Community Relations

Custodians Awarded Coins for their Outstanding Service at Scott Air Force Base

Friday, August 26th, 2022

In June, General Michael A. Minihan, Air Mobility Command, presented coins to two Challenge Unlimited employees. John and Vanessa were recognized for the outstanding work they perform as members of the custodial team at Scott Air Force Base.

Great job John & Vanessa. Keep up the good work!


St. Louis Business Journal Honors CEO Charlotte Hammond

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

Charlotte Hammond, President and CEO of Challenge Unlimited, has been named one of the most influential businesswomen by the St. Louis Business Journal.

Hammond was among 25 women from a wide array of industries in the St. Louis metro area.

“Charlotte’s exceptional insight, high-level managerial skills and passion for serving people with disabilities has led Challenge Unlimited through exceptional growth,” said Thomas Morrissey, board chairperson. “We are now operating in six states and the number of clients we serve and businesses we partner with has grown exponentially. Charlotte is a tremendous asset to our organization and a tireless advocate for those with disabilities.”

Hammond joined Challenge Unlimited in 2006 with more 20 years of extensive finance, accounting and operations management experience. Under her leadership, the organization has been granted a significant number of government contracts which deliver thousands of jobs to Challenge Unlimited clients and has been recognized with multiple national awards. The success in securing opportunities for people with disabilities is also evident in the multiple private businesses that partner with Challenge Unlimited to secure a diverse, dependable, and job-ready workforce.

For more than 60 years, Challenge Unlimited has provided independence for people with all disabilities through meaningful employment. Headquartered in Alton, Illinois Challenge Unlimited, Inc., and its affiliate companies — Residential Options, Project CU, and the St. Louis based associate AOS Staffing — is a multi-tiered organization.

Hammond’s vision for Challenge Unlimited is to become a national leader in providing employment services to people with disabilities that empower them to reach their full potential.

Challenge is committed to serving individuals with disabilities, while earning a reputation as a trusted business partner to private companies and federal and state government agencies. The broad scope of services offered to clients includes skills training, apprenticeship certification through the US Department of Labor, job coaching, residential housing, and more. Contracted services offered to employers includes custodial, call center, groundskeeping, warehousing, assembly, temporary staffing, mailroom management and food service.

For more information visit www.cuinc.org or call 1-800-465-4902.


5 Costly Floor Care Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Tuesday, June 1st, 2021

written by Chris Kuhn

Floor care is complicated, and when you add factors like snow, ice, and salt to the equation, finding the right floor care solution can seem nearly impossible. Businesses commonly make the same floor care mistakes over and over, and these mistakes can cost your business a lot of time, money, and labor to fix. Below we highlight some of the most common commercial floor mistakes and how they can be avoided.  

Mistake # 1 Eliminating the normal floor care maintenance because of budget constraints. 
Floors get an abundance of foot traffic (in all kinds of weather) and inadvertent damage from objects being dropped on and dragged or pushed across them. Properly maintaining the floor of your commercial building requires more care and attention than a quick mopping with soapy water or vacuuming whenever the floor looks dirty. A floor that is properly maintained and clean fosters a professional image for your place of business. That image goes a long way in attracting new clients and maintaining old ones.  Additionally, properly cleaning your flooring also reduces the risk of accidents. Slips, trips and fall injuries make up almost 20% of all job-related injuries. Unsuitable maintenance can slash the life of your floors by as much as half.  We understand the drive to cut costs can be strong, but even if your floors do not look dirty, they are. The main two issues with failing to regularly clean carpets and finish hard surfaces regularly are these. First, flooring manufacturers has set a regular cleaning schedule you must meet to have the full protection of your warranty. This is often yearly or twice yearly. Second, even if the floor does not look too bad, the dirt, grit and grime allowed to accumulate is ground into the floors surface and will remain even with vacuuming and mopping. Causing wear and dulling that is bad for the floor’s overall appearance and usable lifespan. Lastly, not regularly cleaning your floors means that small problems can grow over time, and present bigger and more costly cleaning challenges later. 

 

Mistake #2 Service providers that lacks transparency in their pricing. 
Choosing a service provider that lacks clear pricing will put you behind the eight ball every time. Not only should you know precisely what you are buying and what it will cost, you deserve the opportunity to ask questions, check references, to be sure you are receiving the best value for your facility. A service provider that is looking for a long-term partnership is happy to provide you with clear pricing and references to compare your options. A true partner will take the time to understand your budget and pricing constraints and provide value added solutions to work through these issues. It is also wise to ask the service provider if they have achieved professional certifications like the ISSA’s CIMS as they have been scrutinized and assessed as to whether or not they work to industry best standards.  

