Community Relations

Military Appreciation Month & Memorial Day – Land of the Free Because of the Brave – Gone but not forgotten

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

On May 30, 1999, Congress designated National Military Appreciation Month as a month-long observance. Congress chose May because of the many military related observances such as Memorial Day and Loyalty Day are celebrated and observed on that date.

National Military Appreciation Month, also known as Military Appreciation Month, is a month-long observance  recognized in the United States, dedicated to people who are currently in the military or have resigned from duty. Each year, the observance runs from May 1 to May 31. Not only do we pause on Memorial Day to remember the sacrifice and service of those who gave all, but the month also holds several other military anniversaries and events, including Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Armed Forces day. (, 2023)

We asked our Vice President of Operations, Army Colonel James Porter what Military Appreciation Month means to him. James has served in the United States Army for 31 years, here’s what he had to say about his service, and one particular Major who made an impact on his career and his life.

“May is a dynamic month for many reasons. First and foremost, it is Military Appreciation Month. Every day, I get to read and delight in stories of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who have served honorably and faithfully. The stories are inspiring and uplifting and make me extremely proud to have served in my nations Army for 31 years.

Secondly, we celebrate Memorial Day in May. This year I wanted to share my memories of Major James Chinelo. James was on my Mobility team in 2015, 4th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), as we prepared for deployment. He was a high-speed officer whom many admired and emulated.

He was with us  for a brief period after we deployed to Kuwait. The command needed great officers to serve as liaisons in Iraq and James was immediately selected for such a distinct and highly important role. A few months later, James was rushed out of theater and back to the states. At the time it happened, I was not given details as to why he was suddenly returned home.

I was later informed that a few months after returning home, Major Chinelo died from a very aggressive form of cancer. To this day, I think of him often. At the time of his death, he left behind a wife and a newborn child. His absence still impacts me today as much as it impacted me when he was left my team. He was a great Husband, Father, Soldier, Leader and Friend.

Rest well James Chinelo. Well done thy good and faithful Soldier.”

Col. James Porter currently serves as the Chief of Staff, 311TH Expeditionary Sustainment Command for the United States Army Reserves out of Los Angeles, California.

We thank you James for your service, for sharing your story and for the reminder that as we celebrate this Memorial Day, we must remember the bravery and honor of all servicemen and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Specifically, the many fallen soldiers who are gone but they are certainly not forgotten.

Our Commitment to Cleanliness & To You 

Sunday, April 23rd, 2023

CIMS Green Building with Honors Certification – 10 Years & Counting

We are extremely proud to have achieved the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) Green Building (GB) with Honors certification from ISSA – the worldwide cleaning industry association. This significant milestone will mark 10 consecutive years that Challenge Unlimited has held this certification and it is a testament to our dedication to cleaning your facility according to industry standards and best practices, while also assuring you receive top quality service. 

As a CIMS GB with Honors certified company, we provide unique and valuable benefits to our customers, including: 

  • Trustworthy, dedicated, and professional team members capable of getting the job done.
  • Management systems and processes accredited by an independent, third-party assessor. 
  • Effective protocols and practices to clean and disinfect for infectious diseases. 
  • A sustainable business model to provide valuable, long-term service. 
  • Reduced costs through improved efficiency and services 

With CIMS GB with Honors, we take the guesswork out of identifying a quality, customer-focused, and professional organization. This certification is our promise to you that we uphold our standards of cleanliness and customer service. 

Contact us today to learn more about how we implement CIMS practices into our custodial and facility management services or click here.

You can also visit for more information.


AbilityOne Authorized Providers Use Grants to Drive Results

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023


Clients Chris & Jim using the exercise equipment at our Skills Training Center in Alton, IL

SourceAmerica® offers a range of grants to help the AbilityOne® authorized providers in our national network to turn their ideas into reality. As an authorized provider Challenge Unlimited is so grateful for the opportunities that these funds help us to provide for our clients.

