Challenge Unlimited has been a leader in prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the workforce for over 60 years. As an AbilityOne provider we are committed to providing quality services in a safe environment for individuals of all abilities.
Watch the video to see what Tim, Bobby & Tyler have to say about working at Challenge Unlimited.
Looking to expand your workforce and prioritize DEI?
Contact us today to join the EmployAbility Initiative.
Tim is one of a few employees that were recently interviewed for our short film highlighting the success of our Challenge Unlimited teams.
⭐Our “EmployAbility” Video Premieres November 8th⭐ 📽
Follow us on social media or sign up for our newsletter to hear the stories highlighting the success of these amazing individuals working on our AbilityOne Contracts at Scott Air Force Base. You won’t want to miss it!
Special thanks to their Public Affairs Department for working with us on base so we could share these amazing stories.
The Knights of Columbus annually hosts their “Tootsie Roll” Drive fundraiser. They organize and coordinate the event and distribute the funds raised to provide much needed support to local organizations who provide services and quality-of-life programming for people living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
This is a statewide fundraiser that has been going on for many years and it also helps to raise awareness, advocacy, the importance of diversity and inclusion for everyone. Each year, the staff and clients from Challenge Unlimited, and other organizations volunteer to support the event and receive a portion of the funds.
Partnerships with local organizations like the Knights of Columbus Council 460, Illinois are so important to our mission. Today representative, Mark Droste, stopped in and presented a check from the 2022 fundraiser to our Executive Vice President of Finance, Andy Esterer and Vice President of Programs, John Becker.
We want to express our sincere gratitude to the Knights for your generous donation of $3,500. These funds will be used to support our programming for the 2023-2024 Fiscal Year to increase the opportunities we can provide for the individuals that we serve.
In the realm of disability support services, champions are those individuals who go above and beyond to ensure that every person they support not only achieves their goals but also becomes an active and valued member of their community. Every year during DSP Recognition Week at Challenge Unlimited, affiliate program, Residential Options hosts an appreciation luncheon and award ceremony to recognize all of the dedicated DSP’s that support our residents and clients. For the last four years, thanks to the Baker Family, one such individual is presented with the Baker Award, in honor of Paul & Louise Baker, as DSP of the Year for their exceptional service to the residents in our homes. The support of the Baker Family enables us to present the winner with this well-deserved recognition.
This years Baker award was presented by Sandy Curran, daughter of Paul & Louise Baker, to Keith Bond. Keith has been a dedicated member of the team at Residential Options for the past four years. He stands out as a shining example of such a champion and through his unwavering commitment to person-centered care and community advocacy, Keith has made a profound impact on the lives of those he supports. He has shown residents, their families and his team that he is a reliable and dependable caregiver to the individuals in his residential home.
One of the hallmarks of person-centered care is recognizing and respecting the unique needs and aspirations of each individual. Keith embodies this principle in his role at Ivy Chase. He serves as a primary male role model for the residents, fostering mutual respect between himself and the individuals he supports. When it comes to setting and achieving goals, Keith reminds them that they are adult men with responsibilities and empowers them by demonstrating the behaviors expected of responsible adults; helping them to achieve their potential and always setting an example through his own actions.
Keith plays a pivotal role in creating opportunities for the individuals he supports to actively participate in their community. Managing monthly barber shop appointments and organizing bi-weekly lunch outings may seem routine, but for some of the residents, it’s a significant feat. Keith’s presence provides a sense of security and guidance, especially for those who may experience tension or anxiety in community settings. Through his actions, he models appropriate behavior and ensures that community activities are enjoyable and accessible for all.
Beyond being a DSP (Direct Support Professional), Keith is a facilitator of relationships. Saturdays are bustling days at Ivy Chase, with barber shop visits, lunches, and family visits. Keith takes the initiative to juggle schedules to include family visits, demonstrating his commitment to supporting residents in maintaining connections with their loved ones. He maintains open communication with families, keeping them informed of drop-off times and coordinating visits among residents when possible. During the holidays, Keith takes the lead in reaching out to families to ensure that visits are well-coordinated, enhancing the residents’ sense of belonging.
Keith’s leadership qualities shine through in his ability to build rapport and foster camaraderie among residents and staff. His deep understanding of the residents’ perspectives and communication styles makes him a go-to person for managing challenging behaviors and improving relationships. Keith’s knack for appealing to the residents as men and guiding them on how men should behave towards others has proven invaluable in building trust and unity within the home.
When Keith accepted the award, he displayed his genuine appreciation for the work he does from a sincere and heartfelt place of faith. He showed that he is a humble man who wants to serve and said when giving his acceptance speech that, “these are God’s children we are serving and God has placed us in their lives, that they might have a quality of life that is deserving of them.” He also recognized his team at Ivy Chase and Lynwood homes for helping to support these individuals. To give some additional perspective, Keith works a full time job as an administrator for the City of Belleville during the week and chooses his work as a DSP on the weekends in order to serve a mission. He embodies the definition of a true servant leader.