Mistake #3 Enlisting a cleaning company that uses the wrong equipment or poorly maintained equipment. 
Floor care equipment takes a beating and must be frequently checked, serviced, and even replaced. If your service provider is trying to cut corners with equipment service or replacement, it may be saving THEM money, but it can cost YOU. Poorly maintained or dated equipment is abusive to both soft and hard surface floors and will often fail to provide the results your facility deserves.  

Mistake # 4 Utilizing a company with poorly trained technicians. 
There are right ways and wrong ways to clean your floors.  A knowledgeable service provider will practice former and avoid the latter. Do you have vinyl flooring? Concrete? Wood? Brick? Something else? Service provider employees will know exactly how specific floor types should be cleaned, leaving your floor as clean and attractive as possible. Having your floors cleaned by people who are unfamiliar with the proper cleaning techniques for your individual flooring will likely lead to damaged floors when the cleaners are finished. The newest technology in floor care equipment and chemistry requires a higher level of technician training. In fact, some companies continue to use older, dated, and ineffective methods for the simple fact that it is easy to train new workers on. That is good for them, but, NOT good for you. Commercial floor care maintenance has become far more science-based than in the past. We understand a great deal more about the chemistry that goes with how to treat different stains, remove, apply finish, and work closely with the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations about their individual products. If your service provider is failing to adequately train their people on everything from how to use equipment most efficiently, to chemical safety, to spot testing new products or compounds, you are not getting the service or level of clean you deserve. 

Mistake #5 Using the predictive approach instead of a reactive approach to floor maintenance.  

  • Predictive – This is the “use technology to forecast when a problem will occur and provide maintenance accordingly” approach. 
  • Reactive – This is the “fix it when it breaks” approach. 

 The most common type of maintenance employed by facility managers is the “reactive” approach. According to a post by Akita Box on preventative maintenance planning, 85% of total maintenance is spent on reactive maintenance. With budget restraints of driving the decision making, the latter approach may be costing facility managers more money in the long run. Managers typically make two key commercial floor care maintenance mistakes:  

  1. Not having it cleaned or finished the right way (based on floor type and traffic patterns) 
  2. Waiting until the floor is visibly dirty or damaged to have it deep cleaned or stripped and finished. 

 

Both may be done for cost-saving purposes—and both will probably cost you more money in the long run. Properly caring for flooring can seem like an excess expense to many managers. That is, until they discoverthe cost of restoring or replacing the commercial flooring. The best solution:A floor preventative maintenance program. By having your floors regularly cleaned and maintained, you can cut a lot of high-cost repair or restoration work—and even potentially push back a planned carpet replacement. A consistent maintenance program can extend the life of flooring by many years depending on the facility and traffic pattern and that can add up to tens of thousands of dollars in savings a year. 


Residential Options Participates in “The Kindness Rocks” Project

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Residential Options, an affiliate of Challenge Unlimited, provides services to individuals with disabilities. Residential Options assists approximately 135 individuals live in the community at seventeen homes in Madison County and seven homes in St Clair County and several individuals residing in their own home. With current restrictions in Illinois, many of our residents have not been able to go to work or have activities in the community like normal. We continue to try to be creative as an organization in providing fun, educational, and new ways for our residents to interact with each other and in the community. We have chosen to participate in The Kindness Project in the upcoming year. Kindness Rocks is a viral trend where people paint rocks or stones with inspirational messages, sayings, images, and colors. Then they leave them in public places for people to find. The intention is to spread kindness and love to people around the world. We hope that people will find our rocks and then post pictures and/or stories about finding the rock using the #ROkindness hashtag so that we can share with our residents.

Through a generous donation made by Element Turf and Outdoor Solutions, we were able to provide our residents with rocks to decorate and leave in the community while on walks in the park or on their “socially distanced” trips into other community locations. The back of the rock will direct people to use the #ROkindness hashtag when posting about the found rocks to help share kindness and joy on our Facebook page. We will also share the finds with our residents who will delight in their rocks being found. We can’t wait for our rocks to be found!


Challenge Unlimited Celebrates Its Largest Graduating Class in History

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

The Class of 2020 Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony can be viewed here:

For over 60 years, Challenge Unlimited, a national nonprofit headquartered in Alton, IL, has secured employment opportunities for the individuals with disabilities, the disadvantaged and veterans so they may achieve their highest level of independence. The agency is delighted to announce that nearly 100 of their janitorial apprentices have graduated from their DOL-Registered Apprenticeship Program this month. Approximately 70% of the graduates are individuals living with significant disabilities.  

The agency held a virtual ceremony on October 22, 2020 to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates. Keynote speakers included regional representatives from the U.S. Department of Labor, Governor J.B. Pritzker and City of Alton Mayor Brandt Walker. Remarks were also given by Challenge President and CEO, Charlotte Hammond, and Executive Vice President of Operations, Tony Crawley.  