Challenge Unlimited: Boosting Client Health and Fitness
At Challenge Unlimited, Inc. we encourage our clients with disabilities to lead healthy lifestyles in and out of the workplace. We participate in the Health Matters Program™, which provides a nutrition and exercise curriculum for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, to support this Program we established gyms at three of our skill training centers. The gyms are anticipated to benefit 200 initial users, and this number is expected to grow over time.

Clients at our Skills Training Center in Quincy, Illinois. This Community Day Service helps keep clients healthy and fit.

At Challenge Unlimited we offset the cost of purchasing stationary bikes, treadmills, and free weights for these gyms through SourceAmerica’s Quality Work Environment Grant. Our organization’s staff members believe that onsite access and not charging gym membership fees have raised interest among those clients who would otherwise be discouraged from joining a traditional gym or fitness center due to cost or lack of convenience.

Read more this amazing Grant Opportunity and other organizations that were able to utilize funds through these grants on the SourceAmerica Website.

Thanks SourceAmerica! These funds help our organization boost available resources for our clients and provide healthy lifestyle education at our Skills Training Centers in Alton, Swansea, and Quincy, Illinois.

Challenge Unlimited Marketing Manager wants to engage the community in the mission

Tuesday, April 11th, 2023

Our Marketing Manager, Stephanie Schrage, chatted with Mark Ellebracht, on 107.1FM – The Big Z Radio last week.

Topics included services that we have to offer, our community engagement expansion initiatives and how we can help businesses fulfill their staffing needs while creating a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Check out the interview below! ⬇️⬇️

Pictured: Our Alton Skills Training Center volunteers do basic diagnostic tests on Chromebooks in the Technology Department at Alton High School. This partnership helps our clients gain new skills and ensures the students at AHS have the equipment needed to get their work done.

Click here to complete the contact form on or website💻 or give us a call 📞 (618)465-0044 to see how we can partner with you business or organization.

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn for updates and success stories!

Kirk at Work – Lessons on Leadership from the Final Frontier

Wednesday, March 29th, 2023

Captain James T. Kirk is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and effective leaders in science fiction history. Our staff participated in our own version of Elf on the Shelf with a leadership twist and the the help of quintessential leader, Captain Kirk , who led his crew into the unknown and continued to succeed time and time again. Employees were encouraged to look for Captain Kirk around the office and take a selfie with him. Prizes were awarded to our staff who participated in the form of Gift Certificates to local businesses, Bakers & Hale, Post Commons, Germania Brew House, the Ferguson Burger Bar and Decaro’s. Check out the video we put together from the submissions!

Kirk’s success was no fluke. His style of command demonstrates a keen understanding of leadership and how to maintain a team that succeeds regardless of the obstacles.  Over the course of a week our Training Team shared key leadership lessons that can be taken away from Captain Kirk: Daily lessons included never stop learning, play poker, not chess, and embrace change, among others.

Some of the leadership qualities that were shared are listed below:

  • Never Stop Learning: “You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”Kirk’s reputation at the Academy was that of a “walking stack of books” and a passion for learning helped him through several missions. It helps to never stop learning. The more knowledge you have, the more creative you can be. The more you’re able to do, the more solutions you have for problems at your disposal. Sure, you might never have to face down a reptilian alien on a desert planet like Captain Kirk, but you never know what the future holds. Knowledge is your best key to overcoming whatever obstacles are in your way.


  • Play Poker, Not Chess: “Not chess, Mr. Spock. Poker. Do you know the game?”No hate to the game of chess, but chess is often taken too seriously as a metaphor for leadership strategy. For all of its intricacies, chess is a game of defined rules that can be mathematically determined. It’s ultimately a game of boxes and limitations. A far better analogy to strategy is poker, not chess. Life is a game of probabilities, not defined rules. And often understanding your opponents is a much greater advantage than the cards you have in your hand. Playing that strategy with an eye to the psychology of our competitors, not just the rules and circumstances of the game can often lead to better outcomes than following the rigid lines of chess.


