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. 

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.

Empowering Independence & Inclusion through AbilityOne partnerships

Monday, August 28th, 2023

In a world that thrives on diversity and inclusivity, creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities is not just a moral imperative, but also a strategic advantage for any society. The AbilityOne Program stands as a shining example of how public-private partnerships can drive empowerment, independence, and inclusion for people with disabilities while delivering high-quality products and services to the federal government.

Understanding the AbilityOne Program:
The AbilityOne Program, administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission, is a federal initiative that creates job opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities through contracts with nonprofit organizations. These organizations employ individuals with disabilities to produce goods and services for the federal government, fostering an environment of self-sufficiency and personal growth.

Key Objectives and Benefits

Employment Opportunities: The program provides meaningful employment to people with disabilities, enabling them to contribute to society while achieving financial independence.

Inclusion and Diversity: AbilityOne promotes an inclusive workplace, demonstrating that diversity is not a limitation but a strength that can drive innovation and creativity.

High-Quality Products and Services: The goods and services delivered through the AbilityOne Program meet stringent federal standards, underscoring the capabilities of a diverse workforce.

Positive Economic Impact: By generating jobs and contributing to the economy, the program reduces the reliance on government assistance programs.

Community Building: The program nurtures a sense of community among participants, fostering personal relationships and support networks that extend beyond the workplace.

The Numbers

Approximately 450 non profit agencies across the country participate as partners to the AbilityOne Program employing over 40,000 individuals  with significant disabilities. In Illinois alone there are 701,035 individuals who identify as having a significant disability. The state has 15 providers that employ over 500 individuals including 27 Veterans through the program.

While this is a start we still have a long way to go towards providing equitable opportunities for these individuals. According to a recent study published by SourceAmerica the  Unemployment rate in the state is still 54.4% for disabled workers, compared to a much lower overall unemployment rate of 4%. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Challenge Unlimited (CU) employs approximately 342 individuals across our AbilityOne Contract Sites. CU AbilityOne employee, Matt Driver,  began working at the Paul Findlay Federal Courthouse through the AbilityOne Program and recently celebrated his 10 year work anniversary. He has also been acknowledged for perfect attendance and has since moved into his own apartment.  Check out what Matt had to say about his experiences in the caption below!

Matthew is pictured in a blue Challenge Unlimited t-shirt holding the gift card that he was presented with for perfect attendance this year.

“Challenges” and Future Directions

While the AbilityOne Program has achieved commendable success, there are challenges to address:

Awareness and Advocacy: Raising awareness about the program is crucial to attracting more customers and expanding the scope of employment opportunities.

Skill Development: Investing in ongoing training and skill development ensures that participants can excel in their roles and adapt to changing demands.

Technology Integration: Embracing technological advancements can open up new avenues for individuals with disabilities to contribute meaningfully.

In conclusion, the AbilityOne Program stands as a beacon of hope and progress in the realm of disability employment and inclusion. By empowering individuals with disabilities to unleash their potential, the program doesn’t just create jobs—it creates a sense of purpose, belonging, and a brighter future for everyone involved.  As employers look to fill the gap in today’s labor force they need to consider people with disabilities, who are a valuable largely untapped labor pool. Not only does employing people with disabilities fill an urgent need for businesses, but it can also have a holistic positive economic impact that can benefit the larger community.

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.

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

AbilityOne Spotlight – #MissionMonday – Jerid Dunavan

Monday, June 5th, 2023

Professional Grounds Management Society® (PGMS®) Announces 239th Certified Grounds Technician

Forest Hill, MD (May 2023) – The Professional Grounds Management Society® (PGMS®) has announced that Jerid Dunavan with Challenge Unlimited Inc. has become the 239th grounds management professional to successfully complete its Certified Grounds Technician (CGT) program. Those achieving the CGT professional designation must have first accomplished a required level of education and on-the-job experience and then successfully complete an examination process administered by PGMS. CGTs are required to maintain their professional designation by accumulating 35 hours of continuing education every five years.