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Challenge Unlimited Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

Friday, October 2nd, 2020

Did you know that 2020 marks not only the 75th observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), but also the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? In October 2020, the DOL Office of Disability Employment Policy commemorated this milestone with a range of events and activities centered on the theme “Increasing Access and Opportunity.”

As a mission-driven organization, Challenge Unlimited (CU) believes that individuals with disabilities are an invaluable part of the workforce and community. Many businesses also recognize the benefits of employing individuals with disabilities and have tapped into the hardworking, dedicated workforce offered by CU.

CU is one of the first and only nonprofit agencies in the nation which matches the temporary staffing needs of businesses with a talented workforce comprised of individuals with all disabilities, the disadvantaged and veterans. The organization also provides on-site job coaches, assistance with on-boarding and other hiring-related functions. NDEAM, observed annually in October, is dedicated to increasing awareness of this talent pool.

“We cultivate a qualified workforce of highly capable individuals who are eager and ready to work,” says Charlotte Hammond, CEO and President of Challenge Unlimited. “Our overarching goal is to match pre-screened individuals with the staffing needs of area businesses.”

CU has helped fill positions in multiple industries, including IT, food service, custodial, groundskeeping, and much more. Hammond continues, “We are very proud that we have placed employees at highly respected businesses including Club Fitness, Loewe’s, Walgreen’s and World Wide Technology among others.”

According to Brian Nelson, human resource generalist at Walgreen’s warehouse facility, employees provide by CU are highly desirable. “We have secured employees through Challenge Unlimited for years, and these individuals have great attendance and are quick to learn any task assigned to them.”

Businesses who are interested in tapping into CU’s talented workforce are encouraged to contact Whitney Harvey for more information.


Challenge Unlimited Celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

Thursday, October 1st, 2020

Businesses throughout the metro area tapping into a hardworking, dedicated workforce offered by Challenge Unlimited (CU), a national nonprofit headquartered in Alton, IL. CU is the first and only nonprofit agency in the metro area which matches the temporary staffing needs of businesses with a talented workforce comprised of individuals with all disabilities, the disadvantaged and veterans. The organization also provides on-site job coaches, assistance with on-boarding and other hiring-related functions.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), observed annually in October, is dedicated to increasing awareness of this talent pool.

“We cultivate a qualified workforce of highly capable individuals who are eager and ready to work,” says Charlotte Hammond, CEO and President of Challenge Unlimited. “Our overarching goal is to match pre-screened individuals with the staffing needs of area businesses.”

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Challenge Unlimited Now Offering Disinfection Cleaning Services

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Challenge Unlimited is pleased to announce that the organization is now offering disinfection cleaning services! As organizations begin to reopen their facilities to the public, our trained custodial teams are prepared to complete large-scale disinfection of facilities with an enhanced focus on high touch and common areas where contaminants could be easily spread.

The organization follows CDC approved disinfecting processes by utilizing EPA registered and approved chemicals. An experienced provider of multiple services to businesses, Challenge Unlimited has the capabilities to service large or small projects with solutions specifically designed to meet customer needs.

“We use a number of disinfecting methods including high volume electrostatic sprayers, misters and wipes,” says Chris Kuhn, Director of Operations at Challenge Unlimited. “Our fees are very competitive, and we are a turn-key provider, which saves businesses time and money.”

When businesses hire Challenge Unlimited for custodial services such as disinfecting, they are empowering individuals with disabilities to work and contribute to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. “Our disinfection technicians are pre-screened, qualified and eager to go to work,” Kuhn explains.

For anyone interested in scheduling a cleaning or learning more please call 618.465.0044, ext 1041, visit www.CUInc.org or email disinfection@cuinc.org. This new line of services complements the mission of Challenge Unlimited, which is to secure employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For more than 60 years the nonprofit has secured government contracts and partnered with private businesses to provide an eager, ready-to work pool of employees. Services currently offered include custodial, landscaping and food service among others.


Challenge Unlimited Celebrates First Apprenticeship Graduate

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

For over 60 years, Challenge Unlimited, a national nonprofit headquartered in Alton, IL, has secured employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, the disadvantaged and veterans so they may achieve their highest level of independence. In 2018, the Challenge Unlimited registered a janitorial apprenticeship program for all abilities with the U.S. Department of Labor, through the USDOL Office of Apprenticeship in St. Louis, Missouri. The agency is delighted to announce that Mr. Bryan Terrell, an apprentice from Challenge’s inaugural apprenticeship class, is the first apprentice to successfully graduate from the program!