  • Embrace the Change: We are often, in our roles as leaders, driven by a passion. It might be a product or service, it might be a way of doing things. But no matter how much that passion burns within us, the reality is that times change. Different products are created. Different ways of doing things are developed. And there will come times in your life when that passion alone isn’t viable anymore. A time when it no longer makes sense to pursue your passion in the same way that you had before. When that happens, no matter how painful it is, you need to embrace the change. That is, change what isn’t working and embark on a new path, even if that means having to live in a Klingon ship for awhile

Final Takeaway – Respect: Kirk has a deep respect for his crew and the people he interacts with. He treats everyone with dignity and respect, and he’s always willing to listen to different perspectives.

Overall, Captain Kirk is an excellent example of a leader who embodies the qualities of courage, vision, adaptability, and respect. His leadership style has inspired countless people over the years and continues to be a model for leaders in all fields.

Shawn’s Story – Hopeless to Hopeful

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Mascoutah, IL – “If you are ever feeling as if life is beating you down, I want you think of Shawn Kehrer. He has experienced more than his fair share of setbacks. Yet he keeps on coming back. This morning with the help of Jimmy Kruckow, Priscilla Carden Visintine, and Lisa M Burns-Wojick of Challenge Unlimited, Inc. – An AbilityOne Provider, I told Shawn’s story of resilience in my ‘My Lou’ segment.”

Thank you Rene Knott and KSDK for sharing Shawn’s Story!

Shawn you are an inspiration!

Wednesday, February 15th, 2023

Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance Available

CHICAGO – Individuals living with disabilities, low-to-moderate income families and older adults needing assistance filing their 2022 income taxes can receive free help through several trusted programs across Illinois. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) Foundation Tax-Aide Program, and the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program, provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in select locations statewide.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), American Association of Retired Persons’ (AARP) Foundation Tax-Aide Program, and the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program, provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in select locations statewide.

“It is important for Illinois taxpayers to know they can receive help from qualified volunteers certified by the IRS at various locations statewide,” said Illinois Department of Revenue Director David Harris. “These individuals are ready and willing to assist taxpayers in filing their state and federal tax returns accurately and on time by the April 18 deadline.”

How taxpayer assistance is provided and when services are available varies by region, based upon volunteer capacity.

“Even modest tax refunds can be a significant boost to older adults’ household budgets,” said Illinois Department on Aging Director Paula Basta. “By seeking free tax prep assistance from a trusted local program, you have the best likelihood of getting your full refund and of getting your taxes done on time, correctly and hassle-free.”

The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs offer free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals needing assistance in preparing their own tax returns. People making $60,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers can take advantage of this service. In addition, the TCE program offers free tax help, particularly for those who are 60 years of age and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. VITA and TCE sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations across the country.

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program provides free tax assistance, with a special focus on taxpayers over the age of 50 or who have low-to-moderate income. Availability is determined at the local or community level. AARP membership is not required to receive assistance.

In Chicagoland, the Ladder Up Tax Assistance Program (TAP) provides free basic tax return preparation for families earning up to $60,000 and individuals earning up to $32,000 annually. IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers assist in filing federal and state returns.

Taxpayers can search for a free tax assistance provider closest to them by visiting IDOR’s website Individuals with questions should contact IDOR’s Taxpayer Assistance Division at 800-732-8866.

Taxpayers may also visit any of IDOR’s offices located in Chicago, Des Plaines, Fairview Heights, Marion, Rockford, and Springfield to receive assistance. Staff at these locations can help with any Illinois state income tax filing inquiries and are available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Click the link below for full details from the Illinois Department of Revenue on who qualifies and how to participate in the Program: Free Income Tax Preparation Assistance Available

Challenge Unlimited mourns the loss of a champion for disability options.

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

Edwardsville, IL – Local attorney and beloved husband and father John P. Gibbons, 85, of Edwardsville, Illinois, received the Last Rites and passed away suddenly on January 19, 2023 from complications of recently diagnosed pancreatic cancer. He was surrounded by his wife and their seven living children.

