Community Relations

“EmployAbility” – Disability Employment, a largely untapped and underutilized workforce

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

Exclusive Premiere!!

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.

AbilityOne Film COMING November 8th!!

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.

From the Heartland to Capitol Hill

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023
♪ “I’m goin’ to Jackson, but I’m not gonna mess around.” ♪

Johnny Cash’s iconic words resonate with a different journey today – the journey towards creating a brighter future for disability employment. In Mississippi, 256,889 individuals ages 18 to 64 identify as having a disability, and 64% of those individuals are unemployed. (Mississippi By The Numbers)

Advocating for Change from Jackson to D.C.

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and GSA Jackson team member Jeffie Walker is not a statistic. He exemplifies the transformative power of inclusion and the strides made in the workforce, but we have a long way to go. He can assure you that individuals with disabilities are not “messing around” but are seizing their rightful place in the world of employment, and his journey is a testament to his determination and resilience in the face of adversity.

Jeffie’s Story

Mr. Jeffie Walker is a self-proclaimed “huge sports fan” and aspires to own his own home so that he can have the “man cave” of his dreams. His story is just one example of how individuals with disabilities can overcome challenges to achieve outstanding success, but the path was not without its obstacles.

After earning a Mass Communications degree from Jackson State University, Jeffie encountered difficulties securing employment due to his disability. However, he refused to be disheartened and, with the unwavering support of his family, friends, and counselors, embarked on a new journey within the AbilityOne Program.

He began as a janitor in the McCoy Federal building in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. Over eight years in this role, Mr. Walker displayed unparalleled dedication and work ethic, becoming an integral part of his workplace. However, uncertainty loomed when the company he worked for lost the contract.

A Chance to Shine

During this critical period, Challenge Unlimited recognized Mr. Walker’s exceptional qualities and not only retained him on the team but was promoted to the building’s sole Floor Care Technician. This marked a significant milestone, his first-ever promotion, and an accompanying raise.

Among his numerous accomplishments within the AbilityOne Program, Mr. Walker is incredibly proud of his promotion. This achievement highlights his dedication and showcases his potential for growth. Jeffie’s success led him to be selected to represent his company and coworkers in Washington, D.C., at the SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference, showcasing his ability to advocate for the program’s mission and the contributions of individuals like him. He’s funny, charismatic, and a delight to be around.


He was nominated by his supervisors for the SourceAmerica William M. Usdane Award, which serves as a powerful reminder that individuals with disabilities are invaluable assets to the workforce and can thrive when given the opportunity. This nomination is more than just a recognition of his achievements; it’s a beacon of hope for others facing similar challenges.

While the award’s winner has yet to be selected, Jeffie is already a winner in our book. He is committed to his job, and his dedication to advocating for himself and others is exemplary. “To be honest, I think people with disabilities can do just as well or even better jobs if given support and guidance,” said Walker. He exemplifies the transformative power of determination, hard work, and the impact of a supportive work environment. We firmly believe that Mr. Walker deserves to be celebrated for his achievements. Jeffie can inspire countless others to overcome obstacles and pursue their dreams. He is proof that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Click below to listen to Jeffie’s speech.










Challenge Unlimited and Knights of Columbus Join Forces to Support Individuals with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities

Monday, September 25th, 2023
Individuals are pictured in from of a Blue banner with Challenge Unlimited Logo
Pictured from left to right: John Becker, CU Vice President of Programs, Mark Droste, Knights or Columbus Alton Council 460, Andy Esterer, Executive Vice President of Finance

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.

Striking Down Stereotypes: The Impact of Special Olympics Bowling

Tuesday, September 19th, 2023

This past weekend residents, from our Residential Options homes participated in the Special Olympics Bowling, Region J Competition at St. Clair Bowl, in Fairview Heights, Illinois. A great time was had by all and many of the competitors from Residential Options received gold metals. We are so proud of our team and we want everyone to join us in celebrating their success!

Resident Jason, took home a Gold Metal for the Men’s Singles and residents Pamela, Rhonda and Darlene placed 1st and received gold metals for the women’s ramp and women’s singles competition.

