Tag Archives: Challenge Unlimited

Manager of the Year, Challenge Unlimited Vice President of Finance is cashing in on impact

Kelley Young pictured here with her award
Kelley Young pictured here with her award

Kelley Young’s recent Manager of the Year award is not just a title; it’s a testament to her exceptional leadership and innovative approach at Challenge Unlimited. As Vice President of Finance, Kelley has revitalized our financial framework and demonstrated the critical role of compassionate and strategic leadership in the success of non-profit social enterprise.

Strategic Financial Management in For Impact Organizations

Kelley has been instrumental in redefining our financial strategy, a critical component in the non-profit sector. Her expertise has significantly boosted our operational efficiency and financial stability, ensuring optimal use of resources towards our mission.

The Unsung Heroes: Finance Department Administrators

Kelley’s role transcends traditional financial management, spotlighting the often overlooked yet essential administrative tasks.

Elevating Strategic Administration: Effective administration is the cornerstone of any successful non-profit. Kelley’s strategic alignment of administrative functions, including budgeting and planning, has been pivotal in maintaining our focus on organizational goals.

The Art of Balancing Non-Profit Finances: Kelley’s adeptness at managing finances is a testament to her ability to balance practicality and passion, ensuring our financial decisions support and enhance our mission’s impact.

Leadership that Nurtures and Inspires

Kelley & Her Team Setting Up Bingo for our Alton Skills Training Clients

Kelley’s leadership style blends empathy, patience, and strategic insight. She extends her role beyond managing, acting as a mentor who fosters an environment conducive to learning and growth.

Empowering Team Growth: Recognizing and nurturing individual potential within the team has been a critical aspect of Kelley’s leadership, enhancing our collective capabilities and fostering a culture of trust and open communication.

Extending Influence Beyond Financials

Terry posing for a Photo Op at BINGO!

Kelley’s contributions are not confined to the office. Her active engagement in community initiatives, such as implementing financial literacy training provided by her team to help individuals develop the skills needed to live more independently showcases her comprehensive leadership approach and commitment to our mission.

A Tribute to Non-Profit Administration Leaders

The Manager of the Year award is a testament to the importance of those handling critical and often underappreciated tasks in social enterprise administration. Kelley Young epitomizes this with her strategic financial management and compassionate leadership. Congratulations, Kelley, on this richly deserved honor. Your relentless efforts and visionary approach continue to contribute to our organization’s success.

Local Artist Finds a Home for the Holidays: Tunstell Griffin’s Inspirational Journey 

Picture yourself in your sixties, having never known the warmth of a place to call your own. A haven to express your true self, a retreat after a hectic workday, a space to unwind, cook for friends, and host gatherings. Now, imagine a heartening twist of fate – Tunstell Griffin, a local artist, and Residential Options Celebrity, not only discovered a home for his artistry but also a place to call his own, just in time for the holidays. 

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. Tunstell’s pursuit has been intertwined with his life at Residential Options, a local non-profit and affiliate of Challenge Unlimited, since December 2006. Tunstell received over 16 years of invaluable support. This program became the catalyst for his growth, offering services that encompassed financial education, medical guidance, and the essential skills needed for independent living. His journey, marked by unwavering dedication to his craft and triumph over personal challenges, recently reached a milestone as he was finally ready to move into his own apartment. 

For the past 16 years, Tunstell’s artistic pursuit has been interwoven with his life at Residential Options. This program became the catalyst for Tunstell’s growth, providing invaluable support in financial education, medical guidance, and the essential skills for independent living. 

About a year ago, Tunstell, guided by his treatment team, acknowledged the strides he had taken and declared himself near graduation from the program. During his discharge meeting, emotions soared as Tunstell, with tears in his eyes, expressed profound gratitude. “I appreciate everything ya’ll have done for me; it’s because of ya’ll that I got this apartment,” he said. 

Not long ago, Tunstell grappled with uncertainties about living independently. Yet, with the support of Residential Options’ staff, he overcame self-doubt. What once was fear has transformed into confidence and pride as he steps into this new phase of life. 

While a hint of nervousness lingers about the unknown, Tunstell is resolute and confident in his newfound independence. He recognizes that Residential Options will always be a part of his journey, maintaining connections with former housemates and eagerly planning to attend holiday gatherings. 