For more information on becoming a Certified Grounds Technician (CGT) contact us or visit:

About the Professional Grounds Management Society® – Serving the profession for over 100 years, PGMS® is an individual membership society of grounds professionals dedicated to advancing the grounds management profession through education and professional development. Further information on PGMS® is available online at

Fun Fact about Jerid: His faithful companion Daisy (pictured below) is as they say “man’s best friend” and her ears are longer than her legs. Isn’t she adorable? Thanks for sharing the photo Jerid and we congratulate you on your certification! We are proud to have you on the AbilityOne Team at Scott Air Force Base.

Leadership & Development that fosters a culture of learning.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2023
Challenge Unlimited Delivers a High Quality and Consistent Learning Experience

At Challenge Unlimited we believe in creating an environment that fosters learning and growth for every member of our team.

“Seeing our organization make the shift from a check-the-box compliance-based training mindset, to an organization that values learning at its core! Not only can we launch consistent training company-wide to ensure that all employees, regardless of location, receive the same quality of training – we can also address the learning needs of specific teams and individuals to support employee growth and development.”

Michelle Matsche, Challenge Unlimited’s Director of Training & Development was recently interviewed by the team at BizLibrary highlighting the success of our partnership.  Below is an excerpt from that interview.

“Consistency. Consistency. Consistency.

Let’s say you’re on a road trip across the United States. You stop at McDonald’s in every state and order the same meal each time. No matter the state or part of the country, the experience is the same, everything from the drive-thru script to the taste. It’s part of the reason you always stop. You know you can always expect the same quality, and it’s reliable (and who could turn down hot, crispy fries and a Big Mac – not us!).  

The same concept applies when delivering a training experience to a dispersed workforce.  It can be challenging to ensure that the same information is being conveyed in the same way across multiple different locations. But this is where an online learning management system can help.  

A few years ago, our client, Challenge Unlimited, was going through a season of growth and needed assistance keeping up with training and development. Because their workforce is spread across many office locations and cities, they knew finding a partner to help them stay organized and on top of all their initiatives was key to ensuring a consistent training experience.  

During their research, they came across BizLibrary and loved everything that BizLMS and our content had to offer.

Michelle Matsche, Director of Training and Development, recalls that BizLibrary had “everything we were looking for in one place and an amazing implementation team and ongoing level of support.”  

The ability to search content, track training, and have a dedicated partner was going to bring positive changes to their training experience.  

Challenge Unlimited’s Menu of Programs

Training is a big part of the culture at Challenge Unlimited. No matter if it’s their day one or five-year anniversary, every employee is involved in training for their own personal and professional development. The learning programs fall into three categories:  

  • Risk and Compliance: 
    • All staff participates in risk and compliance training every year, and depending on which department an employee works in, they may have additional specific HR or safety training. Partnering with BizLibrary gives them content that can be accessed anywhere and is current and credible. By utilizing on-demand content, Challenge Unlimited saves time and money associated with travel or in-person training.  
  • Managing Accessibility: 
    • Challenge Unlimited’s mission is to provide opportunities to individuals with disabilities. Because of this, having off-the-shelf content that educates their employees on how to serve those with disabilities was of the utmost importance. Additionally, they also employ individuals with disabilities, so having a partner that provides accessible options like transcripts, closed captioning, or downloadable flyers were non-negotiable.  
  • Culture and Leadership Influence: 
    • Creating cohesive teams and a growth-minded culture is something that Challenge Unlimited values highly. This is not achieved overnight, but by empowering their leaders through development, creating cohorts for learning, offering hybrid training, and giving elective learning opportunities to all employees, they are able to increase retention and employee satisfaction.  

As we dive into the specifics of some of their programs, you’ll see why in order to have a culture of continuous learning they needed to ensure development opportunities are offered to every employee in a consistent way. 