In a world that often focuses on differences, Special Olympics Bowling stands as a powerful testament to the enduring human spirit. It is not just a sport but a platform that celebrates the abilities and accomplishments of individuals with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Bowling has transcended barriers, shattered stereotypes, and fostered a sense of inclusion that extends far beyond the lanes. For Residential Options  we have seen first hand the profound impact of Special Olympics Bowling and how it is changing lives, one strike at a time.

The Power of Inclusion

Pictured above are members of our Residential Options Special Olympics Bowling Team.

One of the most significant impacts of Special Olympics Bowling is the sense of inclusion it creates. Historically, individuals with intellectual disabilities have faced social isolation and discrimination. The Special Olympics movement has been instrumental in challenging these norms. Through bowling, our residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities have found a community that welcomes them with open arms, embracing their unique abilities.

Inclusion is more than just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental human right. Special Olympics Bowling provides a platform for these athletes to showcase their talents and abilities, challenging the stereotypes that have long plagued the disability community. In doing so, it sends a powerful message that everyone deserves respect, dignity, and the chance to participate in sports.

Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

Special Olympics Bowling goes beyond physical competition; it is a powerful tool for building confidence and self-esteem. For many athletes, the opportunity to participate in organized sports is a transformative experience. As they improve their bowling skills and achieve personal bests, they gain a profound sense of accomplishment and self-worth.

The impact on an individual’s self-esteem can be life-changing. It extends beyond the bowling alley, influencing their interactions at school, work, and within their families. It teaches athletes that they are capable of achieving their goals, and building diverse relationships regardless of their abilities or disabilities.

Fostering Social Bonds and Support Networks

Special Olympics Volunteer observes as Residential Options athlete bowls a STRIKE!!

The friendships and support networks formed through Special Olympics Bowling are invaluable. Athletes, coaches, and families come together to create a tight-knit community that transcends the sport itself. These bonds provide emotional support and a sense of belonging, enhancing the overall quality of life for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The families of athletes often find solace and a sense of camaraderie among others who share similar experiences. Coaches and volunteers are inspired by the dedication and resilience of the athletes, deepening their commitment to the Special Olympics movement.

Raising Awareness and Challenging Stereotypes

The Special Olympics is not just about sports; it is a movement that challenges societal stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals with disabilities. By showcasing the talents and abilities of these athletes, it highlights the importance of inclusion and diversity. It serves as a reminder that we should value individuals for their unique qualities and abilities, rather than making assumptions based on their disabilities, shifting the focus from what someone’s abilities might typically prevent them from doing to embracing their strengths and highlighting their successes.

Special Olympics Bowling is more than just a sport; it’s a life-changing experience for athletes, families, and communities. It fosters inclusion, builds confidence, promotes health and wellness, and challenges stereotypes. It’s a reminder that every individual, regardless of their abilities, deserves the opportunity to shine.

As we celebrate the success of our residents we want to raise awareness around the impact of Special Olympics Bowling, and also reflect on the broader message it sends. Inclusion, acceptance, and respect for all are values worth championing. Through the power of this sport, we can strive for a more inclusive and compassionate world, where every individual has the chance to reach their full potential, both on and off the bowling alley.

Special Olympics Color Guard

Paul & Louise Baker DSP of the year 2023 Award Winner: Keith Bond

Sunday, September 17th, 2023
Keith Bond & Sandy Curran, daughter of Paul and Louise Baker
Paul & Louise Baker DSP of the year 2023 Award Winner: Keith Bond pictured with Sandy Curran, daughter of Paul & Louise Baker

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.

Promoting Person-Centered Care

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.

Community Engagement
Keith Bond pictured in a blue shirt looking over an upcoming calendar of events for his residents.
Keith Bond pictured looking over an upcoming calendar of events for his residents.

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.

Nurturing Relationships

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.

Demonstrating Leadership

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.

DSP Recognition Week Logo from ANCHOR. Shows a yellow & blue ribbon with the text Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week September 10th - 16th, 2023

Remembering September 11th: A Spotlight on Disability

Monday, September 11th, 2023

On September 11, 2001, the world witnessed one of the most tragic events in modern history—the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. This day changed the course of our nation and had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals. Our first responders and all who experienced this tragedy will never forget the events of that day and many have suffered from the trauma every since.

