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Published by evanw, 2019-03-21 10:15:42

Challenge Workforce Solutions Newsletter Winter 2018-2019





I hope the arrival of this newsletter finds you eagerly awaiting the warm Executive Director Joe Sammons
weather and bursts of green in our beautiful Finger Lakes springtime! It with longtime participant Helen A.
certainly is a time for hope and optimism here at Challenge, and we are
delighted to share with you some of our progress and activities. Board of Directors

As you'll see, Challenge has been very active over the past few months, Joe Mareane
connecting with community partners all across our region. From the YMCA Jennifer Tavares
to OAR to the Public Library, we've crisscrossed the area helping people
with disabilities and barriers to develop and demonstrate their skills. John Sammis
Kelley Yeomans
There's a profile on the inimitable Frank Towner, who has led our local
YMCA to become a true partner throughout the area—focusing not just on Kellie Page
fitness and health but community spirit. You'll meet our own Krystal Dorn, Matthew Valaik
who works with integrated teams of people with and without disabilities Sheila McEnery
and barriers, creating pathways to employment while serving the needs
of the community. Steve Savage
Teri Tarshus
And if you think Challenge is just about employment, you'll be pleasantly Todd Baker
surprised. We foster the accomplishments of our clients in many ways— Tony Eisenhut
making and selling crafts at Alternatives, getting fit and having fun at the
Special Olympics, and of course, telling our story by selling doughnuts! Member Organization

Over the past few years, I've had the honor of joining this amazing
organization, the people it serves, the staff who serve them, and the
partners and supporters who make it all happen. And though we had
our financial struggles when I arrived, we always stayed focused on
what is most important: creating connections in the community for the
participants we serve every single day.

Thank you for everything you do to support our mission here at Challenge!


Visit aboutchalSlepnrgineg.o2r0g1a8nNdecwlisclketSteigrn Up. Or, if you prefer
the hardcopy version, call us at 607-272-8990 ext. 120.

Spring 2018 Newsletter


Here in our community, the name Challenge evokes coaches provide intensive training at the outset, while
many things for many people. Some associate us with extended supports are offered once workers have hit
the hydroponic lettuce and tortillas that we used to their stride.
produce and sell. Others recall the postal processing
center that used to handle millions of pieces of bulk Latest Supported Employment News:
mail for area businesses. Perhaps the most lingering
image in people’s minds is the Pepto-Bismol™-pink • We expanded our Summer Youth Employment
building at the foot of State Street that was home to Program to a year-round service!
our work center for many decades. But now, in our 51st
year, Challenge is so much more—and we wanted to • We initiated a novel Career Exploration
take this opportunity to provide a little overview of our Assessment program via ACCES-VR!
agency as it is today: a dynamic, deeply interconnected
organization that has established a stable base of vital • We hired a new Job Club Coordinator who is a
services and is poised to nimbly respond to upcoming graduate of the program herself!
changes and opportunities in workforce development.
Our Businesses are staffing-intensive, integrated
Robert Sprole Sr. founded Challenge in 1968 with the ventures that hire from Challenge programs and
radically simple idea that everybody in our community, the community at large. They provide both training
including people with disabilities, deserved a chance opportunities and long-term, well-paid jobs while
to develop and demonstrate their skills. The agency’s meeting the labor needs of numerous clients locally
initial iteration was a sheltered workshop—a safe and abroad.
environment where people with disabilities could work
and socialize together. As times changed, Challenge Latest Business News:
came to realize that its job wasn’t to provide a safe
environment—it was to enable people to become • We saw a number of promotions to supervisor
fully integrated into their community. Our objective, roles in Contract Staffing!
now, is to connect people with disabilities—as well as
other barriers, including economic, social, and legal • We were hired to digitize 19th century
issues—with employers seeking an inclusive, trained, Supreme Court manuscripts in Imaging!
and reliable workforce.
• We are manufacturing locally-designed
If all we did was match résumés to job descriptions, educational toys in Contract Production!
we’d just be a staffing agency like Stafkings. But we
know that in order to serve these two populations All told, about 94 percent of our 1,000-plus participants
effectively, we need to provide a full range of supports: are working in the community—so it’s essential that
we forge strong relationships with a broad variety of
Our Prevocational Services help people to develop private-sector partners. These connections will be all
both the hard and soft skills needed for meaningful the more essential as we look to the future of our service
community employment. These participants are trained model. Just as Challenge had to evolve as the sheltered
in community settings to expand their work tolerance, workshop paradigm gave way to the vision of a truly
follow directions, multitask, and solve problems. integrated workforce, so too must we be prepared to
evolve along with the shifts in the labor market.
Latest Prevocational News:
Currently, our area’s unemployment rate is a very
• We began a mutually beneficial partnership low 3.5 percent—and as a result, local businesses are
with Ithaca ReUse! having a harder time filling positions at all skill levels.
However, these numbers don’t take into account many
• We saw our Employment Training Program people in our community—people with disabilities
(ETP) grow faster than anticipated! and other barriers who are not considered part of
the active workforce. To cite just one statistic, only 24
• We started a flower CSA through the Ability in percent of people receiving mental health services are
Bloom program! employed, even though 60 percent say they would like
to be. Because we at Challenge are already experts at
Our Supported Employment programs help people to getting people ready for success in the working world,
find and thrive in jobs that best suit their strengths. Job we believe we will be a crucial resource for businesses as
they tackle the pressing issues of recruitment, training,
and retention in years to come. Stay tuned!