From day one, employees are immersed in an onboarding training experience designed to showcase who Challenge Unlimited is, provide education surrounding serving those with disabilities, and assist with on-the-job training. On an employee’s first day, they used to attend training in person at their headquarters in Alton, Illinois.  

The L&D team quickly realized that because of the growth their organization was experiencing, they needed to shift to virtual to save on travel and lodging expenses. Now, no matter where an employee is hired, they all “attend” the same training.  

Training kicks off with a welcome video from the CEO explaining the importance and purpose of the development (we LOVE this idea). Next, employees are given time to go through their learning initiatives that include courses on everything they would need to know when beginning their career, like communicating with people with disabilities.

After they complete their general onboarding courses, they are provided location-specific training, depending on the role they perform.  

Safety and Compliance

Every year employees complete the required compliance training. It’s extremely important that employees are continually educated on how to be safe and respectful while at work.  

The emphasis placed on creating an equitable workforce allows them to achieve 100% participation from every single employee (I think we can all agree this is IMPRESSIVE!!). When compliance audits come around, the training team can easily pull the reports they need within BizLMS, and maintaining their accreditations is a breeze.   

Leadership Development

Don’t think we are finished yet! The program list keeps going. They offer a specific leadership training program to all of their leaders. Each year they conduct a needs assessment to identify any business challenges and use that information to decide on an overarching topic for their leadership program. The training team at Challenge Unlimited first assigned the Inclusive Mindset expert-led series from BizLibrary and asked their leaders the following questions:  

  1. How does this apply to you? 
  2. What are your challenges? 
  3. What comes easily to you?  

From the survey, they determined that this year’s big focus would be on psychological safety and inclusion. Then, each month covers a subtopic related to the focus. For example, one month was neurodiversity. Ahead of each month’s virtual discussion –hosted using hybrid classroom management within BizLMS—the leaders are assigned courses to watch on their own time. Then they come together to discuss what they learned in a space that promotes transparency and vulnerability.  

Challenge Unlimited didn’t want to stop there with training opportunities for their leaders. They recently implemented a mentorship program as well. There is an application process where the leaders can lay out their personal development goals, and then five to eight managers are chosen and paired with a member of the executive team.  

To kick off the program, they host a celebratory meet and greet where the mentors and mentees sit down and establish a goal plan. Once they have everything mapped out, it gets submitted to the training team who creates learning initiatives in BizLMS to assign content that specifically addresses each mentee’s unique goals.  

During the course of this five-month program, the pairs meet and discuss progress made, and the participants complete their on-demand learning. Once the program wraps, there is a graduation – Alexa play, “Pomp and Circumstance!”  

Training for Everyone

Last, but not least, each year the training team offers an elective learning series for all employees to participate in. This year they are coining the program the “Bizzle Buzz Coffee Talk” where they will go through the Science of Happiness at Work Expert Insights Series. Each month participants watch 12 to 15 minutes of the course, and then meet virtually on the last Thursday of the month to discuss what they learned.  

To encourage employees to participate, they offer an incentive for those who attend every session in the series. We’re just over here wondering if we can come!” (BizLibrary, 2023)

Click here view Michelle’s interview and read the entire article on BizLibrary’s website.

Michelle is pictured on the left at a Challenge Unlimited partnership volunteer event with the Alton, IL Chapter of the Knights of Columbus to raise funds for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities.

Michelle told our Corporate Marketing Manager,  “with BizLibrary, all of the functions we need are included in one Learning Management System. We can track in-person/classroom training and online sessions. We can upload all of our training content into the library. We have access to over 10,000 relevant, on-demand learning courses ranging from safety, to leadership, to computer programs, to individual health and wellness!”

Budget Update: We did it and “you” made a difference.

Wednesday, May 31st, 2023


On behalf of all of us at Challenge Unlimited we want to thank you those who contributed to our advocacy efforts to increase support for our DSP’s.

It takes a collaborative effort to make a difference for individuals with disabilities. As the legislature has been working to pass the budget we called out for help and many organizations and individuals answered that call.