As we commemorate the 22nd anniversary of September 11th and honor them, it’s important to remember not only the lives lost and the heroes who emerged but also to spotlight an often-overlooked aspect of this tragedy—the experiences of individuals with disabilities. 

Disability in the Face of Disaster 

When we think of the events of September 11th, we often recall images of firefighters, police officers, and first responders rushing into burning buildings to save lives. These brave individuals undoubtedly played a crucial role in responding to the attacks and deserve to be recognized and honored for their bravery. However, we may not hear as much about the experiences of people with disabilities during this harrowing time. 

People with disabilities faced unique challenges and vulnerabilities on that fateful day. Here are a few aspects to consider: 

  • Evacuation Challenges: Many buildings and public spaces lacked adequate accessibility features for individuals with mobility impairments. This made evacuating the affected areas extremely difficult for those with mobility challenges. 
  • Communication Barriers: People with hearing impairments may have struggled to receive crucial information during the crisis. Emergency announcements and warnings were often communicated audibly, leaving individuals with hearing disabilities at a disadvantage. 
  • PTSD and Emotional Impact: The traumatic events of September 11th had a lasting impact on many people’s mental health. Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions or those who developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have faced additional hurdles in accessing the support and care they needed. 
  • Access to Emergency Services: People with disabilities may have faced difficulties in accessing emergency services due to communication barriers or transportation issues. 

Heroes Among Us 

Despite the challenges and barriers faced by individuals with disabilities on September 11th, there were also stories of resilience, strength, and heroism. Many people with disabilities demonstrated remarkable courage and resourcefulness during this crisis. Their stories remind us that disability does not define one’s abilities or capacity for bravery. 

Remembering and Honoring 

As we remember the events of September 11th, it’s important to honor the memory of all those affected, including those with disabilities. Here are some ways to do so: 

  • Share Stories: Share stories of individuals with disabilities who demonstrated extraordinary resilience and courage on that day. Highlight their accomplishments and contributions. 
  • Support Disability-Inclusive Initiatives: Advocate for and support initiatives that promote accessibility, inclusion, and emergency preparedness for people with disabilities in your community. 
  • Foster Understanding: Educate yourself and others about the unique challenges faced by individuals with disabilities during crises. Understanding leads to empathy and better support. 
  • Remember the Heroes: Pay tribute to the first responders, medical professionals, and volunteers who provided assistance to people with disabilities during and after the attacks. 

As we reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, let us remember that disability is not a barrier to heroism or resilience. It’s a day to honor all those who were affected by the tragedy, including those with disabilities. By spotlighting their experiences and challenges, we can work towards a more inclusive society and more accessible communities that are better prepared to support all its members in times of crisis. 

Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week Kick Off at CU: Honoring the heart and soul of care

Sunday, September 10th, 2023

DSP Recognition Week Logo from ANCHOR. Shows a yellow & blue ribbon with the text Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week September 10th - 16th, 2023In 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: 

  • Personalized Care: DSPs work closely with individuals with disabilities to understand their unique needs, preferences, and goals. They provide personalized care plans that promote independence and well-being. 
  • Skill Development: DSPs help individuals acquire and develop essential life skills, such as communication, hygiene, and self-advocacy. These skills empower individuals to lead more independent lives. 
  • Community Integration: DSPs play a crucial role in helping individuals become active members of their communities. They facilitate opportunities for socialization, participation in community events, and access to recreational activities. 
  • Advocacy: DSPs often act as advocates for individuals with disabilities, ensuring their rights and needs are recognized and met. They help individuals navigate complex systems and access necessary services and resources. 
  • Emotional Support: Beyond physical care, DSPs offer emotional support, fostering trusting and meaningful relationships with those they serve. They provide companionship, a listening ear, and a source of comfort. 

