Challenge Works
  July 2016 

Director of Development Kim Pugliese
Hello! While our Executive Director Joe Sammons takes a well-deserved vacation with his family, I am humbly filling in to introduce this month's edition of Challenge Works.

Summer is here in full swing, seemingly arriving overnight.  One of the best things about living in upstate New York in the summer is the abundance of local fresh fruits and veggies. And speaking of fresh fruit and veggies, our Finger Lakes Fresh CSA program still has memberships available - more information on how to signup is included below.

The CSA is packaged at our Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub by our program participants; two of them, Cassie T. and Jimmy L., have been working at the facility in Groton for more than two years. Last week, they had the wonderful experience of recording a radio ad promoting the CSA, which has already begun airing on five Cayuga Radio Group stations. Cassie and Jimmy did a great job, and the Cayuga Radio Group staff was wonderful to work with. Be sure to keep your ears open for the commercial, which will be running through the end of July.

Jimmy L.
Cassie T.

Challenge also had a successful transition this month.  We merged our Contract Production business and Food Hub operations at our Finger Lakes Fresh facility.  A lot of hard work, logistics and communication went into making the transition smooth.

Looking forward to August; Challenge will be featuring a series of interviews with Lee Rayburn on WCHU. The interviews will highlight employment success stories and will include participants, their job developer and their employers. Lee will discuss with the team their experiences from the perspective of the job seeker as well as the employer. We want our community to know all that Challenge offers, the many programs we support and the diverse group of job seekers with barriers to employment that we help.

"Where there's a Challenge, we have a solution!"

Enjoy the rest of your summer,
Finger Lakes Fresh CSA Program Buzzing Along

A look at the fresh bounty inside one of our CSA boxes.
Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub is busy as can be these days, packing fruits and vegetables into boxes for members of our Finger Lakes Fresh CSA Program. 
Every week, our staff and the people we serve will select, clean and pack one-half a bushel that includes 8-10 farm fresh items for use in creating wonderful meals.
Membership in the Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub CSA offers access to fresh, local food through Nov. 15, greater economic opportunity for farmers and support for Challenge Workforce Solutions -- creating jobs and providing training for people with disabilities and other employment barriers.

Shares are available for just $22 a week, and we've established pick-up locations at the Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub in Groton, the South Hill Business Campus in Ithaca and Museum of the Earth on Ithaca's West Hill.

For more information and to sign up,

Challenge Hosts 2nd Annual Recognition Luncheon

On Friday, June 17, Challenge hosted what has quickly become a favorite event among staff and program participants alike -- its Annual Recognition Luncheon. This year was only the 2nd annual iteration of the event, but the enthusiasm surrounding it has ensured it will be a mainstay for years to come.

Challenge Executive Director Joe Sammons greets people at Challenge's 2nd Annual Recognition Luncheon, which took place Friday, June 17, at the South Hill Business Campus.
The purpose of the luncheon is to bring staff and program participants together, honoring people for their hard work in the previous year. In addition to awards -- 29 in total! -- those in attendance were treated to delicious food, tables decorated with bouquets created by the Ability in Bloom program, and musical performances from participants and staff.

Briggs Seekins raises the hand of Helen A. after she received a recognition award.
Rick shows off his moves while Arthur K. performs one of his favorite songs.

The luncheon's food, catered by Falls Tavern in Trumansburg, was paid for through fundraising efforts by participants and staff in May. Mickey C., who sold nearly 50 boxes of donuts, was recognized at the luncheon; Lillian D. was also a big driver, collecting almost $400 in donations.

Lillian D. and Jimmy S. hold up donuts ready for delivery in May, as part of a fundraiser Challenge conducted to pay for the food served at its annual recognition luncheon.

Find Us On Facebook!

Some of you might be aware that Challenge has a Facebook page -- it can be found at

In the past few weeks, that page has started to fill with content. We have been sharing program participant success stories and highlighting staff members, as well as sprinkling in some motivational messages and a joke or two.

Consider liking our Facebook page, and sharing its content with your friends and family to help spread the word about all the great things going on at Challenge!

We also have Facebook pages for:
Ability in Bloom ( )
Challenge Imaging ( )
Contract Production Tackles TCAT

By Briggs Seekins, Pre-Vocational Services Manager

When the original decision was reached to move Challenge's Contract Production social enterprise from South Hill Business Campus to the Food Hub in Groton, the most immediate concern for all pre-vocational staff was a logistical one: How were we going to transport everybody to a new work site, 18 miles away?

But what started as a daunting challenge has transformed into a great opportunity. New York has made it clear to agencies like Challenge that expanding greater community integration must be a primary concern for all OPWDD programming. And one of the most immediate solutions to our transportation problems has also given us the chance to facilitate much more community exposure for a number of our participants who do not always get such opportunities.

Program participants who work in Challenge's Contract Production social enterprise business pose for a photo before boarding a TCAT bus bound for Groton. They were joined by Employment Specialist Sue Heath, left, and
Pre-Vocational Services Manager Briggs Seekins, right.
Starting on Tuesday, July 5, the first day of full operations at the Food Hub in Groton, a cadre of Challenge Pre-vocational participants, along with their co-workers, met at the Green Street bus stop at 8 a.m., in order to take TCAT Route 40 to Groton. The majority of the participants making this move had little or no experience using public transportation. In order to support the participants, Career Explorations has designated prevocational staff each day to make the trip.

On most days, the primary staff involved has been long-term Employment Specialist Sue Heath. Sue has reported high spirits among the participants, with a lot of productive and enjoyable conversations taking place during the 40-minute ride out and back. For hard-working people like our participants, who have often been denied the opportunity to spend much time around other working people in the community, it has been exciting simply to be downtown, as the Commons area comes alive at the start of a new business day. The excitement level has been palpable each morning.

Assessing TCAT has also allowed Challenge participants to be at the cutting edge of supporting an important part of the Tompkins County infrastructure. The route we are using has traditionally had very little ridership on the way to Groton. Our participants who are now making this trip amount to a substantial rise in TCAT numbers on a weekly and monthly basis.
Currently, the route Challenge participants take only goes as far as downtown Groton, where Food Hub staff provide a shuttle service the rest of the way to the Hub. However, it is hoped that the bump in ridership Challenge is providing will allow TCAT to justify expanding their route all the way to the Hub. Such a move would make the entire industrial area around the Hub more viable for development and expansion. In this way, Challenge's participants and workers are contributing to the potential economic development of the county.