Challenge Works
  June 2016 

Executive Director
Joe Sammons
Happy "Spring to Summer" to you all! In this month's newsletter, we have a lot of great activity at Challenge to share with you, including record-setting participation in one of the most important programs we run, the Job Club, and the start of the Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub's newest opportunity to send great, healthy local food to your family while supporting our mission!
I'm also pleased to introduce you to Kim Pugliese, our new Director of Development, who officially started in her new role on June 1st. Kim has been a member of Challenge's Employment and Vocational Services team, and has an eclectic and inspirational journey herself that perfectly fits her new role. There's a great article in this newsletter on Kim, and she and I are looking forward to sharing the good work of Challenge with our community!

One more thing: I can't tell you how proud I am to be a part of Challenge, and to watch the courage and compassion of our staff and the people we serve every day! As the new Executive Director, I have the chance not only to roll up my sleeves and tackle "big picture" questions - but I also get to greet the people we serve as they come into Challenge in the morning, and walk around to speak with staff and participants every day. I see a lot of caring and committed people, with smiles and a gritty determination to grow their skills and show them every day -- and to make that growth happen!  

Annie E. with Melissa Chiusano, Director of Human Resources and Compliance at Challenge

With all the difficult news that seems to dominate the headlines, it is important to remember that good people are doing good work every day - we just don't get to see it very often. We want to make sure you know about and can celebrate the good people at Challenge who do great work, every day. Thank you to everyone whose support makes this good work happen!

Joe Sammons,  Executive Director
Celebrating Successes in Challenge's Contract Staffing

At Challenge, we measure our success with each job we place the people we serve in -- and in each day the people we serve spend training, learning and growing. A wonderful showcase of success is evident with our Contract Staffing business, which hosted its annual picnic at the Upper Falls at Buttermilk State Park on May 26.

At the picnic, Staffing General Manager Larry Workman honored six individuals, three who were able to make it to the event, with awards for their service during the past year.   Mike S. was named Employee of the Year, while Rob H., Melinda G. and Kelly C. were recognized with Achievement Awards. 

Rob H. with Larry Workman

David C. and Sam B. received perfect attendance awards, which means they were at work every day they were scheduled. The efforts of David and Sam are a perfect example of the hard-working mindset of people who work with Challenge -- they are ready to work and are looking for an opportunity to show what they can do!

Sam B. with Larry
Larry with David C.

It's Summer! Fresh Food for Your Family  from o ur CSA

Now that the sun is warming the fields, the farmers and growers in our beautiful region are producing great, fresh, healthy food in abundance -- our Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub is bustling with activity, bringing in fruits and vegetables for our customers. 
Now you and your family can have a share in Challenge's own Finger Lakes Fresh CSA!  Every week, our staff and the people we serve will select, clean and pack one-half a bushel that will include 7-9 farm fresh vegatables, a fruit item and a grain.  As season moves along, we will have optional "add-in" items, such as bouguets of flowers from our "Ability in Bloom" project.
Membership in the Finger Lakes Fresh Food Hub CSA offers access to fresh, local food for 23 weeks (June 14-November 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.

This is a rare chance to support the work of Challenge while getting fresh, local, healthy food at an affordable price!  

For more information and to sign up,
visit our website at or email
Job Club Program Reaching New Levels of Participation
Job Club staff member Eric Hall works with
Diane and Lenny during a recent session.

Many people know that Challenge helps people with disabilities find employment, but the other piece of our mission - people with other barriers to employment - is much lesser known. 

The fastest-growing population of people we work with are those facing economic barriers to employment, and many of those individuals go through our Job Club program, a six-week job search and preparation class. In fact, the current class has the largest number of participants for one Job Club session, with 18.

Jessica Regis, Challenge's DSS Programs manager, said the continuous increasing participation in Job Club is due in part to new requirements for people receiving Food Stamps, as well as more referrals coming from the Department of Social Services and Tompkins County-based parole officers.

"It's a great program for anyone looking to get back into the workforce," said Jessica. "We are able to connect people with so many other programs that help them once they are in this program.

"We have a lot of understanding for what people are going through and know a lot of avenues to help people, including people with felony convictions," she added. "It opens doors for so much more."

For more information about Job Club, contact Jessica at 607-272-8990 ext. 130. 
Challenge Among Top Ten  Giving is Gorges Organizations

Challenge is thankful for the 32 donors who totaled $2,715 in donations during the annual Giving is Gorges day-of-giving event that took place on Wednesday, May 4. Our total contributions for the campaign placed us 7th among the 105 Tompkins County non-profit organizations that participated.

Giving is Gorges was organized by Community Foundation of Tompkins County, the Association of Fundraising Professionals - Finger Lakes Chapter and Give Gab.
Kim Pugliese, right, 
with program participant, Luke.
Our New Director of Development

Kim Pugliese

Kim took the reins at Challenge's Director of Development May 16, having been with the organization for about two years managing several of the direct support programs. With a prior background primarily in the food service industry, Kim's talents in managing and coordinating events, and ability to adapt quickly, were identified as transferable to her initial position at Challenge and that she would be a good fit.

"That has proven to be the case," Kim said, "as I feel I have found a real home here at an organization whose work feeds my soul."

Her personal background has also played a role in her connection to Challenge. Kim raised two children on her own, and her daughter, adopted from Lithuania in 1994, was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol syndrome at the age of 18 months. When she was eventually diagnosed, the advice Kim was given was to find a suitable institution because "she did not have the ability to become a productive member of society."

"My heart and instincts however did not align with the diagnosis. I educated myself about FAS; though years of patience, love, persistence and conditioning I was able to motivate, nurture and teach her the life skills to become an independent and amazing young woman," Kim said. "My daughter now owns her own business with her partner and lives independently."

Kim's life experiences and time at Challenge have made it clear - this is where she belongs.

"Though my daughter's story is not a Challenge story, Challenge has many similar stories that are just as inspirational. I believe sharing the stories of our participants will create a stronger community connection and help develop the culture of philanthropy that Challenge needs," she said. "There is no other organization in our area that is doing the work we do, and I look forward to showing our community just how much that matters."

"My passion for making a difference and sincere empathy and genuine affection for all people has now found a purpose," Kim added. "It has become clear that all roads in my life, no matter how circuitous, have led me here."