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: 

  • Inspiration: Recognizing DSPs for their dedication and hard work can inspire others to join this noble profession. We need more compassionate individuals to enter the field to meet the growing demand for services. 
  • Morale Boost: Recognition boosts the morale of DSPs. It reminds them that their work is valued and appreciated, motivating them to continue providing exceptional care. 
  • Retention: By acknowledging the importance of DSPs, we can improve retention rates in the field. High turnover rates can be detrimental to the continuity of care for individuals with disabilities. 

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. 

Sandy Curran, daughter of Paul & Louise Baker presents DSP of The Year Award, to DSP Crystal Welborn

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 MotorsJun 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: 

  • Express Gratitude: Simply saying “thank you” can go a long way in making DSPs feel valued and appreciated. Take the time to acknowledge their hard work and dedication. 
  • Share Stories: Share stories of DSPs who have made a positive impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities. Highlight their achievements and the difference they’ve made. 
  • Advocate for Fair Compensation: Advocate for fair wages and benefits for DSPs. They deserve competitive salaries and benefits for the crucial work they do. 
  • Volunteer: Consider volunteering your time to support individuals with disabilities or the organizations that employ DSPs. Your help can make a meaningful difference. 

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.

Celebrating Labor Day: Workforce Innovation and the history of disability employment

Monday, September 4th, 2023


Labor Day, observed on the first Monday of September in the United States, is a day dedicated to honoring the contributions and achievements of the American workforce. While this holiday traditionally celebrates the labor movement and the gains made by workers, it’s also an excellent opportunity to reflect on the progress made in the realm of disability employment throughout history. In this blog post, we will explore the rich history of disability employment and the milestones achieved in promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities for all workers. 

The Early Struggles 

Historically, individuals with disabilities faced significant barriers when seeking employment. Discrimination, prejudice, and misconceptions about their abilities limited their opportunities in the workforce. However, there were a few bright spots in the early history of disability employment. The Civil War, for example, saw the employment of disabled veterans in various government positions, laying the groundwork for later disability employment initiatives. 

World War I and II: Turning Points 

The world wars brought about significant changes in the landscape of disability employment. As large numbers of soldiers returned home with disabilities, there was a growing recognition of the need to support them in their transition to civilian life. The Rehabilitation Act of 1918 marked a crucial step forward by providing vocational training and employment opportunities for disabled veterans. 

World War II further accelerated these efforts, leading to the establishment of the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment program by the Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs). This program aimed to provide disabled veterans with training, job placement services, and support to reintegrate into the workforce. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 

One of the most significant milestones in the history of disability employment in the United States was the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. This landmark legislation prohibited discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various aspects of life, including employment. Under the ADA, employers were required to provide reasonable accommodations to enable qualified individuals with disabilities to perform their job duties effectively. 

The ADA not only provided legal protection but also raised awareness about the importance of inclusive workplaces. This led to greater inclusivity in hiring practices and the removal of physical and attitudinal barriers that had previously hindered disabled individuals’ employment opportunities. 

AbilityOne Program 

The AbilityOne Program is a shining example of how innovative initiatives can promote disability employment and inclusivity in the workforce. Established in 1938, this federal program has been instrumental in creating job opportunities for people with disabilities while delivering valuable products and services to the government.  

In the quest for a more inclusive and equitable workforce, programs like the AbilityOne Program stand as beacons of hope. This initiative, deeply rooted in the principles of social responsibility and equality, has made significant strides in facilitating disability employment in the United States. In this blog post, we will explore the remarkable journey of the AbilityOne Program and its pivotal role in fostering employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. 

As we celebrate Labor Day, let us reflect on the importance of work, let us recognize and support programs like AbilityOne that are making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities, proving that talent knows no bounds when given the right opportunities. 

Technology and Remote Work 

Advances in technology have played a pivotal role in improving employment prospects for people with disabilities. The rise of remote work and digital accessibility initiatives have created new opportunities for disabled individuals to participate in the workforce. Accessible technology, screen readers, and other assistive devices have empowered individuals with disabilities to excel in various professions. 

Companies are increasingly recognizing the value of a diverse and inclusive workforce, which includes employees with disabilities. Many organizations are implementing policies and practices to support disability employment and foster a more inclusive workplace culture. 


