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Published by evanw, 2018-08-30 11:21:19

Challenge Workforce Solutions Newsletter Summer 2018

Challenge Summer 2018 Newsletter Web Version





2018 has been an exciting and busy year for Challenge, and it’s not over yet!

This is the time of year that we say goodbye to summer and anticipate the
beauty of our upstate color.

In case you missed it, this year we are celebrating our 50th anniversary! In our
Annual Report, we highlighted our Annual Event that took place in May at the
Hangar Theatre. It was a truly inspirational celebration. Check out the pictures
and stories on our Facebook page.

In this issue, you will read about “A Party for a Just Cause”—the annual event
that Jerry Dietz hosts every year to support a local non-profit. This year, he picked
Challenge. It was a fun affair with dancing to the Destination, great food from
Agava, and record-breaking results. Challenge’s job seekers worked hard serving
appetizers and clearing plates. Katie Walker, the catering coordinator at Agava,
was so impressed that she inquired about hiring one. Win/win!

You will be moved and inspired by our Success Story this edition. Tanesha spoke
about the barriers she has overcome and the powerful changes she made to her
life with the support of Challenge.

We also profile the newest member of our leadership team, Ebru Arslan, Director

of Finance and Operations. She is a dynamic addition to the team and has Executive Director Joe Sammons
with Summer Youth participant Tyshawn
already made a real impact.

The feature article tells the interesting history of one of our long-running in- Board of Directors
house businesses—Challenge Imaging. Beth Mielbrecht
Derek Burrows
And lest we forget, we check in once again with our Summer Youth Employment Jacob Yale
Program. This program not only helps train the workforce of the future but gives Kelley Yeomans
students the opportunity to discover what they like and don’t like about working. Kellie Page
It also helps them understand the expectations of a job while giving them a taste Matthew Valaik
of independence and self-sufficiency. Sheila McEnery
Steve Savage
Challenge is so grateful to all our community partners—without YOU there would Teri Tarshus
be no US. I hope you enjoy reading the stories in this issue and that they bring Todd Baker
you as much inspiration as they bring to us every day! Tony Eisenhut
Leadership Team
Challenge evolves with the seasons and gets stronger with each transition we Alan Thomas
face. Our new leadership team is focused on our mission, our future, and the Briggs Seekins
needs of our community. Watch us grow!
Christopher Teitelbaum

To subscribe to this electronic version of this newsletter, Geno Tournour
visit and click Sign Up, Joe Sammons
or, if you prefer the hardcopy version, Kimberly Pugliese
[email protected]l,ettActhtetranll:eKnimgeb.oerrgly, or at: Larry Workman
Pugliese Melissa Chiusano
950 Danby Rd Ste 179 Ithaca NY 14850 Michael T. Collins
Trisha Wilson

Spring 2018 Newsletter


Each year, the Just Be Cause Party brings together a vibrant Jerry thanking all the high bidders in the live auction
group of community members to enjoy delicious food,
dance to great live music, and raise funds for a different Says Kimberly Pugliese, Challenge’s Director of Development,
local charity. Challenge was honored to be chosen as this “We are so grateful to Jerry for including us, to all the local
year’s recipient organization and is delighted to announce businesses that donated cool items and experiences for our
that, between ticket sales, sponsorships, and auction live and silent auction, and of course to everyone who came
proceeds, we raised a record-breaking $16,725 to support out to celebrate. The funds we raised will help tremendously,
our mission of creating pathways to employment for people but even more than that, we genuinely value the relationships
with disabilities and other barriers. that were formed. We got the chance to tell our story to so
many new people and we even made some employment
Specifically, these funds will go towards such tangible and connections—we had one of our youth participants passing
immediate needs as: hors d’oeuvres and the catering manager offered her a job
on the spot!”
• One-on-one coaching supports for job seekers
• A new onsite projector for conducting job readiness
• A new portable projector for conducting training and
outreach sessions at community venues
• A portable multifunction printer for scanning youth
enrollment forms and printing resumes
• A new pickup truck to transport cleaning crews and job

The Just Be Cause Party is organized by local entrepreneur
and philanthropist Jerry Dietz in honor of his late wife, Judy
Shapiro Dietz (1954–2012). Judy was one of the most
dedicated and energetic participants in the civic life of the
community, serving on numerous boards and volunteering
for numerous causes, and she also knew how to cut loose on
the dance floor and have a good time. The event, now in its
sixth year, still bears the unmistakable mark of her generous
and fun-loving spirit.

