Work Pride: The Michael Mote Story

“I told her to fire him. I wanted him to be fired. Even though he has a disability, he isn’t showing that he wants the job. Fire him.”
These are words you wouldn’t expect to hear from a father speaking about his son, but these were the words of a father at his wit’s end. The words of a father who had had enough. The words of a father before his son’s remarkable turnaround.
Karl and Kellee Mote are a genuine, upstanding couple living in Spokane who, like many parents, envision a successful life for their children. Karl, a band director, and Kellee, a teacher who works in a correctional facility, adopted their son Michael when he was two years old, and like most parents of children with disabilities, Karl and Kellee faced a unique set of challenges.
“There’s no handbook for the parents of kids with disabilities,” Kellee explained. “There’s no handbook that says if this happens, you need to do this. We were just fortunate to find the right people who helped us find the right resources.”
Michael struggled in school and in life, but by connecting with the right people and the right resources, Karl and Kellee found ways to help Michael graduate and experience success. However, like many individuals with disabilities, Michael fell of the precipice when he graduated, the time where resources and supports often run dry.
Karl and Kellee have always believed that Michael needs to give back to society, so they helped him look for opportunities after he graduated, but opportunities proved to be hard to come by. Michael struggled to find and maintain positions in the workplace, and as a result, was unable to prove himself as an individual capable of making contributions in the workforce. Oftentimes, these struggles were exacerbated by Michael’s actions.
“Mike is a great kid,” Karl explains. “He wants the right thing, but he has a hell of a time doing the right things sometimes. He has a huge heart, but he’s been bucking his challenges throughout his life.”
Michael’s first potential work opportunity was cut short when a bus route closed. At another location, Michael got into an argument with a patron and lost that opportunity. At a third location, Michael was participating in a community based assessment, and, after he was horseplaying around, the sponsor deemed him “unemployable” and removed him from the program.
“Those are rough words,” Karl explained in reference to his son being referred to as unemployable.
Despite the setbacks Michael experienced, Karl and Kellee continued to search for resources that could help their son find success. After Karl learned about Skils’kin from a band parent, Karl and Kellee contacted Skils’kin and set up an appointment.
Karl and Kellee met with Leona Eubank, Skils’kin’s Professional Development Specialist and Disability Liaison, and learned of the various pathways to employment for Michael through Skils’kin. As it turned out, Skils’kin was having a career fair that day to recruit candidates for their AbilityOne grounds crew, so Leona asked if Michael could come back later in the day, to which they agreed.
Michael’s interview with Skils’kin was the first time in his life he had ever interviewed. Understandably, Karl and Kellee were nervous as they waited outside. However, it turned out to be a great experience: Michael shared his personality and skill set, immediately impressed, and received an offer for the position.
“Sitting outside and hearing them laugh from inside the interview was heartwarming,” Kellee explained. “We don’t hear a lot of celebrations. It made us feel really good. We see the challenges these kids face, but we also see the skills, abilities, passion, and love for life that other people don’t always get to see.”
At the end of the interview, Michael received a Skils’kin hat, a visible sign that he was now part of the team, a sign that he had found his place.
“That hat was like a new car to Mike,” Karl explained. “I’ve never seen him so proud of something.”