On this Labor Day, it’s important to acknowledge the progress made in the realm of disability employment throughout history. From the early struggles to the passage of the ADA, to the Wagner-O’Day Act, into the innovation of the AbilityOne Program, and the technological advancements of today, there has been a remarkable transformation in the opportunities available to individuals with disabilities.  

However, there is still work to be done to ensure full inclusivity and equal access to employment for all. By continuing to raise awareness, advocate for disability rights, and promote inclusive workplaces, we can build a future where everyone has the opportunity to contribute their skills and talents to the workforce. 

At Challenge Unlimited, we are incredibly grateful for the dedication, hard work, and passion that our workforce brings to the table every day. You are the backbone of our organization, and your commitment to excellence is what makes us shine. Through thick and thin, you’ve shown resilience, adaptability, and unwavering support, and for that, we say THANK YOU!

Let’s continue to inspire, innovate, and achieve greatness together.

We’re Hiring! Join our Team and Make a Difference!

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023
Click to Apply

In a world that strives for inclusivity and equal opportunities, the role of individuals who champion the cause of people with disabilities is of paramount importance. Every step towards making the world more accessible and supportive contributes to a more equitable society. If you’re someone who’s passionate about creating positive change and improving the lives of individuals with disabilities, then you might find your calling in a job that centers around this noble cause.

More Than a Job: The Power of Empathy – A job dedicated to making a difference for people with disabilities requires a deep sense of empathy. Being able to understand and resonate with the challenges and triumphs of individuals with disabilities is crucial. This empathy forms the foundation of creating solutions that truly meet their needs and enhance their quality of life.

Choosing a career that revolves around making a difference for people with disabilities is an endeavor that has far-reaching impact. It’s not just a job; it’s a commitment to improving the lives of individuals who deserve equal opportunities and support. Your contributions become part of a collective effort to create a world where everyone can thrive, regardless of their abilities. So, if you’re passionate about making a positive change, consider a career dedicated to empowering the lives of people with disabilities then keep reading.

More About the Position: Director of Community Employment

At Challenge Unlimited, our vision is to become a national leader in providing employment services to people with disabilities that empower them to reach their full potential. We intentionally provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities which will assist them to live, work, and participate in the community.

Our mission is to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities and we are intentional about hiring candidates with disabilities.

Position Summary

  • Full-time Director of Employment Services in Alton, Illinois
  • Schedule Monday – Friday, 8a – 4:30p + flexible to job demands.
  • Travel Required 10-25%, primarily between work sites.

This role reports to the VP of Programs and is responsible for community-based employment services programs which provide people who have different abilities with opportunities to work with integrated teams and receive work support as needed.

The Director oversees the employment services which include job placement, coaching, assessment, and case management for individuals with disabilities at community customer sites.  The Director will manage contract billing and compliance with agency contracts and government reporting regulations.  This position is responsible for evaluating client services, ensuring accurate documentation, and adhering to regulatory compliance.  The Director provides administrative support and services for the budget, building and equipment needs and oversees employment services’ new business and grant opportunities while effectively leading the team.

Additionally, this position promotes the agency to the public, interviews applicants for program services, ensures the collection of proper documentation and reporting duties for policy and regulatory compliance. The Director supervises Placement Services and Supported Employment coordinators, along with supervising and managing activities of Coordinator – Intake and Recruitment.

The company offers a full continuum of services for persons with disabilities, including residential, community day programs and employment services. The Director of Employment Services will drive the overall delivery of client services for the Department, including recruiting, assessment, and assistance in entry into a service of choice.


  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in human service-related field.
  • Experience: 5+ years’ experience with people with developmental disabilities and/or mental illness, 3+ years of which were at a management level.
  • Certifications/Licenses: CPR, 1st Aid, Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) and Qualified Intellectual Disability Professional (QIDP) training provided by the company must be successfully completed within the first 4 months to be certified and annually thereafter for CPR, 1st Aid and CPI to maintain the position.
  • Computer Skills: Proficient with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Outlook. Experience with payroll and case management software is preferred.
  • Background Checks: Must pass criminal background check, various State and Federal registry checks, DCFS Abuse and Neglect Tracking System, driving history check and company policy criteria, maintain valid driver’s license and be 21 or older to drive.
  • Driving: Company travel using a personal insured vehicle is required.

