arranged by a talented Challenge participant, Lillian. She has used her flower arranging
expertise for Ability in Bloom previously when she prepared flowers to be sold at Moosewood Restaurant and
GreenStar Natural Foods Market in 2015, and for centerpieces for Challenge's Annual Awards Event. Robertson
hopes that the vending cart will provide Lillian and other Challenge participants with a great opportunity to put
their talents toward meaningful work. Tina, a talented knitter, enjoys making warm hats, scarves, and sweaters.
Lisa has a talent for making beaded bracelets and necklaces. Creations by both are planned to be sold at the cart.
Acrylic on canvas paintings made by Adam, the man who initially inspired the creation of Ability in Bloom, will
also be featured at the vending cart downtown. Art prints and greeting cards which showcase his paintings will be
for sale. Adam most of all enjoys painting flowers, and his work is featured on the Ability in Bloom logo.
The growing season has begun, and though the Ability in Bloom gardeners have already devoted a lot of time
and effort—from burning holes in landscape fabric to planting seeds in soil—there is still plenty of work to be
done, especially when harvesting begins. Robertson and the team are hopeful that this season will be filled with
enjoyable work and vital learning. “Our vending cart brings together all our goals for Ability in Bloom,” Robertson
said. “The cart gives us a chance to provide retail skills training, a sales outlet for Challenge artists, and income
2018 Ntoewkseleepttoeurr program going all in one beautiful package. We can’t wait to get out there!”
FUNDRAISER BREAKS RECORD
Challenge's 3rd Annual Krispy Kreme Doughnut
Fundraiser was an overwhelming success,
with over $11,000 raised to support our
Annual Recognition Luncheon for our program
participants and staff.
More than 1,000 people supported Challenge by
purchasing doughnuts or by making a donation
during this year's fundraiser.
"The doughnut sale continues to grow in
popularity," said Kim Pugliese, Director of
Development & Marketing at Challenge. "It is a
fun way for our staff and our program participants
to talk about Challenge, while also raising money
that is used to support a celebration of their
talents and successes."
This year's big seller was once again Mickey,
who sold a record 202 boxes, while also receiving
nearly $1,000 in donations from generous
supports and family friends in the Chicago
area. 60 boxes were delivered to Therm, as the
company and employees purchased doughnuts to
support the fundraiser.
Special thanks goes out to the Ithaca Professional
Fire Fighters Association, who sent volunteers
on the day of our doughnut distribution to help
unload more than 1,300 boxes of doughnuts from
the delivery truck.
Thanks also goes out to Alternatives Federal
Credit Union, Ithaca College, The Shops at Ithaca
Members of the Ithaca Professional Fire Fighters Association Mall, and the Triphammer Marketplace for letting
volunteered to help unload doughnuts and pack up orders us conduct on-site sales on February 16th.
JOB CREATORS, SEEKERS CONVENE
On March 30, Challenge Workforce Solutions held its third
annual Reverse Job Fair at the Hilton Garden Inn. The fair
was spearheaded by Jennifer Northrop, Business Outreach
Employers included Wegmans, Hilton Garden Inn, Challenge
Contract Staffing, Ithaca Bakery, Cornell Child Care Center/
Bright Horizons, Longview, Cargill, the City of Ithaca, and
The consensus among these recruiters was that the event
was a welcome opportunity to converse in depth with a
small but promising pool of candidates. Diane Makovitch of
Wegmans said she got “more of a chance to talk one-on-one
than you do at a typical job fair." Edgar J. Johnson of Cornell Volunteer Bob Riter conducted mock interviews
Spring 2018 Newslettwerith job seekers before they met with recruiters
remarked, "the quality is there."
AN ANNIVERSARY TO REMEMBER
Challenge's 50th anniversary celebration is well Challenge was featured on the front page of
underway, as we look back on our five decades of history the Ithaca Times, January 31, 2018
In November of 1968, Challenge's doors opened for
more than three-dozen people, providing them with
opportunities to receive assessments and begin to learn
on-the-job skills. Challenge began thanks to the vision
of Robert Sprole, Sr., who, at the time, was the president
of Therm, Incorporated. Sprole wanted to establish a
not-for-profit that provided opportunities for people with
disabilities, after seeing that options were limited for
friends and colleagues with family members diagnosed
with a disability.
Fast-forward 50 years, and Challenge remains
committed to its new mission -- creating pathways to
employment for people with disabilities, and those
who face barriers to employment. The agency is also
increasing its efforts to engage the community about
In late January, you may have seen front-page features
in both the Ithaca Times and Tompkins Weekly, detailing
our history, our plans for the 50th anniversary, and our
vision for the future of Challenge.
We also want to say thanks to Susan Riley and WHCU
Radio for inviting Executive Director Joe Sammons to be
a part of the All Things Equal radio program on February
20th. The show features in-depth conversations on race,
class, diversity, sustainability, and other important issues.
You can listen to the interview by visiting WHCURadio.
com, and clicking on the "All Things Equal" tab at the top
of the page.
Challenge participants manufacture patching jacks for Challenge was featured on the front page of
the Moog synthesizer company, circa 1978 Tompkins Weekly on January 29, 2018
950 Danby Suite 179 NON-PROFIT ORGANIZATION
Ithaca, NY 14850 US POSTAGE
MEMBER AGENCY PA I D
ITHACA, NY 14850
PERMIT NO. 34
SUCCESS STORIES: KELLY K.
“She’s a real people person. She excels at customer
This is how Kevin McKee, Store Manager of Rite Aid
#4716 in Ithaca, describes his employee of four years,
This isn’t how she would have described herself four
Kelly was on public assistance and just recovering from because she got the job.”
a traumatic medical event when she came to Challenge
Workforce Solutions as a job seeker. “I used to just Kelly was hired as a cashier and worked in that role
mumble and not look people in the eye,” she recalled. for a little over two years. She was then promoted
“Challenge really helped me with my speaking abilities, to Shift Supervisor and ably took on numerous new
and now I’m much more outgoing.” responsibilities including managing deposits and
overseeing frontline staff.
Kelly participated in Job Club, an intensive daily
program of career exploration, readiness training, and But her favorite part of the job is still working with
search assistance. Job Club is one of four different job customers. “A lot of our regulars will come in and ask
placement programs at Challenge for individuals who for me by name, because they know that I will help
receive public assistance (TANF or SNAP) or who have them find products, or help them with their photos, or
legal issues. Each one is highly personalized to best whatever they need. And I will always try to save them
support participants in forging their own paths to self- money when I can.”
Says Trisha Wilson, Manager of Employment Services, One such regular is Trisha Wilson. “Kelly is a big reason
“Kelly worked hard and communicated with Job Club that I frequent Rite Aid. She’s usually the face that
staff throughout the process, practicing interviewing cheerfully greets me when I walk in. And I’m so happy
and presentation skills that she was able to take with to see how much she’s grown in her confidence and
her to Rite Aid. In fact, she finished Job Club early capabilities and become a vital part of the team.”