By all accounts, Michael was poised for success. He nailed his first interview ever, received a job offer, and was set to begin his career. But Michael’s story does not end there.
Once Michael started working at the base, he started to fall back into his old ways. He didn’t show up on time, and he often wouldn’t work once he got there. After multiple incidents, Skils’kin Project Manager Vickey Graning called Karl, asking him to come pick up Michael because she was sending him home.
“I told her to fire him,” Karl explains, recalling his phone call with Vickey. “I wanted him to be fired. Even though he has a disability, he isn’t showing that he wants the job. Fire him.”
Vickey, however, had another idea. She told Karl to come in and meet with her. She said they would bring Michael in and, if it was okay with him, they were going to be really stern with MIchael and let him know that this was his last chance.
“It was hardcore,” Karl explained. “It was an intervention. The meeting lasted 90 minutes, and his supervisors told him if there was one more instance of being late, or not doing his job, he was getting fired.”
“I really didn’t believe it was going to make a difference,” Karl explained. “Mike’s reaction was very flat. He was very flat and quiet on the way out, and we rode quietly all the way home. I told him that he is wasting time and money, and if he isn’t going to be committed, he should call and resign so someone else that wants the job more can have it.”
The intervention, however, worked. After the intense meeting, Michael began to thrive in his work – and he never stopped. He made significant contributions to the team, and every day, he worked with enthusiasm and purpose.
“When Michael embraced his work and team, change happened,” Vickey explained. “He became an exceptional employee. He showed up to work with a smile on his face. He was ready for the tasks at hand.”
Michael’s parents noticed a change within him as well.
“Mike went back, and has been absolutely on his game,” Karl explains. “Every morning he is ready to leave and excited to share his day when he comes home. It has been a complete one-eighty.”
“He is coming home excited about what he has done,” Kellee adds. “He is so excited about being successful. There was hope for him,” Kellee continued. “The job was something that made him feel productive. Gave him purpose. Gave him a reason to get up and do something positive with his day. Just having the opportunity to get new skills and abilities, an opportunity to be around others that understand him… it meant everything.”
The opportunity Michael had through the AbilityOne program to work with purpose made a drastic impact on his life: it completely changed his demeanor, gave him an opportunity to experience success, and ultimately, gave him hope for a better future. The experience made an impact on Michael’s parents as well.
“For me, the takeaway is you don’t immediately cast people off,” Karl explains. “You don’t immediately cut people loose. There was a lot of soul-searching on my part because I as the dad wanted to cut him loose and Skils’kin wanted to keep him. That ability to press on and make it work…. the payoff in this case is completely transformative. I really, truly wanted you to fire him. What kept me going was that there were people out there like you folks that wanted to do that hard work. This success is completely motivating. Every day, Mike is coming home proud of how strong he is. That is motivating to me – that Mike is changing that Mike is growing. That’s changing me. It’s inspiring.”
“What I would like people to take from this is that you have to believe in the power of people to change,” Kellee concludes. “That we all make mistakes, but we all have the opportunity, if presented, to do better. We can’t quit believing in people. You don’t know people’s walk in life: how far they’ve come, and how far they’ll go if you give them the power to believe in themselves and move forward in life. If you never give them that opportunity, you never know how far in life people will go. I have seen great change in people. You’ve got to believe in people.”