Physical Demands

  • Sitting in the in the normal course of office-sedentary type work.
  • Standing, walking, bending, squatting, reaching, and twisting in the normal course of office-sedentary type work and for training workers.
  • Hearing, speaking frequently, listening to, and speaking with managers, staff, and clients to communicate about requests, training needs and other concerns.
  • Continually visually alert to monitor, to read and write or type documents, observe employee and client interactions, and communicate with all.
  • Frequent use of hands in writing and typing, and general office work.
  • Kneeling is required to perform CPR practice sessions; complete skills testing and use as required. Occasionally bending, reaching, and twisting; occasionally climbing stairs and/or ladders squatting.
  • May need to lift or carry up to 50 lbs. to assist a client to their feet from a lying or sitting position, to help with walking or for the Client to change positions.


  • Health Care Plan (Medical, Dental & Vision)
  • Life Insurance (Basic, Voluntary & AD&D
  • 401K plus company match
  • Paid Time Off (Vacation, Sick & Public Holidays)
  • Short-Term & Long-Term Disability
  • Training & Development

Read the full job description and apply through this link.

EOE Statement

All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.


Challenge Unlimited Appoints Two New Board Members

Wednesday, August 16th, 2023

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.

Geri Lynn Arrindell                                                               Bruce Malone

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







Celebrating a lifetime of service!

Monday, July 31st, 2023
Los Angeles, CA 2009 – Source America Advocacy Conference – Back row from left tom right: Mike Robinson, VP of IT & EVS, Deb Snyder, VP of Operations, Don Schwaab, Board Member; Front row from left to Right: Scott Gibbs, CU Project Manager and Evelyne Villines Award Winner, Source America Representative, and Debbi McMahon

It was 1978. The movie “Grease,” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, was released, and the disco era was at it’s peak with the release of Saturday Night Fever. Most importantly, significant amendments to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 were expanded, prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in programs. This set the stage for what would create a strong disability civil rights movement, and after graduating from Greenville University with a B.A. in Psychology, a young woman with a passion for helping individuals with disabilities began her career at Challenge Unlimited.

Debbi McMahon didn’t know when she made her first major career move out of college that it would be the only one she would ever make, but it was, and we are so glad she chose Challenge Unlimited. Debbi excelled with our organization and rose to a leadership role, serving as the Executive Vice President of Programs since 2014.

She has committed her life to the mission of providing opportunities and independence for individuals with disabilities and helped countless others realize their passion for the work as well. She has been a shining light for our staff and clients and a constant reminder of why we all do what we do at Challenge Unlimited.

Debbi and Challenge Unlimited Board Chair Tom Morrissey and Board Member Jim Kasten

On June 21st, we celebrated Debbi with a luncheon at our Administration building. Debbi’s husband, daughter and grandchildren, staff and Board Members were in attendance.

Co-workers told stories about Debbi’s work and how far Challenge Unlimited has come under her

leadership. Thank you Debbi for your service and hope you enjoy your well deserved time with you family. We hope you will come back to visit soon!

Debbi McMahon & Family hold up a sign Congratulating Debbi on her retirement. made by Debbi’s Grandchildren

Reflection: Disability PRIDE thoughts from the CEO

Wednesday, July 19th, 2023

George H.W. Bush: A Champion for People with Disabilities

Image of our President & CEO, Charlotte Hammond

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.

Image of a man and woman in front of the Disability Pride Flag, they are sitting at a desk and the woman in a wheelchair

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.

What is Disability Pride Month and What does the Flag Symbolize?

Monday, July 17th, 2023

Celebrating Disability Pride Month: Embracing Diversity and Empowerment

The image depicts an individual in a wheelchair with 3 others around him. He is giving a “high five” to the person to the left.

