Christine Johnson Photo

Accommodations in the Community

Connections in the community always lead to bigger and better results for Skils’kin’s mission. With multiple satellite operations across the country, it is an important responsibility of our Project Managers to foster relationships locally. These relations build stronger communities for adults with disabilities and create opportunities for work. In Grand Forks, North Dakota Christine Johnson, Food Service Project Manager, has created a network with her local Vocational Rehabilitation groups. The Grand Forks Air Force Base (GFAFB) has been able to hire on a strong workforce of folks with disabilities with the help of their community resources.
 
Last month the local Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) group and Workforce Center hosted a conference titled “The ADA, Your Workplace & Reasonable Accommodations”. Lori Rodgers, from the VocRehab, quickly identified Christine and Skils’kin as leaders in this area and connected Christine to the conference to speak on her expertise. At the conference, there were 80 HR professionals from local areas seeking an explanation and guidance of what accommodations are. Once Lori finished her portion of the conference she introduced Christine by saying, “Christine is by far the most accommodating employer I have ever worked with. She figures out ways to make accommodations, and the majority of them are free.”
 
Christine went on to explain what Skils’kin is and how the majority of her operation is staffed by people with disabilities. This is a unique staffing situation compared to the companies she was speaking to, but the real message Christine gave was, it’s not as hard as you think. Rather than accommodations being an obstacle to overcome Christine shared how employing people with disabilities brings greater rewards on a daily basis. As she gained experience in providing accommodations, it became second nature for her.
 
When Christine’s employees start working in the dining hall and request accommodation, she is able to use her creativity to find solutions for unique situations. Most accommodation requests are easy to accomplish and make for a better work environment for everyone. Her workforce is more diverse and she has the ability to cross-train more people through their accommodations. “I go above and beyond to make sure I can retain my employees. It’s my personal mission to help identify an employee’s strengths and contributions and build on those.”
 
Christine’s identity in the community is shared with Skils’kin, and she stands for enriching lives. Her personal commitment to our mission has developed a strong workforce and culture in Grand Forks. Through sharing our mission, hopefully, Christine is shaping the disability culture there too. Her final remarks at the conference inspire the true rewards of employing people with disabilities, “I believe everyone deserves the opportunity to work and we do our best to make sure that it is possible by providing a few accommodations. In return, we get to see people grow, learn new skills, do amazing work with wonderful attitudes and the joy that a sense of accomplishment brings through the accommodations that we have developed and have brought to the workforce.”

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