Image of Skils'kin IT Intern Andrew Mack at a computer

Finding the Solution: Skils’kin IT Intern Develops Skill Set for Success

Andrew Mack, Skils’kin’s IT support specialist, will successfully conclude his internship next month, marking the end of yet another successful internship experience provided by Skils’kin.
Andrew’s deep passion for IT work began at an early age: “I remember as a kid, I used to call tech support whenever an error message would appear on my computer,” Andrew explained. “I always wanted to know why things weren’t working, and I couldn’t rest until I found a solution. And once I figured out how something worked,” Andrew continued, “I would be ecstatic.” As he grew older, Andrew’s passion for technology and problem solving only intensified, leading him to pursue information technology as his chosen field of study.
Driven by his passion for IT work, Andrew pursued and completed an Associate’s of Applied Science in Information Technology from Spokane Falls Community College. While he was working on his degree, Andrew worked at a grocery store as a courtesy clerk and at Spokane Falls Community College as a desktop support technician. He also performed some help-desk work in the college’s library. As his graduation approached, Andrew began searching for his next opportunity and heard about Skils’kin’s IT internship. He applied and interviewed for the position, and sensing his passion for technology, Skils’kin CFO Nicolle Laporte awarded Andrew the internship in early July.
Skils’kin proved to be the perfect place for Andrew to hone his skill set while feeding his passion. Skils’kin partners with Cycrest Systems, a managed IT services provider, for IT support. Andrew’s role is to provide in-house IT support while also serving as a conduit between Skils’kin’s IT needs and Cycrest by collaborating with Cycrest to troubleshoot and solve issues. As such, Andrew is in the ideal position to immerse himself in the world of information technology – an opportunity he greatly values as a fresh graduate: “This internship is a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to build their résumé and get into the technology world. If you are someone that just got a degree and need experience, this is a great opportunity because you are in the middle of it all, learning from other professionals and directing support where it needs to go.”
It is clear that Andrew appreciated the immersion of the IT internship, as it created a space to learn and grow. While serving as Skils’kin’s IT support specialist, Andrew has had countless opportunities to refine his skill set and proficiency with computer systems, network administration, information security, and desktop support. However, of all the skills Andrew has learned during his time at Skils’kin, he finds the soft skills, such as communication, to be the most valuable takeaways.
“The one thing that school doesn’t teach you is soft skills,” Andrew explained. “That’s the one thing I couldn’t fully learn in school. Communication skills. People skills. IT companies are looking for people who can work under pressure and have great communication skills, over the phone or in person,” Andrew continued. “Someone who is inviting to talk to, someone that people will gravitate towards. Those qualities are just as important as technical skills, and you can only get those skills through direct experience.” This internship was Andrew’s first job in an office environment, so he found the opportunity to work and interact with users in a professional setting immensely rewarding and illuminating.
As Andrew experienced during his internship, solid communication skills enable IT professionals to always push technological problems towards their resolution. “You almost have to probe people,” Andrew explains. “You’ll hear that something disappeared or something isn’t working, and then you have to do a discovery and work backwards to figure it out. The information on the help ticket doesn’t always cut it, so you have to be able to work with the customer in a friendly, reassuring way to get to the root of the problem.”
In addition to providing ample opportunities to develop soft skills, the internship also gave Andrew an opportunity to gain insight into potential career paths. As requested by Nicolle, Cycrest gave Andrew an inside look at their work environment and the work that they do, and he came away from the experience impressed: “Cycrest has a great team environment. They are very collaborative, they talk to each other, and they ask each other questions.”
After seeing how Cycrest operates firsthand, Andrew has determined that he wants to find a similar work environment. He is open to all IT opportunities, but his goal is to find a collaborative environment like Cycrest’s where individuals pool their knowledge to find solutions. “I really like environments where you can work as a team and work with others to solve problems,” Andrew explains. “Cycrest emphasizes teamwork: they want you to go to the right people at the right time and be willing to work together and to work off of an online knowledge base to solve problems.” That is the kind of work that Andrew sees himself being a part of, and he was only able to determine this career path because of his experiences during his internship.
Andrew’s experiences also solidify the notion that Andrew has what it takes to thrive in IT. After job shadowing Cycrest several times, Cycrest was impressed with Andrew’s mindset and drive. As Cycrest Support Manager Gerry Falkner explains, “Andrew showed real curiosity and get-up-and-go. “He’s a high-energy guy who wants to help. He’s real curious and asks all the right questions. He’s going to be a great asset for someone.”
Andrew is driven to find solutions to pressing needs, and he will not rest until he finds those solutions. “I like the challenge of unique problems,” Andrew explains. “I’m tenacious and have a determined personality. I always want to know why something isn’t working, and I like to work until I get to the bottom of something.” This passion for problem-solving and information technology is what pushes Andrew to continually refine his craft. In addition to successfully completing this internship, Andrew has also been studying online for his Bachelors of Science in IT from Western Governors University, so he can deepen and enrich his skill set even further.
With his internship nearly complete, Andrew is eager to find his fit in the workplace and is excited at the prospect of working in an environment where he can continue to feed his passion and, ultimately, solve problems and help people. Andrew’s path to IT work emerged from the frustration of problems and the thrill of solutions, and to this day, that moment of resolution, where he and others can feel that thrill, is what drives him: “At the end of the day, my favorite thing about IT work is the actual moment when I fix something. I get a big grin on my face, and then the person I am working with gets a grin on their face too.”
“That,” Andrew concludes with a smile, “is what it’s all about.”

Skils’kin prides itself on being a conduit to greater successes within the community, and Skils’kin’s IT internship embodies this concept. Thank you, Andrew, for making meaningful impacts as a member of our team.