Challenge participants getting funky on the dance floor CONSIDER


Go to > Donate
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 showing yoSuprrisnugp2p0o1r8t oNfeowusrlemtteisrsion


Tanesha is a woman of courage and determination. Tanesha with her Success Story at the Just Be Cause Party

Last summer, she moved her three young children—ages
nine, four, and three—to Ithaca from Milwaukee to escape
an abusive environment. Tanesha has always possessed a
solid work ethic, often holding down two jobs at a time, but
starting over in a brand new place meant that she needed
some help connecting with local employment opportunities.

Acting on a referral from Tompkins County’s Department of
Social Services, Tanesha enrolled in Challenge’s Job Club, a
six-week program of intensive career exploration and hands-
on job search assistance. At the end of the program, she
landed a hosting position at Monks, an upscale cocktail bar
and eatery in downtown Ithaca’s Marriott hotel.

According to Marilyn Rodriguez, Challenge’s DSS Facilitator/
Job Developer, “Tanesha was a dedicated student who never
gave up even though there were many obstacles in her way.
She is a tenacious young woman with lots of heart, and
she went through Job Club not only for herself but for her

Tanesha’s new coworkers admire her tenacity and heart
as well. Kate Clemons, a recently-hired server at Monks,
says, “Tanesha and I haven’t been working together that
long, but she’s quickly made a positive impact on my work
environment. She always has a smile on her face, and her
kindness extends to guests and colleagues alike.”

After a major upheaval and period of transition, Tanesha’s
kids are acclimating very well, too—we learned that they
even got to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom this summer!
Looking back at all that this last year has brought, Tanesha
sums it up this way: “If you’re scared, do it.”


Angelo G. (2018 Annual Report) is still going attended Challenge's Reverse Job Fair, met
strong at Five Guys Burgers & Fries and was Ithaca Bakery's HR Director, and landed a
recently able to purchase a minivan for his position preparing specialty breads (she highly
growing family through a special loan program recommends the cranberry nut!)
through Alternatives Federal Credit Union. Brittany J. (Fall 2017 Newsletter) is still a key
Kelly K. (Spring 2018 Newsletter) continues to part of the Contract Staffing team and has been
thrive in her management position at Rite Aid avidly pursuing her interests in music and art.
and went above and beyond to assist Challenge Peter W. (Summer 2017 Newsletter) continues
staff with a complex photo project. to work toward his goal of being an educator.
Danya S. (Winter 2017 Newsletter) was Last school year, he worked two days a week at
briefly on the job market after the closure of the YMCA after-school program and was just
Life's So Sweet Chocolates, but in March she asked to return on a Monday-to-Friday schedule.

Spring 2018 Newsletter


Challenge is very pleased to welcome its new Director of Director of Finance and Operations Ebru Arslan
Finance and Operations, Ebru Arslan!
While Ebru’s financial and managerial expertise is
Ebru was born in Turkey and came to the United States in immediately manifest, one talent that Ebru has not yet
2000. She pursued a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from shared with the Challenge family is her Islamic calligraphy.
Brooklyn College while working full-time at a construction She is trained in two distinctive styles of this expressive art
company and later earned a master’s degree in Economics form—Sülüs and Dîvanî—and plans to create a new piece
while serving as the Accounting Manager for a specialty for our upcoming staff and participant exhibition to be held
food importer. at the Hilton Garden Inn as a part of Downtown Ithaca’s
Gallery Night on October 5. Mark your calendars!
About 12 years ago, Ebru’s brother came to Cornell and
bought a house in Freeville that soon became a favorite
summer getaway spot for the whole family. Through these
visits, Ebru fell in love with the people and the scenery of
the Finger Lakes and began to look for job opportunities in
the area.

For Ebru, her new position isn’t just a welcome escape from
the hustle and bustle of the big city but is also a long-
sought opportunity to apply her skills to a worthy mission:
“We all have to work for a living, but doing something good
for the community is so important to me, and I’m so glad
that I got the chance to merge both of these things.”

As a key member of Challenge’s leadership team, Ebru’s
ultimate goal is to “ensure a stable future for the agency
so we can continue to achieve our mission for the next
50 years.” To that end, she has been working diligently in
her first several weeks here to implement new and refined
financial models across Challenge’s numerous programs
and provide training and support to program directors so
they can better set and manage their own budgets.