He served as counsel since 1984 and on the Board of Directors of Challenge Unlimited for many years. He devoted much of his life to increasing opportunities and options for individuals living with disabilities.  John Gibbons was a champion advocate for choice who increased employment and residential options at Challenge Unlimited. His legacy will live on through the individuals he has helped and the opportunities he has created for them. Our condolences go out to his family. His absence will certainly be felt at Challenge Unlimited, Inc., An AbilityOne Provider Unlimited and he will be deeply missed.

You can read about John’s life, accomplishments and his contributions to the community here in his obituary.

Asia Slack celebrates 24 years with Residential Options, Inc.

Friday, January 13th, 2023

In 1999, Brandy’s Have You Ever was at the top of the Billboard Charts, Fight Club was the top grossing film followed closely by The Matrix, a blizzard snowstorm smashed into the Midwestern United States, causing 14 inches of snow in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and 19 inches in Chicago, Illinois and Asia Slack joined the team at #ResidentialOptions.

Her journey has been a 24-year labor of love and we wanted to share a story with you about how much of a difference has made in the lives of those individuals that she cares for. Asia is the Team Leader at one of our #ResidentialOptions group homes and she cares for our residents like they are family.

For most, a routine dental visit is just that: routine. But for some adults with physical, mental or developmental disabilities, routine visits can be more of a challenge. Often times individuals with disabilities can become fearful and struggle with receiving this much needed dental care. Asia Slack cares for one such individual who does not tolerate most medical exams and can sometimes become aggressive out of fear, making it difficult for providers and staff to provide treatment. This client was long overdue for a dental exam as previous providers had refused to see her due to her behavior at previous visits.

Asia cares for this individual so much that she and went above and beyond to ensure that the patient received the necessary care. She personally contacted Aspen Dental and explained the circumstances surrounding this client. She got the dentist to agree to see her. Asia has cared for this client, demonstrating her patience and commitment to her work. Asia has built a relationship of trust. The day of the exam Asia stated that she and the client would go by themselves to this appointment.

Asia’s supervisor “was extremely doubtful that the appointment would be completed but Asia took the client for treatment even though she knew the individual might refuse the exam.” With Asia’s calming presence and her strong relationship of trust, not only did the client let the dentist look in their mouth, but also stood still for the x-ray machine. This often only comes from years on interacting and caring for the same individual.

This is only one example of how much trust and love Asia has built with those that she cares for. She is a compassionate caregiver and a blessing to our organization. We are so proud to have her on our team. From all of us at Challenge Unlimited, Residential Options and our affiliates and partners Thank You for 24 years of service Asia!

Asia Slack 24 Year Anniversary Video by Challenge Unlimited

“The only time you should ever look back, is to see how far you’ve come.”

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

There is a great quote about revisiting the past. I am not sure who said it first, but it is often repeated – and for good reason. 

In 2022, we continued to return to a sense of normalcy in many areas of our operations following COVID yet still encountered setbacks with the State, individuals with disabilities and even staff due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, there are several notable successes to celebrate. Through the addition of new talent and strategies, we have seen improved results in our census contributing positively toward our strategic plan. We still have a steep climb, but we are optimistic we will see growth in FY23 as well as improved performance in key areas. 

As the year draws to a close, the Board of Directors and the Senior Management Team would like to extend best wishes for the holiday season and the new year. We recognize the selflessness that our team and partners put in day after day to support this incredible mission. This year was sprinkled with prestigious awards, expansion of new jobs in new areas/new states/with new customers along with restructuring to better serve our clients. We look forward to 2023 to create more incredible impacts. On the left is a snapshot of our achievements over the last fiscal year.

Happy Holidays on behalf of Senior Leaders and the Board Directors. To our staff and supporters, we thank you for your commitment to our mission and wish you and your families a wonderful Holiday Season and Happy New Year.  

Written By: Charlotte Hammond, President & CEO of Challenge Unlimited, Inc.

Click here to view the Complete 2022 Annual Report. 

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