Individual mopping with a sunset/sunrise in the background

Skils’kin’s FAFB Custodial Team Achieves Near-Perfect Assessment Results

Skils’kin’s AbilityOne custodial team at Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB) recently received their annual Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR), and their results are impressive.
A CPAR is a government assessment of our performance on our government contracts. To conduct this assessment, an official from the base evaluates each project’s performance by providing a rating for seven different evaluation areas. Each area receives one of five possible ratings: unsatisfactory, marginal, satisfactory, very good, or exceptional.
On their latest CPAR, Skils’kin’s custodial team at Fairchild received near-perfect results, earning “Exceptional,” the highest rating, on all but one evaluation area:

Evaluation Area Rating
Quality Exceptional
Schedule Exceptional
Cost Control Exceptional
Management Exceptional
Small Business Contracting Satisfactory
Regulatory Compliance Exceptional
Other Areas Exceptional

Furthermore, the assessing official had high praise for the custodial team. In his review, the official stated that “The company continues to provide truly exceptional custodial service across Fairchild AFB. They meet or exceed all standards and are very flexible, which enables them to meet Fairchild’s continually changing cleaning requirement. Company workers are polite and courteous while performing cleaning.” He also noted that the team is very professional, works efficiently, and shows pride in quality work.
These results point to high-level performance by a truly dedicated and talented team. Every year, Skils’kin’s AbilityOne department aims to achieve all “Exceptionals” on their CPARs. This is an ambitious goal that is not government-mandated, but the department sets the goal internally because they know the team is capable of reaching it. As these latest CPAR results show, this goal is well within reach for our teams.
Congratulations to the Skils’kin FAFB custodial team! And thank you to the team for their truly exceptional work.

Bart Wilson working on a car with his manager, Eric

Bart Wilson Finds Work with Purpose with the Spokane Quick Lube Team

When you ask Bart Wilson about his new career at Spokane Quick Lube on the corner of Sprague and Adams in Spokane Valley, his enthusiasm is evident: “I am so happy about my new job!”
Bart first found his passion for cars while working at his father’s shop as a kid, and his enthusiasm only continued to grow, pushing him to complete the PACE automotive maintenance class at Spokane Falls Community College.
Now, at Spokane Quick Lube, Bart works with a dedicated automotive team that is committed to exceptional customer service. Mark London, Skils’kin’s Vice President of Marketing, decided to have the team work on his car while he interviewed and gathered photos for this story. Bart’s job was customized for a perfect fit. Bart is tasked with checking engine fluids, cleaning lights, and fixing chipped windows, and as Eric Gould, the manager of Spokane Quick Lube, explains, Bart fulfills these tasks with purpose and efficiency.
“The team utilizes and values Bart’s skills and enthusiasm,” Eric explained. “We have a diverse and customer-driven team, and we look forward to helping Bart expand his skills and participating in his growth.”
Congratulations, Bart, on your new career.
Special thanks to Sarah-Ann Trenn and Cory Mack, Bart’s staffing managers, for helping Bart find a meaningful career.

Image of Bonnie Sinclair

Bonnie Sinclair Receives Direct Support Professional of the Year Award at 2017 Governor’s Employer Awards

45 Years of Service – Thousands of Lives Changed

Skils’kin is proud to announce that Bonnie Sinclair, an Employment Services staffing manager at Skils’kin, has won the 2017 Direct Support Professional Award at the 25th Annual Washington State Governor’s Employer Awards.
Every year, the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment hosts the Governor’s Employer Awards Program, where the committee recognizes those who empower individuals with disabilities and improve employment opportunities. The award that Bonnie received, the Direct Support Professional award, is a lifetime achievement award that recognizes exceptional professionals who provide direct support to individuals with disabilities; demonstrate state-of-the-art practices; and make meaningful, inclusive employment a reality.
Bonnie is well-deserving of this award because she is an outstanding direct support professional who leverages 45 years of person-centered industry experience and expertise to facilitate community integration and challenge individuals with disabilities to self-identify and pursue career goals, making meaningful, inclusive employment a reality for individuals with disabilities.
Bonnie came to Skils’kin in 1972 (then known as the Prevocational Training Center), where she performed quality assurance for the printing press. Bonnie trained people with disabilities on how to load the printing press, change the paper size, clean the machine, and print, bind, and drill books. She also oversaw silk screen printing, teaching individuals with disabilities how to shoot and develop pictures before they went to the press by burning plates, putting them onto the machine, and using opaque pens. Back when the Prevocational Training Center had a large contract with the Forestry Department, Bonnie also taught an individual with a disability to operate a high-speed copier in Colville.
While she worked at the Prevocational Training Center, Bonnie went to college at Eastern Washington University, where she got a degree in general studies with a minor in social work. She then began serving as the sole employee in the Employment Department, where she taught job readiness classes, a skill she implements continually to this day.