“We envision a community where people with Church and Community Day Care Center in 1994. That
disabilities and other barriers are a valued and year, he also started volunteering as a lifeguard at the
integral part of our workforce” –Challenge Workforce YMCA, and in short order he was recruited to direct
their volunteer program, from which he rose through
Solutions vision statement the ranks to his current position as CEO.

“That they all may be one” –World YMCA motto When asked about his very first encounter with
Challenge, Towner recalls, “Challenge was the place
••• where we went to get our bulk mail done for the day
care center, and then for the YMCA.” At the time,
For 175 years—and 150 years right here in Ithaca— Challenge was best known for its in-house enterprises,
the YMCA has been helping youth and families to including a facility that processed over five million
cultivate active lifestyles, self-confidence, and social pieces of mail each year; in the intervening years,
responsibility. In recent years, the YMCA of Ithaca our agency has evolved with the times to embrace a
& Tompkins County has advanced that mission supported employment model in which 94 percent
by partnering with Challenge to provide valuable of participants are working in the community with
occupational training opportunities for youth and individualized onsite supports. “Much more recently, as
adults who face a variety of obstacles to employment. CEO,” Towner continues, “I was approached by some
staff at Challenge who were interested in placing folks
Frank Towner has been at the helm of the YMCA of here for work experiences and assessments.”
Ithaca & Tompkins County for seven years, in which
time he has led many exciting developments, including With its broad range of programs, diverse clientele,
major facility and equipment upgrades, an expanded and extensive physical facilities that require rigorous
scholarship program, and the establishment of a maintenance, the YMCA has been an ideal training
nutritional training center. Towner’s career in youth ground for job seekers of all walks of life to discover
development and recreation began in 1980 when, their interests and abilities. For the past five years,
as an undergraduate at the Rochester Institute of Challenge has run a Youth Employment Program which
Technology, he got involved with Camp Good Days, a enables teenagers and young adults with disabilities
summer camp on the shores of Keuka Lake for children or economic barriers to pursue paid part-time work
with cancer. From there, he worked in fitness and experiences with the support of onsite job coaches.
aquatics programs at two youth detention centers in Each year, the YMCA has enthusiastically agreed to
the Rochester area, and then moved to Ithaca with his serve as an employer. Additionally, the YMCA has
wife and young son to take a job at the Ithaca Area played host to numerous adult participants who are
engaging in shorter-term work assessments as part
of their career exploration process. Work assessments
last as little as two shifts but can be powerful tools for
evaluation and self-discovery.

For Towner, the two organizations’ missions are in
harmony: “It goes right back to our old motto from the
1800s—'that they all may be one.' We both want folks
of all backgrounds and interests to come together and
work toward a common goal. We are looking forward
to working with our friends at Challenge more in the
future, and in particular we’re hoping to engage them
in creating new opportunities in outdoor education. We
were gifted 109 acres of wooded land a while back and
we’ve just barely scratched the surface in terms of what
we can do in terms of trail running and ropes courses
and camping. But all the research says that being out
in nature is really good for people, and that’s where our
focus is going to be in the future.”


every single day.” Her boss, Contract Staffing Director
Larry Workman, admires this positive attitude: “Krystal
is a very energetic, upbeat person, and she really works
well with all of her coworkers and the people that we

When asked about the biggest misconception people
have about Contract Staffing, Krystal says, “We aren’t
just a temp agency. We offer long-term positions
with benefits, and we have lots of opportunities for
advancement. We see many people move up from
dishwashing positions to guest-facing and supervisory
roles. And, we're a truly integrated workplace—we
hire right out of Challenge programs as well as the
whole community. About half of our employees
have disabilities or barriers, and we have dedicated
Employment Specialists who help to support everyone."

Thanks to Krystal for all that you do, and thanks to
Ithaca College for your thirty years of partnership!

As manager of Challenge Contract Staffing’s operations THANKS TO YOU!
at Ithaca College, Krystal Dorn oversees some of the
busiest and most diverse workplaces in the community. • We sold 12,194 Krispy Kreme doughnuts
to fund our annual 'family' picnic!
For many years, this enterprise has been creating
both hands-on training opportunities and long-term • We saw steady growth in our Annual Fund!
career paths by meeting the kitchen staffing needs of • We received a very generous gift from
three of the largest (and hungriest) entities in town:
Ithaca College, Cornell University, and Wegmans. John Alexander and Bruce Lane and their
Ithaca College was our first client: in 1986, we were families that will help to fund our year-
contracted to staff the dish rooms in the campus’s round youth program!
bustling student union (now known as Campus Center). • We have created a high-level giving
Starting in the early 2000s, our partnership with Ithaca society, Pathways, with the guidance of
College expanded to include late night and weekend one of our most avid supporters, Andy
service at multiple dining halls as well as the hiring and Sciarabba!
supervision of table attendants, pot sink workers, and • We are always grateful for your donations:
prep cooks. Now, with Cornell and Wegmans on board call Kim at 607-272-8990 ext. 177 today!
as well, Challenge’s crews deliver thousands of shifts
and wash nearly ten million dishes a year.

