Community Relations

Challenge Unlimited wraps up NDEAM celebration with US Department of Labor Apprenticeship Graduation

Monday, October 31st, 2022

The Class of 2022 Graduation Ceremony can be viewed here:

Challenge Unlimited wraps up National Disability Employment Awareness Month with a celebration of opportunities.

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 50 of their janitorial and grounds keeping apprentices have graduated from their DOL-Registered Apprenticeship Program this month. Many of the graduates are individuals living with significant disabilities.  

The agency is holding a virtual ceremony on October 31, 2022 to celebrate the accomplishments of their graduates. Keynote speakers included representatives from the United States Army Contracting Department and City of Alton Mayor David Goins. Steve Harris from News Channel 4 is the official emcee for the graduation and remarks will also be given by Challenge President and CEO, Charlotte Hammond, and Executive Vice President of Operations, James Porter.

“We are proud to be the home of Challenge Unlimited and immensely proud of all of you. ,” said Mayor Goins to the graduates.  

During their apprenticeship, apprentices received over 1000 hours of hands-on professional development and training in the janitorial and grounds keeping fields. They fulfilled their apprenticeship responsibilities while working at Challenge’s commercial and federal contract sites located in Illinois, Ohio, Missouri and Wisconsin. Apprentices achieved training certifications through both the Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS) training program and the Department of Labor Apprenticeship Certification Program.  

“For more than 60 years, the pathway to meaningful work for all abilities has started at Challenge Unlimited,” said President and CEO, Charlotte Hammond. “Each of our apprentices are a living testament to our history and a shining light guiding the future for people of all abilities.” Celebrations were held on site for many of the graduates throughout the month of October as well. 

The Class of 2022 Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony can be viewed via Youtube Premiere at this link: US Department of Labor Virtual Graduation Ceremony

About Challenge Unlimited 

As a social entrepreneur, Challenge Unlimited has grown its business services from a single custodial contract to over 50 service and production contracts. We deliver quality solutions in facility management, production services and staffing services. An authorized partner of the AbilityOne Program, Challenge Unlimited manages operations across six states: Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, Mississippi and South Carolina. Today, Challenge Unlimited employs over 1,000 workers; of which approximately 600 are individuals with disabilities. Click here to learn more about our award-winning services. 

NDEAM #SundaySuccessStory

Sunday, October 16th, 2022

Shane Kelly – Challenge Unlimited 

Shane Kelly’s disability is invisible to some. He joined the Challenge Unlimited team in 2011. He was still living at home with his parents and the AbilityOne program was exactly what he needed to gain his independence. Meaningful employment provides opportunities for people living with disabilities to grow and develop life skills far beyond workforce training. It also provides a sense of community by fostering diversity, equity, inclusivity, and personal development. Here is Shane’s story.  

Shane’s first job was working as a Page in the House of Representatives, but he was not comfortable doing it. The position required him to wait in a room with many people until a Representative pushed a button, the Page would then go to the representative and complete the task requested. The unknown upcoming interaction made Shane extremely uncomfortable. Through the AbilityOne Program he was able to find a better fit. He was introverted, quiet and rarely made eye contact when he began the GSA janitorial position at the Paul Findley Federal Building in Springfield, IL. Shane’s supervisor recalls that in his interview that “he did not look up once, gave one-word answer to all questions and when asked to explain his feelings he simply replied, I don’t know.”  

At first, he never said more than a few words or interacted with co-workers. Shane mostly kept to himself, but with each passing year he began to gain confidence and engage more with his peers and the tenants in the building. This was something his case manager and his mother noticed too. He became more social and engaged more often with his family at home. “He joined in on family functions, even attending family reunions.” Which his mother said made her “incredibly happy for him.” 

Over time, this growing confidence created a desire for him to help others who had similar struggles. He specifically displayed this when new hires would join his team. Shane developed the ability to train inexperienced staff with patience, empathy, and compassion, especially when dealing with teammates who were struggling. He was sensitive to their discomfort and would assist them in learning new things, help them to navigate the building, show them where they could find the things, they needed to do their job. Shane would also introduce them to and engage them with tenants in the building.  