By creating opportunities to meaningfully engage and integrate with the community face-to-face, Bonnie shatters barriers to employment by exposing employers to the assets individuals with disabilities truly bring to the workplace.

From years of experienced success, Bonnie has developed a state-of-the-art person-centered job development strategy that brings clients out into the community, makes connections, and ultimately secures meaningful employment. Bonnie is a maverick who engages with the community to actively facilitate opportunities by connecting the work that needs to be done with a talented, but traditionally unrecognized, workforce of individuals with disabilities who can meet these needs. By creating opportunities to meaningfully engage and integrate with the community face-to-face, Bonnie shatters barriers to employment by exposing employers to the assets individuals with disabilities truly bring to the workplace.
An integral aspect of Bonnie’s state-of-the-art practice is letting individuals with disabilities self-identify their desired workplaces and careers. As Bonnie explains, far too often, the industry tries to find an individual a job, any job, that they overlook the importance of finding the right job for that specific individual. In order to facilitate meaningful employment, Bonnie ensures that the individual’s desires lead the job search. Individuals with disabilities often unjustly lack agency in their lives and are placed in whatever job opportunity arises, regardless of the individual’s fit with the work and culture. Bonnie refuses to do that. She continually strives forward with her clients until they find the right position together. Bonnie is adamant about creating spaces where individuals drive their own job search – and she stands by them to ensure their success every step of the way.

Bonnie gets to know her clients on a personal level to help them find truly meaningful employment.

Bonnie stresses to individuals-served that her role is to help them drive their job search and achieve truly meaningful employment that best meets their needs. To accomplish this success, Bonnie challenges her clients to reflect on and determine their career goals and tell her what they need in a workplace. Bonnie facilitates this process by developing a strong understanding of the individual served and creating opportunities for career exploration. When Bonnie first meets with a client for discovery, she digs deep to get to know the individual’s needs and desires, encouraging the client to honestly and critically examine his or her employment pursuits. Sometimes, individuals are adamant about not working in certain places, and Bonnie and the individual will figure out why together, collectively pushing towards a greater understanding of the client’s career goals. By challenging her clients with this scaffolded approach, Bonnie enables her clients to drive their search for employment, and she ensures that they only pursue positions that are in the client’s best interests.
Once Bonnie and the client have reached an understanding of the client’s goals, they explore potential careers together. Bonnie takes the individual out into the community and introduces them to employer contacts in the industries the individual is interested in. The employer tells them what they need, what the hours are like, the expectations and requirements for the position, and more. Sometimes, after career discovery, the individual realizes that that’s not the right kind of job for them, and Bonnie and the individual then use that information to keep pushing forward towards that right job. Other times, this career exploration solidifies the individual’s career goals, and Bonnie and the individual can push the job search even further with greater intensity and vigor.
Bonnie is also outstanding in her position because she stresses the importance of challenging individuals-served. From a lifetime of society telling them what is and isn’t possible, many individuals with disabilities often don’t realize their full potential. But Bonnie sees in individuals-served what they often fail to see in themselves: that they, like all individuals, have areas of expertise that they can leverage in the workplace to substantially contribute and drive business. And she challenges her clients until they recognize this too. For example, Bonnie once worked with a client who had a stroke – the results of which seemed insurmountable to the client. Bonnie had helped this individual find a potential employment opportunity as a dishwasher, but he doubted his ability to wash dishes even though he was interested. Bonnie pushed her client and challenged him to believe in his own strengths and ability, reassuring him that he could take on this position and thrive. As a result, this individual successfully gained employment as a dishwasher in a major hospital, where he now performs large-scale dishwashing. From Bonnie’s perspective, the more you challenge individuals, the more they will blossom and feel good about themselves and the work at hand, which empowers them to reach heights they previously never thought possible.
Bonnie also challenges her clients by urging them to not just rest-satisfied once they secure a job but to continue to work hard and reach upwards once they have a position. When her clients first get a job, Bonnie continues to mentor and explains that if they do well and continue to work hard and flex their skillset, there’s opportunity for advancement – it’s all up to them to strive for it. Bonnie challenges those she serves and instills in them that their success is indicative of further success – they can continually do better, and now that they’re starting out on a new path, they can seize even greater successes. And many of Bonnie’s clients do just that. Bonnie has placed individuals in entry-level positions and witnessed firsthand her clients’ abilities to advance into management and leadership roles.
Throughout this entire process, Bonnie serves as an advocate and creates positive change by attending to the overall well-being of the individuals she works with and helping them to stay positive and believe in themselves. Bonnie is adamant that her clients not be isolated, explaining how it can cause depression and lowered self-esteem. Outside of the job search, if Bonnie feels her clients are too isolated, she encourages them to get out into the community. Sometimes, Bonnie has clients who struggle with the transportation system and bus schedules, so Bonnie will meet them at the transit center and help them with transportation, riding the bus back with them until they are familiar with it. She also makes sure to see her clients at least once a week. Bonnie is adamant about the importance of having face to face conversations with her clients on a weekly basis, so they stay in high spirits, continually press upwards, and recognize that despite any setbacks, they’re still going forward with their search for the right job that creates a better quality of life. If an individual has barriers, has never had a job, and is constantly isolated, they can spiral downwards, but Bonnie keeps motivating and keeps pushing. She wants her clients to believe in themselves, and she keeps working with them until they do.