Krystal was born in neighboring Cortland County,
educated in Homer, and had her first work experience
at the Cortland Price Chopper. She came to challenge
as a dishwasher in 2001 and soon rose in the ranks to
Supervisor, Assistant Manager, and then Manager. In
her present role, Krystal is responsible for overseeing
over 80 employees at three different dining locations,
handling payroll and insurance, assisting with
recruitment, and advising staff on important procedures
and regulations. She says, “The best part of my job is
being able to work with a large, diverse group of people


Challenge and Tompkins Trust Company delivering Krispy
Kreme doughnuts to IPD officers

Challenge staff at OAR of Tompkins Workforce New Yor
County's annual holiday party Tompkins Count

Prevocational participants and staff selling handmade Trish Wilson presenting on Challenge's services to a
crafts at Alternatives's holiday market masters-level social work class at Binghamton University


rk's Job Fair at the Challenge staff at an Employer Resource
ty Public Library Network conference in Schenectady

Jeffrey R.'s (sold!) artwork at the opening of "No Shame in
My Game" at Arts Unbound in Orange, NJ

Jimmy S. competing in snowshoeing at the Special Olympics Dave Anderson presenting on Challenge's partnership with
New York State Games (he won two medals!) the YMCA to United Way staff


“I was quiet, I was nervous, I wasn’t sure how to discovery and job development phase and then offers
act.” This is how Mara-Beth described herself at the full-time onsite job coaching for up to a year. Our
beginning of her career journey. dedicated employment specialists work with job seekers
to master essential job functions and to improve skills
“Her best quality is her outgoing personality—she’s like time management, customer service, and conflict
very friendly and personable with our customers.” This resolution. Initial wages during this intensive training
is how Mara-Beth is described by her current boss, Karen period are covered by New York State, which gives
Sciarabba, owner of Trader K's in Downtown Ithaca. employers a greater measure of flexibility as they
consider program participants as long-term hires.
Mara-Beth, like a growing number of young
professionals in Tompkins County, had her very first During ETP’s job development phase, Mara-Beth
work experiences through Challenge Workforce visited Trader K’s and sensed an instant chemistry with
Solutions's Youth Employment Program. She spent the staff. She started her placement there last March
three consecutive summers in three different jobs, and by the summer, the store agreed to add a shift on
gaining competency and confidence with each new their payroll. As of January 1 of this year, Mara-Beth
placement and developing vital soft skills through the is a full-fledged sales associate at Trader K’s, requiring
program’s weekly classes. Her third placement in the only periodic check-ins from Challenge’s staff.
Hilton Garden Inn Ithaca's fast-paced kitchen proved
to be the most challenging experience of all, but she While her current duties include cleaning, taking
had the courage and initiative to step back and ask for inventory, and color-coordinating the racks, she says,
help from her job coach, and by summer’s end she had “My favorite part of the job is talking to customers
impressed her supervisors enough to get a job offer. when they need help.” So, if you’re in the market for
some gently-used clothing or accessories, be sure to
However, Mara-Beth wanted a different kind of work stop in at 119 The Commons and ask for Mara-Beth.
environment, so she decided to enroll in Challenge’s And when you do, be sure to congratulate her—not
Employment Training Program (ETP) to explore other only on her new job but also her upcoming nuptials.
options. ETP begins with a highly individualized She and her fiancé are getting married next January!


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!


Wild Orchids Spring 2018 Newsletter

Clear ice is fragile, like a heart.
Our touch is so together it makes us a cute
Your kisses are so sweet, your passion like hot
spices, you have a deep secret power over me.
It is so touching, my lover is as gorgeous as an
So much love is in my heart, especially for her.
She is soft as a flame is colorful.
Her special spirit is as bright as the stars.
Her special spirit is like a magic lightforce in
heaven, brighter than white diamonds, more
fragile than sugar.
Her body is like a goddess, silky smooth like
a dove. She is cute like a baby—so adorable.
She is perfect as a rose. This special goddess
is always in my dreams, like a curse, more
powerful than diamonds in the perfect spirit.
She is like an angel, as lovely as a beautiful


We are currently looking to fill the following positions:


FOR MORE INFO CALL 607-277-8990


51st Annual Awards Event
Tuesday, May 7, 2019 5:00-7:30 PM

Hangar Theatre

Please join us for Challenge's annual
celebration of achievement! This evening will
once again be filled with music, good food,

and the spirit of gratitude!


Attendee name(s): _________________________________________________________________________

Phone: ____________________ Mailing address: _____________________________________________

_____# Tickets @ $50/each = $__________ ___ Check enclosed ___Call for credit card info

Please mail or drop off to: Challenge, Attn: Kim Pugliese, 950 Danby Rd., Ste. 179, Ithaca NY 14850

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