The History of Disability Pride Month

The origins of Disability Pride Month can be traced back to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. This landmark legislation was a turning point in the fight for civil rights for individuals with disabilities in the United States. The ADA ensured equal opportunities in employment, public services, transportation, and other aspects of daily life, breaking down barriers that had previously excluded people with disabilities. Observed annually in July, it is a powerful celebration that honors and empowers people with disabilities. It is a time to reflect on the historical struggle for disability rights, recognize the achievements of disability activists, and promote a world that values inclusivity and accessibility. In this blog post, we will explore the history, significance, and the symbol of unity – the Disability Pride Flag.

The first Disability Pride march was held in Boston in 1990, just a few months after the ADA was passed. The march was organized by Judith Heumann, a disability rights activist who is known as the “Mother of the ADA.” The march was a way to celebrate the passage of the ADA and to raise awareness of the ongoing fight for disability rights.

Meaning of the Celebration

Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of the disability community and to promote the message of inclusion and acceptance. It is also a time to remember the struggles that people with disabilities have faced throughout history and to continue to fight for equality.

This month serves as an opportunity to:

  1. Raise Awareness: Disability Pride Month provides a platform to educate the public about disability rights, challenges, and achievements. By increasing awareness, we can combat misconceptions and promote empathy and understanding.
  2. Celebrate Diversity: Just as every individual is unique, so are their experiences with disability. Disability Pride Month encourages people to celebrate the diversity within the disability community and recognize the vast array of talents, skills, and perspectives that individuals with disabilities bring to society.
  3. Advocate for Change: Disability Pride Month is a call to action. It reminds us that there is still work to be done to create a more accessible and inclusive world. It encourages governments, organizations, and communities to implement policies and practices that promote equality and accessibility.


The Flag & Its Symbolism

The Disability Pride Flag was created in 2019 by Ann Magill, a writer and disability rights activist. The flag features five diagonal stripes of different colors on a black background. The colors and the black background have the following meanings:

  • Red: Physical disabilities
  • Gold: Neurodiversity
  • White: Invisible and undiagnosed disabilities
  • Blue: Emotional and psychiatric disabilities
  • Green: Sensory disabilities
  • Black: Anger and mourning over the eugenics and the neglect that disabled people have to fight against.

The diagonal stripes represent cutting across barriers that separate people with disabilities from society. The black background represents the anger and mourning over eugenics and the neglect that disabled people have to fight against. The colors of the flag were chosen to be as inclusive as possible, representing a wide range of disabilities.

The Disability Pride Flag is a symbol of hope, empowerment, and pride for people with disabilities. It is a reminder that people with disabilities are not to be pitied or feared, but rather celebrated for their unique contributions to society.

Here are some additional details about the meaning of the colors on the Disability Pride Flag:

  • Red: The color red is often associated with physical disabilities, such as mobility impairments, visual impairments, and hearing impairments.
  • Gold: The color gold is often associated with neurodiversity, which refers to the range of cognitive functions and behaviors that fall outside the typical range. People with neurodiversity may have conditions such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia.
  • White: The color white is often associated with invisible and undiagnosed disabilities, such as chronic pain, fatigue, and mental health conditions.
  • Blue: The color blue is often associated with emotional and psychiatric disabilities, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
  • Green: The color green is often associated with sensory disabilities, such as deafness, blindness, and lack of smell.

How to Celebrate Disability Pride Month

There are many ways to celebrate Disability Pride Month. Here are a few ideas:

  • Attend a Disability Pride event in your community. Here’s a link to one being hosted by the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis.
  • Learn about the history of the disability rights movement.
  • Talk to someone you know who has a disability about their experiences.
  • Challenge stereotypes about people with disabilities.
  • Advocate for disability rights in your workplace or school.

Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of the disability community and to promote the message of inclusion and acceptance. It is also a time to remember the struggles that people with disabilities have faced throughout history and to continue to fight for equality.

Our Marketing Manager was recently invited to The Big Z for an interview, she was joined by CU Vice President of Programs, John Becker. They discussed #DisabilityPrideMonth, what it means at Challenge Unlimited, how we can support individuals with disabilities and raise awareness of the celebration in our community.  Listen Below.