Bonnie makes inclusive employment a reality, and literally thousands of individuals with disabilities have experienced greater success and a better life because of her lifetime of service and achievement.

Bonnie finds purpose and fulfillment in her work not because of her lifetime of success, but because she is able to stand witness to the impactful change that results after she helps individuals with disabilities secure and maintain meaningful, inclusive employment. Because Bonnie has served in this industry for 45 years, she has had the unique opportunity to see both the immediate and the long-term impacts of her lifetime of service – impacts that drastically change the lives of individuals served. Individuals who, after securing inclusive employment, are finally able to fly across the state to visit friends in Seattle. Individuals who are able to go see a Broadway show for the first time in their life. Individuals who are able to go out to dinner with friends. Individuals who were able to buy a car and experience newfound independence. Individuals who have been able to go to college and continue to expand their skillset. Individuals who have been able to get married and start families. Individuals who are able to live their version of their best life – in large part thanks to Bonnie’s considerate, person-centered practice.
Bonnie draws upon 45 years of experience and success to create person-centered opportunities for meaningful community integration, and through this work, Bonnie helps individuals find the right job, which ultimately helps ensure meaningful employment and long-term success because individuals love what they do and are able to thrive as a result. Bonnie makes inclusive employment a reality, and literally thousands of individuals with disabilities have experienced greater success and a better life because of her lifetime of service and achievement.

Close up image of a lawnmower mowing grass

Skils’kin Grounds Crew at F.E. Warren Completes Nearly $150,000 in IDIQ Work

Last September, Skils’kin’s F.E. Warren grounds team in Cheyenne, Wyoming successfully completed ongoing IDIQ (indefinite delivery / indefinite quality) projects worth nearly $150,000. IDIQ work refers to additional work provided by the government outside of the original contract. Accomplishing this work in addition to the already established contractual work is no easy feat, but the F.E. Warren grounds team banded together to get the job done, bringing in a substantial amount of additional revenue in the process.
The work the F.E. Warren team accomplished is truly significant. As part of their IDIQ work, the team accomplished the following tasks over the past few months:

  • Pruned trees on the many F.E. Warren roads
  • Performed a full grounds renovation outside of building #210, including repair of the irrigation system, leveling the ground, laying brand new sod, replacing bark around trees with red rock, and additional mowing and hand watering
  • Placed parking blocks
  • Performed special mowing around the WAPA building
  • Seeded, added compost, and hand watered around the snow barn
  • Seeded, added compost, and hand watered around the lift station

This phenomenal work could not have been done without the F.E. Warren grounds crew’s ability to come together and work effortlessly day-in and day-out while completing both contractual and IDIQ work. This work also would not have been possible without the support of Donna Hays and Alicia Mulvihill, who did an outstanding job coordinating this IDIQ work for Skils’kin.
Congratulations to F.E. Warren grounds and the AbilityOne team! The work you do continues to make meaningful impacts.

Steve McBride standing in front of a brick wall

Steve McBride Brings Business-Centric Focus to Commercial Services

In late September, Steve McBride joined Skils’kin to lead the Commercial Service department as the Vice President of Commercial Services. This newly-created position emphasizes Skils’kin’s increased focus in sales and business development and marks the beginning of a new era for Skils’kin’s Commercial Services.