National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Spring 2018 Newsletter


What do Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Babe Ruth Chief among these institutional clients has been Tompkins
have in common? County. Says Hon. Maureen Reynolds, County Clerk, “At one
point, we had over nine thousand file boxes in our records
They’re among the numerous historical figures whose center, which was housed in the old public library building.
handwritten letters have been preserved for the ages by That wasn’t convenient to access, and it certainly wasn’t
Challenge Imaging. the best use of the building, which we were paying to heat
and cool and maintain. Once we got Challenge to digitize
One of Challenge’s four in-house businesses—along with the whole records center, we were able to sell the site for
Contract Staffing, Contract Production, and Commercial close to a million dollars—now it’s back on the tax roll and
Cleaning—Challenge Imaging first came into being as is going to be redeveloped into sustainable senior housing.
a microfilm service run by Cornell University. In 1996, the We’re grateful to Challenge for helping us to solve a huge
operation came under the auspices of Challenge, where it problem, and we continue to look to them to stay on top of
could continue to serve the preservation needs of research all the paper that the County continues to generate.”
libraries and archives at Cornell and all around the world
while providing meaningful training and employment In 2013, Challenge Imaging again expanded its scope to
opportunities for people with disabilities. offer a personal photo and document scanning service
with the guarantee that any family’s memorabilia will be
Around 2004, Challenge Imaging began transitioning from treated with the same care and professionalism as historic
microfilm cameras to high-resolution scanners equipped letters from Einstein and confidential records from the
with optical character recognition (OCR), and its clientele County.
expanded to include banks, government agencies, and
human resource departments looking to convert their Alan Thomas, Director of Challenge Imaging, has been
massive repositories of paper files into secure and searchable a key part of the enterprise since its first incarnation on
digital databases. Cornell’s campus. In conversing with Alan, it is clear that he

A detail of the Jónsbók imaged by Alan and his team 35mm slides being digitized by prevocational trainees


Alan Thomas, Director of Challenge Imaging, with participant Theresa H. at the map scanner

takes great interest in the historicity of the material that turned-employees is Louis D., who first came to the agency
he handles. One especially memorable item that crossed four years ago. “I was unemployed and I was having a
his desk some years ago was a sixteenth-century vellum hard time finding a job. But then I remembered that when
manuscript of the Jónsbók, Iceland’s principal legal code I was in school I worked with ACCES-VR (Adult Career &
in the medieval era. He recalls, “Last year, I travelled to Continuing Ed Services Vocational Rehabilitation) and when
Iceland and I got the chance to visit the Law Rock, where I went to see them they sent me up to Challenge. At first
all of those legal codes would have been read aloud to the I worked in Contract Production, weighing and bagging
assembled masses. That was really an amazing connection pasta and whatnot, but pretty soon I moved to Challenge
to make.” Imaging. I like working on the computers—right now we’re
using PaperStream software—and some of the documents
Alan is equally enthusiastic about making connections in are pretty interesting. I just imaged some bond certificates
our community. “I tell every prospective client I meet that from the 1930s and those are really cool-looking. It’s a good
all of our profits go to support the programs at Challenge— job!”
it all stays here. Over the years, we’ve trained dozens of
program participants and have ended up hiring many of GET A CUSTOM
them on as regular employees. Currently, I have a few QUOTE!
people on my payroll who first came in for prevocational
services a number of years ago, and I’m training a few Call 607-279-8990 ext. 165
more new participants on digitizing family archives. or email [email protected]
They’re learning how to properly handle old documents, to discuss your personal or commercial
scan slides and negatives, use editing programs, make
spreadsheets—lots of useful skills, no matter where they imaging needs
go next in their career path.”