As an apprentice in Challenge Unlimited’s DOL-registered Janitorial Apprenticeship Program, Mr. Terrell received over 1000 hours of hands-on professional development and training in the janitorial field. He fulfilled his apprenticeship responsibilities while working at the Missouri 22nd Judicial Courts in downtown St. Louis, where Challenge Unlimited currently holds a janitorial contract that employs over 30 individuals. During the apprenticeship, Mr. Terrell achieved training certifications through both the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) training program and the Department of Labor Apprenticeship Certification Program.

Tony Crawley, Executive Vice President of Operations, has expressed a positive outlook in offering individuals the additional skills, training and opportunities that will advance their careers and increase participation in their communities.

“This groundbreaking apprenticeship program will impact hundreds of individuals in our region. We are so proud of our team for this amazing accomplishment,” said Crawley. “This apprenticeship program provides education and training opportunities to create a more defined career path for all abilities. With support from our local partners, we are working together to build a well-trained workforce that meets the needs of the janitorial industry.”

Challenge Unlimited’s future Apprenticeship Program plans include rolling out the program to its other contract sites. The agency currently operates multiple large-scale janitorial contracts across 5 states.

“People living with disabilities, both seen and unseen, are able and eager to join the workforce in a multitude of capacities,” said Challenge Unlimited President and CEO, Charlotte Hammond “It is a privilege to continue our mission to forge a pathway to meaningful work for all abilities.”


Challenge Accepted

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
Illinois-based Challenge Unlimited Inc. has literally “been up to the challenge” since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This article was originally written by Jason Golden and published by SourceAmerica.

The year 2020 has proven to be a challenging one for all of us – a “competition” between life the way we knew it and what’s now considered the new normal. Right now, we are all being challenged to do whatever we can to help “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases with social distancing, while keeping essential businesses operating.

Working both sides of this unique challenge has become a necessity for not only the front-line workers, but those who support them and community leaders as well. Illinois-based Challenge Unlimited Inc. has literally “been up to the challenge” since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a SourceAmerica member nonprofit agency, Challenge Unlimited employs professionals with disabilities through three main conduits – the U.S. AbilityOne® Program via General Services Administration (GSA) and U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) contracts, state use contracts and the commercial sector. Their customers span a wide range that includes the military, federal and state governments, and the judicial circuit court system. Challenge Unlimited provides janitorial, grounds maintenance, food service, commissary, and total facility management services. Since the organization has multiple lines of business that are considered essential, Challenge Unlimited employees have continued to deliver for their customers daily and have performed their duties while providing a reassuring face to building tenants during these trying times.

Through the AbilityOne Program – one of the nation’s largest sources of employment for people with significant disabilities – Challenge Unlimited manages service contracts that employ approximately 340 individuals performing custodial services at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. They also provide grounds maintenance services at Great Lakes Naval Base and Scott Air Force Base, both in Illinois. Each of these contracts are still running during the pandemic.

Brian Roarke is a custodian at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. He understands that the importance of his work has taken on a greater meaning. “Working right now is not much different other than wiping down doorknobs and common touch points,” he said. Roarke is taking extra precautions at his work site via the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintaining of social distancing. “The work is important to stop the spread of the virus and keep other people safe.”

Challenge Unlimited Executive Vice President of Operations Tony Crawley knows that his talented workforce is part of the solution to keeping essential operations running. “I’m grateful to our front-line workers for addressing multiple customer COVID-19 cleanups during this time and continuing to provide essential services daily to our customers.”

Challenge Unlimited employs more than 60 people with disabilities for AbilityOne GSA contracts throughout Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio. During the pandemic, the organization has been working with many of their customers to increase the frequencies of “touch-point cleaning” to improve safety at these locations. In order to meet increasing demands related to COVID-19, they have taken enhanced actions including increased training for staff and procuring electrostatic sprayers to address the current and anticipated pandemic needs of the future. According to Crawley, the electrostatic sprayers can sanitize and kill 99.9% of bacteria on hard, nonporous surfaces and hard-to-reach places, and has the ability to cover up to 18,000 square feet per hour.

Challenge Unlimited’s largest commercial contract provides cleaning and disinfection services in downtown St. Louis to the Missouri 22nd Judicial Circuit. Vernon Betts is the city’s Deputy Sheriff. He acknowledged the professional response and essential cleaning and disinfection services that Challenge Unlimited provided in response to a positive COVID-19 test in his department. “I want to thank the cleaning staff for their professional response and acknowledge how essential our custodial workers are during this crisis,” said Betts.

The professionals at Challenge Unlimited take their role – and name – seriously. They understand that the COVID-19 response is the ultimate challenge in need of a special response. Keeping multiple sectors of the nation’s essential services open for business is a challenge that they readily accept.

For more information about SourceAmerica and its network of nonprofit agencies, email customerservice@sourceamerica.org.


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