Keith’s dedication to person-centered care, community advocacy, and the compassion he shows for the individuals he cares for make him an inspiring example for all in the field of disability support services. Through his leadership and unwavering commitment, Keith has transformed the lives of those he supports, enabling them to not only meet their goals but also become active and valued members of their community. Keith is more than a DSP; he is a true champion of empowerment and inclusion.
In a world where compassion and care are more important than ever, there are individuals who stand as beacons of light, providing unwavering support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the unsung heroes dedicated to enriching the lives of those with disabilities, ensuring they can have fulfilling and meaningful experiences and quality of life. As we celebrate Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, we will be shining a well-deserved spotlight on the remarkable DSPs that support individuals in our Community Day Programs and Residential Options homes every day.
Who Are DSPs?
Direct Support Professionals, often referred to as DSPs, are the compassionate caregivers and support workers who assist individuals with disabilities in various settings, including group homes, day programs, and individual residences. Their responsibilities go far beyond just providing physical assistance; they become mentors, friends, advocates, and many of them become family to those they serve.
The Heart and Soul of Care
DSPs are the heart and soul of care for individuals with disabilities. Their dedication and commitment to enhancing the quality of life for those they support are unparalleled. Here are some of the key roles and responsibilities that DSPs undertake:
Why Recognition Matters
Direct Support Professionals often work tirelessly, facing numerous challenges in their roles. They navigate complex emotional situations, deal with limited resources, and provide care that can be physically and emotionally demanding. Recognizing their efforts is essential for several reasons:
CU DSP Recognition Week Events
At Challenge Unlimited & Residential Options we appreciate and value the hard work that our DSPs put in all year long, but every year during DSP Recognition Week we go the extra mile and schedule a full week of appreciation events to show our DSPs that we value the work they do for the individuals that we serve.
Our Skills Training Centers in Alton and Swansea, Illinois have events scheduled daily including breakfasts, lunches, swag and gifts. DSP’s serving Residential Options will also receive gift cards, host in home celebrations, and an appreciation luncheon at Julia’s Banquet Center in East Alton, Illinois. Thanks to the Baker Family, every year one exceptional DSP is also presented with the DSP of the Year Award in honor of the legacy of Paul & Louise Baker, disability trailblazers who fought to bring services to disabled children in the 1950s and 1960s.
Additional events are made possible, because of the community support we receive from our generous sponsors. Thanks to our Platinum Sponsor CSR Asphalt Paving, Gold Sponsors Everspring Pharmacy LLC, Argosy Casino, Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery, Berco Construction, and Carrollton Bank, Silver Sponsors Altonized Community Credit Union, Bickle Electric and Lombardi Interiors and Bronze Sponsors Alton Refrigeration & Home Furnishings, OSF Healthcare St. Anthony’s Health Center, PurePest, Robert’s Ford Motors, Jun Construction and Tycon Builders.
How can You Show Your Appreciation?
During Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week and beyond, there are several ways to show appreciation for the remarkable work of DSPs:
Direct Support Professionals are the unsung heroes who dedicate their careers to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. Let’s come together to celebrate their unwavering commitment, compassion, and resilience. By recognizing their contributions, we can ensure that the vital work of DSPs continues to uplift and empower those they serve, creating a more inclusive and compassionate world for all.
Interested in learning more about DSP career opportunities with us? Have a family member looking for housing options or community day programs? Contact us through our website or give us a call (618)465-0044 today.
In a world that thrives on diversity and inclusivity, creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities is not just a moral imperative, but also a strategic advantage for any society. The AbilityOne Program stands as a shining example of how public-private partnerships can drive empowerment, independence, and inclusion for people with disabilities while delivering high-quality products and services to the federal government.
Understanding the AbilityOne Program:
The AbilityOne Program, administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, is a federal initiative that creates job opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities through contracts with nonprofit organizations. These organizations employ individuals with disabilities to produce goods and services for the federal government, fostering an environment of self-sufficiency and personal growth.
Key Objectives and Benefits
Employment Opportunities: The program provides meaningful employment to people with disabilities, enabling them to contribute to society while achieving financial independence.
Inclusion and Diversity: AbilityOne promotes an inclusive workplace, demonstrating that diversity is not a limitation but a strength that can drive innovation and creativity.
High-Quality Products and Services: The goods and services delivered through the AbilityOne Program meet stringent federal standards, underscoring the capabilities of a diverse workforce.
Positive Economic Impact: By generating jobs and contributing to the economy, the program reduces the reliance on government assistance programs.
Community Building: The program nurtures a sense of community among participants, fostering personal relationships and support networks that extend beyond the workplace.
Approximately 450 non profit agencies across the country participate as partners to the AbilityOne Program employing over 40,000 individuals with significant disabilities. In Illinois alone there are 701,035 individuals who identify as having a significant disability. The state has 15 providers that employ over 500 individuals including 27 Veterans through the program.