There was one new employee that Shane showed a sensitivity toward; he could relate to their struggle with communication and confidence. He saw this as an opportunity to help. His supervisor remembers him coming into her office and closing the door to share a story. She said, “it was like hearing a proud father explain how their child overcame a huge obstacle.” Shane went on to tell her that this once introverted employee, who was just like himself, had directly asked one of the tenants if it was “ok to vacuum their office.” A small feat for some, but for people living with disabilities who have trouble communicating and expressing themselves, this is amazing progress. This individual now has conversations with guards and tenants in the building. The same growth seen in Shane is now being seen in this individual, all because of Shane’s help and patient coaching.  

His new confidence and communication skills made him feel that it was important to advocate for persons with disabilities too. He went on to represent Challenge Unlimited and the AbilityOne program at the Grassroots Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C and participated in personal and group meetings with members of Congress. He took the Source America training courses to help with public speaking and the development of sharing his story. Shane spoke with other SA non-profit organizations about his personal growth and the importance of providing these opportunities for people with disabilities.  

Shane was promoted to lead janitor in 2019 and is one of the only people that Federal Judge Sue Myerscough will allow to clean her space. He is trustworthy and his work ethic is appreciated. She said that “Shane is an exceptionally hardworking and responsible young man. We enjoy having him in our chambers and could not imagine anyone else occupying his role.”  

When Shane came into the AbilityOne Program he was living at home with his parents, since then he moved into his own apartment and has learned how to budget his income. Shane’s takeaway from his time at Challenge “Over the course of my time of being a part of Challenge Unlimited, I have been able to break out of my shell. I used to be a shy and withdrawn person, and now I have the confidence to strike up a conversation with someone. I am able do things on my own, without the assistance of others.”    

The GSA Supervisory Property Manager said, “Shane is a true success story that should be shared and honored for his dedication and hard work.” He is a shining example of an employee with a disability who has exhibited outstanding achievement, exceptional character, and significant personal growth.  

#NDEAM2022 #SundaySuccessStory #EmploymentStories #ShanesStory

Challenge Unlimited honors Bost as AbilityOne Congressional Champion  

Friday, October 14th, 2022

Award ceremony and town hall hosted at Scott Air Force Base 

Alton, IL — October 13, 2022 – Challenge Unlimited recognized Congressman Mike Bost this week as an AbilityOne Congressional Champion for his efforts to promote employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, especially veterans living with disabilities. 

Challenge Unlimited offers opportunities for people living with special needs and supports them by providing employment options through the AbilityOne program. The AbilityOne Program Congressional Champion Award honors legislators who have worked to support constituents with disabilities. Congressman Bost was presented with the award Wednesday at Scott Air Force Base. He is the current Ranking Member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs and the 148th Member of Congress to receive the award. 

It’s gratifying to see the local support from our Congressional Leader to promote the hiring and retention of individuals with disabilities.” said Challenge Unlimited President and CEO, Charlotte Hammond. “Securing and maintaining employment helps many individuals with disabilities to achieve independence and financial security in their communities through the AbilityOne Program. 

Challenge Unlimited has provided Residential Options, supported living, job coaching, skills and vocational training, employment services and much for over 60 years. The organization operates in 6 states currently and has facility maintenance contracts for over 30 years for custodial, grounds, dining, mailroom and warehouse services. Bost also met with grounds, dining, and custodial staff from Scott Air Force Base, many of them veterans. The discussion included veteran employment, disability services, a candid conversation about balancing life between Southern Illinois and Washington, the importance of family, and the story behind the paracord bracelet he is always wearing.  

For over 50 years, Challenge Unlimited has not only provided Southern Illinoisans with disabilities opportunities for continued employment” said Bost, “but has also empowered them to reach their fullest potential. I am honored to receive the Ability One Program Champion Award and will continue working to ensure that individuals with disabilities can live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. 