You emailed your policy makers, you made calls to their offices and you helped make our efforts a success. Organizations like ours rely on collaboration and power in numbers to create a more equitable and inclusive policy system for individuals living with disabilities and we are grateful for the support we received from the community. Read the statement below from our partners at The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. (

IARF Statement on New State Budget with Disability, Behavioral Health Investments

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, representing community providers of services for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and serious mental illnesses, today issued the following statement after the final state budget proposal was acted on by the Illinois Legislature:

“This new state budget takes an important step forward to improve care for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Illinois and invest in our crisis mental health services and supports.

We initially opposed the $2 an hour wage increase for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) proposed earlier this week, as inadequate. The $2.50 an hour increase, reached through intense negotiations and advocacy by our legislative champions, will help address our critical issues:

  • To make these jobs competitive with the minimum wage increases and wages offered at restaurants, retailers, etc.
  • To bring our state closer to compliance with a long-running Consent Decree mandating that persons with disabilities have opportunities to live in their communities. We have been out of compliance for six years in a row.
  • To help reduce a waitlist of nearly 15,000 people seeking care today, including those in state developmental centers such as Choate where the Administration has plans to move residents into community settings.

The extra dollars will help our members address a crisis in staffing that is reducing services available to those with disabilities in Illinois. We have to stay ahead of the growing state minimum wage to recruit and retain workers, and this increase will help do that.

Additionally, through partnership and collaboration, community providers will receive additional rate increases for crucial Medicaid mental health crisis services totaling $30 million. As the crisis system continues to expand in Illinois, these increases, on top of the historic $170 million increased investments included in last year’s budget, will continue to ensure these crucial services can be provided to those in need.

Again, thank you to the legislators who stepped up to ensure these investments were included in the budget, and to Gov. Pritzker and the legislative leaders for hearing our concerns. We will continue to build on the progress made in recent years to provide support to our social safety net.”

Josh Evans President and CEO

Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities


Below is more detailed information about what these advocacy efforts were able to achieve for individuals with disabilities:

Disability Services:

  • $2.50/hr DSP wage rate increase
    • Effective January 1, 2024
    • Maintains current guidance on implementation of wage rate, including regionality
  • $10 million to expand regionality factor to Community Day Services
    • Effective January 1, 2024
    • 15% rate factor for Cook and collar counties
  • $56.7 million for FY23 Guidehouse annualizations from FY23
  • $26 million for annualization of FY23 and FY24 Ligas placements
  • $27.6 million for required rate adjustment for home-based services
  • $12.5 million re-appropriation of one-time revenues for staffing supports from FY23 budget

Behavioral Health Services:

  • $30 million increase for Medicaid Mental Health – see below for full breakout of rates
    • $6.8 million for Mobile Crisis Response rates
    • $4 million for Crisis Intervention rates
    • $10.5 million for IATP rates
    • $1.2 million for Group Therapy rates
    • $500,000 for Family Therapy rates
    • $4 million for Community Support Group rates and
    • $3 million for Medication Monitoring rates
  • $170 million for Mental Health Grants
    • An increase of almost $5 million over FY23
  • $58 million for Community Transitions/Rebalancing
    • An increase of almost $5 million over FY23
  • $10 million for the Behavioral Health Workforce Center
  • $5 million for the BH Student Loan Repayment Program
    • This represents continued funding of the program, which will now also be expanded to include additional practitioner levels and higher grant amounts
  • $5 million for 988 Call Centers
  • $75 million in Mental Health Block Grants
    • $50 million in continued MH Block Grant funding
    • $25 million in ARPA MH Block Grant funding

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

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AbilityOne Authorized Providers Use Grants to Drive Results

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 11th, 2023

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

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

Check out the interview below! ⬇️⬇️

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

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

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

Shawn’s Story – Hopeless to Hopeful

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

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

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

Shawn you are an inspiration!

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