As Tunstell settles into his new home, he remains committed to his artistic passion, continuing to create and paint. Looking ahead, he is eager to find a new job near his home, showcasing his resilience and determination. 

Tunstell holds a Home Sweet Home sign that he recieved as a gift from Residential Options Staff
Tunstell holds a Home Sweet Home sign that he received as a gift from Residential Options Staff

Tunstell’s story is not merely one of artistic triumph; it is also a testament to the transformative impact of support programs in our community. This holiday season, as Tunstell infuses his new space with creativity and determination, his story stands as an inspiration for others, emphasizing the strength found in pursuing one’s passions and the profound significance of having a place to call home. 

From the Heartland to Capitol Hill

♪ “I’m goin’ to Jackson, but I’m not gonna mess around.” ♪

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

Advocating for Change from Jackson to D.C.

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

Jeffie’s Story

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

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

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

A Chance to Shine

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

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


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

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

Click below to listen to Jeffie’s speech.










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

DSP Recognition Week Logo from ANCHOR. Shows a yellow & blue ribbon with the text Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week September 10th - 16th, 2023In a world where compassion and care are more important than ever, there are individuals who stand as beacons of light, providing unwavering support to some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the unsung heroes dedicated to enriching the lives of those with disabilities, ensuring they can have fulfilling and meaningful experiences and quality of life. As we celebrate Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week, we will be shining a well-deserved spotlight on the remarkable DSPs that support individuals in our Community Day Programs and Residential Options homes every day. 

Who Are DSPs? 

Direct Support Professionals, often referred to as DSPs, are the compassionate caregivers and support workers who assist individuals with disabilities in various settings, including group homes, day programs, and individual residences. Their responsibilities go far beyond just providing physical assistance; they become mentors, friends, advocates, and many of them become family to those they serve. 

The Heart and Soul of Care 

DSPs are the heart and soul of care for individuals with disabilities. Their dedication and commitment to enhancing the quality of life for those they support are unparalleled. Here are some of the key roles and responsibilities that DSPs undertake: 

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

Why Recognition Matters 

Direct Support Professionals often work tirelessly, facing numerous challenges in their roles. They navigate complex emotional situations, deal with limited resources, and provide care that can be physically and emotionally demanding. Recognizing their efforts is essential for several reasons: 

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

CU DSP Recognition Week Events

At Challenge Unlimited & Residential Options we appreciate and value the hard work that our DSPs put in all year long, but every year during DSP Recognition Week we go the extra mile and schedule a full week of appreciation events to show our DSPs that we value the work they do for the individuals that we serve. 

Our Skills Training Centers in Alton and Swansea, Illinois have events scheduled daily including breakfasts, lunches, swag and gifts. DSP’s serving Residential Options will also receive gift cards, host in home celebrations, and an appreciation luncheon at Julia’s Banquet Center in East Alton, Illinois. Thanks to the Baker Family, every year one exceptional DSP is also presented with the DSP of the Year Award in honor of the legacy of Paul & Louise Baker, disability trailblazers who fought to bring services to disabled children in the 1950s and 1960s. 

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

Additional events are made possible, because of the community support we receive from our generous sponsors. Thanks to our Platinum Sponsor CSR Asphalt Paving, Gold Sponsors Everspring Pharmacy LLC, Argosy Casino, Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery, Berco Construction, and Carrollton Bank, Silver Sponsors Altonized Community Credit Union, Bickle Electric and Lombardi Interiors and Bronze Sponsors Alton Refrigeration & Home Furnishings, OSF Healthcare St. Anthony’s Health Center, PurePest, Robert’s Ford MotorsJun Construction and Tycon Builders.  

How can You Show Your Appreciation? 

During Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week and beyond, there are several ways to show appreciation for the remarkable work of DSPs: 

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

Direct Support Professionals are the unsung heroes who dedicate their careers to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. Let’s come together to celebrate their unwavering commitment, compassion, and resilience. By recognizing their contributions, we can ensure that the vital work of DSPs continues to uplift and empower those they serve, creating a more inclusive and compassionate world for all. 

Interested in learning more about DSP career opportunities with us? Have a family member looking for housing options or community day programs? Contact us through our website or give us a call (618)465-0044 today.