Challenge Unlimited employs over 1,000 people across the country including those who are sight impaired, hard of hearing and other people living with significant disabilities, many of them veterans. As a social enterprise they hope to be able to offer opportunities in IT and Customer Service through expanded partnerships with businesses and organizations, to grow a network of workforce options for the people they serve, and to create more equitable and inclusive employment options for those living with disabilities across the country. 

The award ceremony and town hall were an extension of activities that Challenge Unlimited is participating in for October’s NDEAM (National Disability Employment Awareness Month) celebration to educate, honor the contributions of, and advocate for employment options and choices for people living with all levels of disabilities here in Southern Illinois and beyond. 

About Challenge Unlimited 

For more than 50 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 and federal and state government agencies. 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. 

Local artist featured in National Online Art Auction

Thursday, October 13th, 2022

Art, Awareness, and Ability – #ThursdayswithTunstell  

“Artists can use a number of techniques to create depth in their compositions, some of which are simple and others that are more advanced.” (MasterClass)

Much like any other skill, depth perception is a varied ability that comes naturally to some but requires training and practice for others. People create art to express themselves, to feel seen, and to help others relate to them. Art lets us know we are not alone and that like the varied brushstrokes on a canvas, we are all different and beautiful. 

Tunstell Griffin is an artist that has been working on his skills for over a decade. Inspired by traditional landscapes of Bob Ross, he is motivated by a desire to find calm and peace and has learned that creating art to deal with his anger and anxiety, is a healthy way to cope. His story starts out with grief, the loss of his parents and younger sister at an early age, and unfortunately like many young black men lacking a support system, follows with an incarceration.  

He has been a client of the Challenge Unlimited Residential Options program for over 13 years and said in his interview that “He is so grateful for Challenge.” He works at Denny’s and says he spends almost all his free time painting.

When Palmetto Goodwill reached out seeking artist contributions from people living with disabilities for their Online Gallery Auction, we were excited to get the chance to highlight his artwork on a national stage and to celebrate his success. He said his art began as elementary and he has worked hard to learn the craft. He has taken classes and continues to practice perfecting his techniques.  

The Palmetto Art Gallery Auction is part of several events that Challenge Unlimited is participating in to celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and all proceeds go directly to the artists.

Tunstell has 3 entries shown below: “Pathway to Recovery”, “Midnight Moon”, and “Chapel of Solace”. He says he has never titled his paintings before, but as an artist refines their skills, it is part of the natural progression to step out of your comfort zone. He did just that with these entries. 

Many of our staff have been lucky enough to purchase one of his early works and as an extension of the auction we will be promoting his art and offering many of Tunstell’s paintings for sale throughout the month.  

The album of paintings available for purchase is posted on our Facebook Page and linked here. You can email or complete the Contact Us form on our website to inquire about purchasing.  

A little bit of Isaac Hayes and a little bit Bob Ross, the artist really is as cool as he looks.

Special thanks to Picture This & More in Alton, Il for their partnership and generous donation of gallery framing for Tunstell’s entries.  Click Here to Place Your Bid!

NDEAM #SundaySuccessStory

Sunday, October 9th, 2022

Sandy Norman – Challenge Unlimited 

In honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) we will share success stories of how steady and dependable employment can improve the quality of life for those living with disabilities. Sandy is a perfect example of how meaningful employment can change someone’s life, create a sense of community, and help those living with disabilities to overcome setbacks. She is an individual who came to the program with anxiety, depression, and a learning disability, one that could have prevented her from ever working or becoming independent. Through the AbilityOne Program she has been able to not only overcome those struggles but has become an example to others and is thriving.  

Her learning disability started early in childhood. At birth, the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her neck, and she was not expected to survive. While she did survive, due to her disabilities she lacked confidence and continued to struggle with learning new things, severe anxiety, and chronic depression. Sandy worked at a grocery store early in her career. During that time, she noticed her disabilities were becoming so unmanageable that she became unable to work.  