#DisabilityPrideMonth #DisabilityRights #PRIDE #disability #advocacy #awareness #WBGZ #AdvantageNews


Independence Day: Honoring Our Military and Individuals with Disabilities

Tuesday, July 4th, 2023

Independence Day is a time to celebrate the birth of the United States of America and the freedoms that we enjoy as citizens. July is also Disability PRIDE Month. This is an opportunity to honor those who have served in the military and those who live with disabilities.

The military has a long and proud history of serving our country, and many individuals with disabilities have served in the armed forces. In fact, according to the Department of Defense, over 700,000 service members have a disability. These individuals have made significant contributions to our country, and they deserve our respect and gratitude.

On Independence Day, we can honor our military and individuals with disabilities by:

  • Attending a military parade or ceremony.
  • Visiting a veterans’ memorial or museum.
  • Volunteering with a military or disability-related organization.
  • Donating to a military or disability-related charity.
  • Simply taking the time to thank a veteran or someone with a disability for their service.

By taking these actions, we can show our appreciation for those who have helped to make our country free.

In addition to honoring our military and individuals with disabilities, Independence Day is also a time to reflect on the progress that has been made in terms of disability rights. In the past, people with disabilities faced many challenges, but today they have more opportunities than ever before. They can attend school, work, and participate in all aspects of society.

We still have a long way to go in terms of ensuring that people with disabilities have full equality, but we have made great strides. On Independence Day, let us celebrate the progress that has been made and recommit ourselves to working for a more inclusive society.

Here are some specific ways to incorporate military and individuals with disabilities into your Independence Day celebrations:

  • Attend a military-themed event, such as a parade, concert, or picnic.
  • Visit a veterans’ home or museum.
  • Volunteer with a military or disability-related organization.
  • Donate to a military or disability-related charity.
  • Learn about the history of the military and disability rights.
  • Share your appreciation for the military and individuals with disabilities on social media.

By incorporating military and individuals with disabilities into your Independence Day celebrations, you can help to ensure that everyone feels included and celebrated.

Learn more about #DisabilityPRIDE Month, the new flag design pictured above and everything it represents at

AbilityOne Success Story – A little history – Scott Gibbs receives Evelyne Villines Award

Thursday, June 22nd, 2023

Some things have changed at Challenge Unlimited over the years but our mission remains the same “to provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to live, work, and participate in the community.”

Evelyne Jobe Villines was a charismatic speaker with a sense of humor that lit up a room, but her story doesn’t start there. She contracted polio at the age of 3 and like many children with  disabilities she suffered from lack of understanding, opportunity and one teacher even sent her home with a note that said “I don’t have time to teach a handicapped child.” Luckily for Evelyne her father was the Mayor and her uncle – the President of the school board. They were able to ensure that she stay in school and be provided with an education. (Arends, Statesman Journal, 1980) Villines turned her turmoil into triumph and went on to be a leader and advocate in the disability community, serving on numerous boards and advisory commissions in various positions.  “My own definition of rehabilitation is to ‘restore with dignity,’ and there is dignity in work, in gainful employment, in feeling needed,” Villines once said. She is often credited with helping to set the stage for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (AbilityOne, Lesko, 2017)

Scott Gibbs’s story is also one of triumph over tragedy. Scott was in a barge accident leaving him unable to work. He had lost a lot and had been cleaning gas stations when he came to Challenge looking for a fresh start. He quickly displayed his capabilities, work ethic and ability to lead with compassion. He was promoted to crew lead, then to a supervisor role on the Scott Air Force AbilityOne Contract and eventually earned a Project Manager position on our GSA Contract.

Scott Gibbs is proof that “people with disability can and do make a difference in the workforce.” He was presented with the Evelyne Villines Award from SourceAmerica in 2009 and was invited to attend the self advocacy conference in Anaheim, CA. Scott spoke in front of leaders to advocate for opportunities for individuals with disability. Awardees were taken to Disneyland and he even got to see the ocean for the first time. He was escorted by several members of our leadership team and Deb Snyder, our Vice President of Operations even joined Scott on a tour of The Queen Mary.

Hear more about Scott and his success story in the video below.

#WeAreCU #ThrowbackThursday #AbilityOne #SourceAmerica #EmployAbilityOne

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