Steve is a fourth generation Spokane native and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications studies from Eastern Washington University and a certificate in sustainable building practices from Washington State University. He has extensive work experience in sales and operations, as well as a proven record of accomplishment in business development within a wide range of industries, including construction, medical, and hospitality fields. Steve has also started multiple companies throughout his career, and by all accounts, has a proven entrepreneurial spirit that is conducive to success.


“I’ve always had a passion for creating things,” Steve explains, “whether that be businesses or products. I want to know a little about everything, I have an inquisitive mind, and I’m driven to dive in and make successes happen.”


Steve’s ability to secure successes, create partnerships, and build businesses makes him the ideal candidate to fulfill the new VP position. Skils’kin hired Steve to grow the Commercial Services department by securing new lines of business while continuing to grow our core business partnerships. “We are in a growth-minded space” Steve explains. “We’re facing the community with a robust sales and marketing division, and we’re very customer-focused, quick, and responsive to needs – all while always looking for new opportunities.”


In addition to competing for new lines of business, Steve’s vision for Commercial Services includes the creation of new business partnerships that will expand the production, commercial cleaning, grounds, and kit packing services that the department currently offers. For example, Skils’kin makes thermocouplers that are an integral piece to Kaiser’s ability to make aluminum, and Steve envisions the department growing in its ability to provide similar first-rate production services. Steve is also eager to build the department’s commercial cleaning and grounds businesses and has plans to aggressively pursue new opportunities for kit packing.


“Kit packing happens all over the country,” Steve explains. “This business is competitive, but we have the people and resources to make a good looking product the right way every time, and because of Skils’kin’s robust QA process,” Steve adds, “we can confidently grow any of these business divisions or business lines.”


Commercial Services is poised for immense growth, and Steve is eager to lead the department to greater success. Steve adamantly believes that the department surpasses the competition not only because it promotes change and purpose, but because it promotes change and purpose in addition to the top-quality services it provides. And by continuing to provide exemplary services, and maintaining a business-centric focus, Steve sees the department establishing long-lasting partnerships within the community that creates the basis for true social change:


“I have great enthusiasm for the untapped possibilities in Commercial Services. The reason I took this job is because I believe in Skils’kin’s vision of becoming the place that shows companies how to provide services for adults with disabilities. Commercial Services can be a highlight of that vision because we’re in the community, we’re doing the work, and we’re doing the work with individuals with disabilities just as well and at any level with other companies that don’t employ the workforce we do. We’re competing at that highest level while preparing adults with disabilities for future careers in whatever field they want to be in. And we’re going to continue to compete on that top level, win the wins, and spread our name to the community. We’re not just a nonprofit that supports individuals with disabilities: we’re a business that provides exceptional care to our customers and provides top-quality services. We do a lot of amazing work – and we do it well. We go out and secure work on our price and service, but we keep these services with our customers, those lifelong customers who want to keep doing business with us and keep referring us, because they feel like they are part of the Skils’kin team, the Skils’kin mission. And we’re going to keep bringing more customers into this mission.”


The way forward for the employment of individuals with disabilities lies in competitive, business-driven services. With Steve McBride in command of Commercial Services, Skils’kin is leading the charge while looking boldly and confidently into a future that is ours to build.

Vlad Larkin Joins Wild Sage Restaurant


“I gave Vlad his first ever paycheck tonight. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was pretty sweet. It meant a lot to him – and to me.” – Tom Sciortino, Owner of Wild Sage