Sandy wanted to re-enter the workforce and joined the Great Lakes Grounds team in 2014. Her Project Manager said, “I recall Sandy’s interview as she was my first hire. She was so nervous that she asked her mother to sit in with her during the interview.” When she started the position, she had a tough time looking anyone in the eye, was intimidated at the thought of using the equipment, and even turned flush when she was directly spoken to. Overall, Sandy was very timid, and her supervisors feared that she might not be able to make it in a physically demanding and male dominated field. They quickly learned that was not the case at all. Within a month, Sandy was operating the necessary equipment and showed that she was a hard worker. Her co-workers noticed this too and she became a valuable member of the team.  

She started to show her leadership skills and entered the Client to Lead Program. She gained the confidence to use a riding mower and was asked to be a certified driver for the contract to move crews to and from work assignments. Again, she was hesitant as she was not experienced in pulling and backing trailers, but Sandy continued to show what an asset she had become to everyone that she works with. By 2015, she was driving a trailer full of mulch, hauling equipment as needed and was promoted to supervisor at Great Lakes. 

In her role as supervisor Sandy has obtained multiple certifications including becoming OSHA certified, as well as becoming an alternate Site Safety and Health Officer for the Great Lakes Contract. She is a licensed spray operator and can apply chemicals at the base too. She is also now certified in First Aid and CPR. She has become an advocate for others and attended the SourceAmerica Grassroots Conference to share her story and the importance of the AbilityOne Program for people like her.  

Sandy was recently promoted to Quality Control Manager at Challenge Unlimited for the Great Lakes Grounds contract and continues to show that she can do anything she sets her mind too. Sandy is a success story of an AbilityOne client who has become a leader, an asset to Challenge Unlimited, to her teammates, and to the contract at Great Lakes. She now has no trouble making eye contact, has mastered the tasks that once seemed unthinkable. Sandy is an exemplary employee and a beacon of hope for people living with disabilities who might lack the confidence to seek employment, try something different, get out of their comfort zone, and have faith in their own abilities.  

She said through the AbilityOne Program she has gained independence, confidence, and the ability to make better decisions while leading her crew. All skills that have helped her personally and professionally to be more outgoing. Her success through the AbilityOne Program is paramount to her dedication, drive, work ethic, and determination.  We are so proud of you Sandy and happy to have you on our team.

#NDEAM2022 #SundaySuccessStory #EmploymentStories #SandysStory

Challenge Unlimited Members and Employees will Participate in National Disability Employment Awareness Month 

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and all members  and employees of Challenge Unlimited, Project CU, Residential Options, and AOS Staffing are encouraged to participate. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. 

Held annually, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, but it’s true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. Employers of all sizes and in all industries are participating in NDEAM. 

All month we will be sharing success stories, best practices, and ways big and small that we can all support and advocate for an inclusive workforce, so be sure to visit us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for those stories and updates. Don’t forget to “share, react, and comment” to help us spread the word! 

For specific ideas about how Challenge Unlimited partners, members and employees can help support National Disability Employment Awareness Month, visit Suggestions range from simple, such as putting up a poster, to comprehensive, such as implementing a disability education program. Regardless, all play an important part in fostering a more equitable and inclusive workforce, one where all people are recognized for their abilities — every day of every month. 


Nationwide campaign will take place in October 

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

Challenge Unlimited Joins Broad Effort to Observe National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Alton, IL — September 22, 2022 — Challenge Unlimited today announced its participation in National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual awareness campaign that takes place each October. The purpose of National Disability Employment Awareness Month is to educate about disability employment issues and celebrate the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. This year’s theme is “Disability: Part of the Equity Equation.” 

The history of National Disability Employment Awareness Month traces back to 1945 when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

“Our national recovery from the pandemic cannot be completed without the inclusion of all Americans, in particular people with disabilities,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh. “Their contributions have historically been vital to our nation’s success and are more important today than ever. We must build an economy that fully includes the talent and drive of those with disabilities.” 

Reflecting this year’s theme, throughout the month, Challenge Unlimited will be sharing success stories of those with disabilities and their contributions to the workforce to educate the community on disability employment issues and its commitment to a diverse, equitable and inclusive work culture.  

“Challenge Unlimited is proud to be a part of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month,” said Charlotte Hammond. “We want to spread the important message that we value all perspectives, including those of individuals with disabilities.” 

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 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. 

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