One of Challenge Imaging’s outstanding participants-


Since 2014, Challenge has run a six-week Summer Youth Yianni and Ryan at the Piggery meat counter
Employment Program (SYEP) for students in Tompkins
County with disabilities and socioeconomic barriers. With Yianni’s onsite job coach was Ryan Notarpole, who explained
the goal of bridging the gap between school and work, the concept of ‘fading’: “Early on in any placement, there is
SYEP matches youth with community employers for paid intensive coaching to ensure that the worker is performing
part-time work experiences and provides personalized well. Once they’ve achieved some stability, we begin to fade:
onsite job coaching as well as weekly job readiness and we’ll cut a full day of coaching supports down to a half day,
career exploration classes. For many participating youth, and then we might go down to a quarter day. It all depends
this is their very first taste of the working world, and the on the person’s comfort level and their aptitude in that
coaches and instructors aim to help them navigate their particular environment. Yanni has proven himself to be a
new responsibilities while instilling in them the confidence very responsible worker and has quickly learned all of the
to pursue their career goals in the future. different aspects of the business, so he’s achieved a lot of
This summer’s class was the largest so far, with 38 students
placed at 22 different worksites, including Longview, Says Trisha Wilson, Director of Youth & Employment Services,
Taughannock Falls State Park, the Ithaca Free Clinic, the “Historically, there haven’t been a lot of services for youth
Hilton Garden Inn, and Target. Work hours were scheduled with disabilities or barriers that offer sufficient coaching
from Monday to Thursday, with Fridays reserved for class supports to provide them with viable work experiences in the
meetings at the Public Library. Guest lecturers this year community, so we are very glad to have been able to take
included Brendan Wilbur from Alternatives, who covered that on and to grow the program year after year. One of
the basics of banking and credit, and Nagaine Lacka the most beautiful things is seeing youth get asked by their
Arriaza from GIAC, who discussed training opportunities in employers to stay on after the end of the program—which
hospitality and other in-demand fields. has happened five times so far this summer—and then to
hear from their parents, ‘I was afraid that my kid wouldn’t
Several students were returning to the program for the be successful in a job, and now they’re getting offers!’”
second or third year. Yianni V., a rising senior at Ithaca High
School and a three-time SYEP worker, spent the summer
at the Piggery, a farm-to-table butcher shop that supplies
pasture-raised meats to dozens of gourmet restaurants
and groceries across the region. “My favorite thing about
the Piggery is the employees—everyone has a great sense
of humor. As for what I’ve learned, if I ever get into meat
tying, I’m all set—I just tied 600 pounds of pork—but I’ve
also learned how to interact with customers at the front of
house, which will definitely be helpful in the future. For other
students going into their first job, I’d tell them not to be
afraid to ask questions, and also to find someone who’s a
good role model. Here, that was easy, because everyone has
a good work ethic, and I was able to base what I was doing
off of that.”

Brandon from Alternatives at the Public Library WHAT WAS

Tag a #tbt on Instagram:


We are looking to fill the following positions:

Prep Cooks • Line Servers
• Dishwashers •

Supervisors • Pot Sink

FOR MORE INFO CALL 607-277-8990 EXT. 142
OR EMAIL [email protected]


Meeting job seekers on the Ithaca Commons Tending the garden at the Cornell Child Care Center

Co-hosting the Community Carnival, in celebration of 11 local non-profits' milestone anniversaries, at Stewart Park

Tabling at the annual CUMEP concert at Southside Selling fresh flowers and cards in downtown Ithaca


A Moment of Recognition

An exhibition of artwork by Challenge participants and staff
at the Hilton Garden Inn Ithaca — opening reception in

conjunction with First Friday Gallery Night on October 5, 5–8
P.M. — on view through October 31.

FOR MORE INFO EMAIL [email protected]


Our longtime participant Cassie T. was selected to compete at the Special Cassie at the Special Olympics
Olympics USA Games this July and her outstanding performance in three track USA Games in Seattle
and field events qualified her for the World Games in Abu Dhabi next March.
Our Mission
Cassie placed seventh in the 100-meter dash, fifth in the 4×100 meter relay,
and fourth in the 200-meter dash. In Abu Dhabi, she will again compete in the At Challenge, we envision a
100-meter and 4×100 events and will also compete in the javelin throw. community where people with
disabilities and other barriers
The USA games drew over 4,000 athletes and 102,000 spectators, making it are a valued and integral part
the largest sporting event in Seattle in over 25 years. ESPN’s Kevin Neghandi
anchored nightly coverage of the games, beginning with a two-hour live broadcast of our workforce.
of the Opening Ceremony emceed by actor Taye Diggs and featuring musical
performances by Charlie Puth, Ann Wilson of Heart, and a 2,018-member choir. Member Agency

The World Summer Games are expected to be an even bigger event, with 7,000
athletes representing 170 nations, upwards of 500,000 live spectators, and a
global television audience numbering in the tens of millions.

This is Cassie’s fortieth year competing in the Special Olympics and her tenth at
Challenge, where she has worked in Contract Production and at the Food Hub.
Many of her friends at Challenge helped to underwrite her trip to Seattle by
purchasing commemorative torches, which adorned the front lobby in the weeks
leading up to her departure.

She says, “I loved the experience. The people I met over there were so nice. I had
the time of my life, and I was so lucky to get chosen to represent Team USA at
the World Games.” Before she heads to the Emirates, she will attend an intensive
training camp in Delaware with several of her teammates from Special Olympics
New York Area 17.

The Special Olympics athletes oath, borrowed from that of the ancient Roman
gladiators, is “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” For
all who know Cassie, there is no question that she will face her competition on
the global stage with an abundance of boldness and determination.

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