After participating in Skils’kin’s Employment Services, Vlad Larkin, a first-generation immigrant, successfully earned employment as a dishwasher at Wild Sage Bistro in Spokane. This is Vlad’s first full-time, non-temporary employment opportunity.
In his new position, Vlad serves as a dishwasher and is responsible for ensuring the cleanliness of the restaurant’s utensils, plates, and equipment. As Vlad explains, he is responsible for “anything that needs to get picked up, cleaned, and put back where it’s supposed to go.” He describes the work as challenging but immensely gratifying: “It’s satisfying being a part of Wild Sage,” Vlad explained. “I’m never bored there – always busy.”
And Vlad’s hard work is making an impact. When asked about Vlad, Tom Sciortino, the owner of Wild Sage, said “I gave Vlad his first ever paycheck tonight. He lit up like a Christmas tree. It was pretty sweet. It meant a lot to him – and to me.”
Having a job for the first time, and having that first paycheck, means everything to Vlad. “Having a job changes other areas of my life,” Vlad explained. “It has helped me become an adult, and I’m becoming more responsible. Work is hard,” Vlad added, “but what you work for is what you earn. Not everyone gets that chance for employment, so I’m grateful for this opportunity. I want to stay where I am… I want to keep this job for a long time.”
Congratulations to Vlad and Cory Mack, Vlad’s Staffing Manager at Skils’kin, for their success.

Rising Above: CLS Participates in Courageous Kids Climbing Event

In late September, individuals served in Skils’kin’s Community Living Services (CLS) department once again had the opportunity to participate in a Courageous Kids Climbing event. At the event, volunteers, including Skils’kin Contract Administrator Megan Curran, provided the support, equipment, and instruction needed to empower individuals with disabilities to scale various climbing walls.


Skils’kin first became involved with Courageous Kids Climbing earlier this year when Megan, an avid climber, volunteered to belay at a climbing event and requested that Jeff Riechmann, the event coordinator, open up the event to the adults with disabilities in Skils’kin’s CLS program. Jeff agreed, and the event was a tremendous success, enabling individuals with disabilities from Skils’kin to experience something they would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise.


The event this September at the Spokane Valley YMCA was yet another success, and individuals once again had the opportunity to prove their ability – both to themselves and the world around them. As Megan explains,


“I love these climbing events because climbing is a great way to redefine one’s abilities, mentally and physically. If we want to raise the bar for helping our customers lead fulfilling lives, then we need to continually seek new ways to help them discover their abilities. Climbing is one way to help us change the conversation.”


By scaling the climbing walls at the YMCA, the participants in the Courageous Kids Climbing event were able to overcome any perceived limitations about climbing and realize their potential – and show that potential to the world – in the process.


This event teaches us all about the power of collaboration, support, and courage; however, it also shows us the individual accomplishments that are possible when we have a supportive community behind us. Megan explained that it takes teamwork to help climbers with disabilities to the top of the wall, but the individual accomplishments that are able to emerge from that spark of support are what she finds most inspiring:


“It’s inspiring to see adaptive climbers find their own creative solutions to challenges on the wall. When I see one of our CLS climbers dig deep for the strength to make one more move, then I learn about the human potential to push past limits and reach goals.”


When supportive communities and individual determination work in tandem, there are no limitations. These climbing events show us all just what is possible when a community bands together and decides to make a difference in individuals’ lives. There is potential in us all, and when we have opportunities to reach for greater heights, we may surprise everyone when we show how high we can really go.

Courageous Kids Climbing will host their next climbing event on April 21, 2018 at Wild Walls Inc. in Spokane. Visit the Courageous Kids Climbing Facebook page for more information.

Image of a silhoutte on top of a mountain watching a sunset/sunrise

CEO Letter: October 2017


“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experiences to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Over the past few months, there has been a lot of discussion around Purpose and what it means to us individually and within our culture. I am so proud of the organization we have become in the last seven years that I have had the privilege to be CEO. In writing this letter, I have such a myriad of emotions that I am feeling. We are well poised in our Payee, Commercial Services and AbilityOne programs. Our Marketing team is creating videos for external customers that further opens doors for opportunities and is selling our brand and services. With these positives ahead of us, it is bittersweet to be saying goodbye to our Supported Living department. This department is full of life, personalities, energy, challenges and successes. I always looked forward to barbecues and events where I could mingle and visit on a more personal level with some of the most colorful and engaging individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I remain confident that this is the right choice for our employees and those we serve. I know all involved will have additional opportunities that a larger organization can offer.
The above quote resonates with me as this is a time where I feel fervently that we all must reach out for new experiences that stretch us, teach us, and most importantly make us grow. To say I am energized about Skils’kin’s future would be an understatement. I am ready to reach out for new experiences and opportunities. However, I still have sentiments running through my mind on the departure of our Community Living Services team, so I won’t say goodbye, but I wish each of you associated with our Supported Living program a heartfelt “see you soon.”
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