While this is a start we still have a long way to go towards providing equitable opportunities for these individuals. According to a recent study published by SourceAmerica the Unemployment rate in the state is still 54.4% for disabled workers, compared to a much lower overall unemployment rate of 4%. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Challenge Unlimited (CU) employs approximately 342 individuals across our AbilityOne Contract Sites. CU AbilityOne employee, Matt Driver, began working at the Paul Findlay Federal Courthouse through the AbilityOne Program and recently celebrated his 10 year work anniversary. He has also been acknowledged for perfect attendance and has since moved into his own apartment. Check out what Matt had to say about his experiences in the caption below!
“Challenges” and Future Directions
While the AbilityOne Program has achieved commendable success, there are challenges to address:
Awareness and Advocacy: Raising awareness about the program is crucial to attracting more customers and expanding the scope of employment opportunities.
Skill Development: Investing in ongoing training and skill development ensures that participants can excel in their roles and adapt to changing demands.
Technology Integration: Embracing technological advancements can open up new avenues for individuals with disabilities to contribute meaningfully.
In conclusion, the AbilityOne Program stands as a beacon of hope and progress in the realm of disability employment and inclusion. By empowering individuals with disabilities to unleash their potential, the program doesn’t just create jobs—it creates a sense of purpose, belonging, and a brighter future for everyone involved. As employers look to fill the gap in today’s labor force they need to consider people with disabilities, who are a valuable largely untapped labor pool. Not only does employing people with disabilities fill an urgent need for businesses, but it can also have a holistic positive economic impact that can benefit the larger community.
ALTON, IL – (August 15, 2023) — Challenge Unlimited (CU), a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Alton, IL, is pleased to announce the appointment of two new members to its Board of Directors.
Alton resident Bruce Malone, a highly regarded leader in education and the community, was appointed to the CU board of directors in March for a three-year term. A retired educator, his leadership experience includes a ten-year term as the vice president of the board of the Illinois Federation of Teachers and serving on the board of directors for Madison County and the Alton Housing Authority. Malone also served as president of the Staunton (IL) Federation of Teachers.
As a parent of a daughter with Down Syndrome, Malone has an affinity for Challenge Unlimited’s mission. “I certainly understand first-hand the struggles faced by people with disabilities,” he says. “I envision a period of growth for Challenge and am excited to be part of that process.”
Geri Lynn Arrindell, a licensed attorney in Illinois and Missouri with the law firm Mickes O’Toole, joined CU’s board of directors in May for a three-year term. A resident of University City, MO, she is also general counsel for the organization. Her multi-faceted experience delivers an exceptional set of skills to CU.
Arrindell’s legal experience includes serving as litigation counsel to various entities including nonprofit organizations. Her background also includes arbitrations and administrative proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board and the Illinois Labor Relations Board. Prior to earning her law degree, Arrindell was a licensed clinical social worker with Hope, a nonprofit agency headquartered in Springfield, IL. Hope educates, treats and cares for children with Autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition to being the intake coordinator and program director for community-based programs, she was also instrumental in acquiring and opening several group homes.
“It is an honor to serve on the board which allows me to combine my passion for supporting the disabled community with my extensive legal experience,” she says. “I plan to assist the organization with risk management, policies, procedures and any other area in which I can be a resource.”
Tom Morrissey, chairperson of CU’s board of directors, is looking forward to the contributions each new member will bring to the organization. “Bruce and Geri Lynn have tremendous depth of knowledge and will be invaluable assets to our team,” Morrissey states. “Each is committed to furthering our mission of supporting people with all disabilities by providing pathways to independence through meaningful employment. We are delighted to have them join the board.”
About Challenge Unlimited
For more than 60 years, Challenge Unlimited has operated as a social enterprise, committed to serving individuals with disabilities, while earning a reputation as a trusted business partner to private commercial companies, federal and state government agencies by providing pathways to independence through meaningful employment for individuals with all abilities. As an accredited Community Rehabilitation Program (CRP) provider, Challenge Unlimited fulfills its mission through employment programs and services, skills training centers and community-integrated living options. For more information, please visit www.cuinc.org.
I would be remiss if I did not give honor and recognition to our 41st President, George H.W. Bush, for his groundbreaking legislation that was signed into law on July 26, 1990. This was a monumental piece of policy that prohibited discrimination against those with physical and intellectual disabilities, the Americans with Disabilities Act that Bush signed was seen as the equivalent of the Civil Rights Act for the individuals impacted by it.
At the time it was passed in 1990, it was endorsed by the Congress – the House and Senate – one of the largest majorities ever to pass a bill, which displays the overwhelming bipartisan support for the legislation. This is sometimes rare to see in politics, but it was clear how important Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility were at that time, even long before many organizations made it a priority.
This law covered several important aspects of life, specifically accessibility to buildings and public places. This included individuals with mobility challenges but also individuals who have hearing loss, individuals with low vision, limited vision or blindness. In addition to physical accommodations, personnel must be trained to collaborate and interact appropriately with disabled people.
The part of this law that impacts our organization the most is employment. People with disabilities can not and should not be discriminated against in employment settings, either as applicants for a job or as workers. The law covers a broad array of issues pertaining to employment and it gave birth to equal opportunity for thousands of individuals with disabilities to work in more inclusive settings.
Thank you, President George H.W. Bush for your courage and service to our country.