Finding Myself Again: Paul Crockrom Rediscovers Work with Purpose through the AbilityOne Program

Paul is a retired veteran from the US Army. He was stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, where he received various commendations and service medals as an infantryman. After his time in the military, Paul had a variety of jobs but ultimately began to struggle with a disability. In 2010, he moved to the Inland Northwest and took on various temp jobs. However, the jobs were not consistent, and he wanted more structure in his life. Then Paul found an opportunity with Skils’kin working at the federal courthouse in Spokane as a maintenance worker. This work opportunity, made possible through SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne program, gave Paul the supports he needed to get his life back together.
“My disability got to a point where I couldn’t focus, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t work,” Paul explained. “It’s an illness that can really set you apart from who you are. It takes you from being someone to being someone at the bottom. But I finally got with Skils’kin and learned how to develop and work with people again. I was able to focus and get my life together. Being with Skils’kin helped me become the person that I really was.”
The person Paul really is, as his work indicates, is someone who takes a lot of pride in his work and his team. Someone who motivates his coworkers and gets everyone to collaborate and engage. Paul recognizes that many individuals with disabilities live isolated lives, so he did everything in his power to connect with and lift up his teammates, creating a warm, welcoming environment by livening the breakroom walls with posters and by encouraging coworkers to socialize with each other.
“When I first got here, nobody talked to me because everyone was introverted. They just came here, and all they could see were these blank walls. I understood that they needed more in their life. They needed entertainment. They needed someone to talk to. And they needed to know that there’s a lot more to life than just coming in to work everyday not socializing. I wanted to open them up to life. I wanted to bring more life into the working environment.”
When you walk through the federal courthouse and see the Skils’kin team, you can sense the camaraderie. You can sense the pride and purpose in their work. Much of that success is a result of Paul’s capacity to promote meaningful change and constantly look upwards. Even Joseph Harrington, a United States Attorney, took notice of Paul’s work ethic:
“[Paul] is always quick to respond and assist if we have a simple request and is always friendly, approachable, and professional,” the US attorney explained. “He is a hard worker who takes pride in his work and we feel very fortunate in this office to have the privilege to work with him on a daily basis.”
Undoubtedly, the AbilityOne program created an integrated space that has enabled Paul to rediscover his drive and passion – and this success has Paul looking upward toward greater success:
“I had a past where I used to be very driven,” Paul explained. “I always wanted to be at the top of my game. I had been held back for so long by my illness, that after about 14 years of dealing with this illness, it came to a head that ‘you gotta kick it.’ You gotta fight harder and become that person that you used to be. That driven person that wanted more out of life. That person that was goal oriented and was always striving to be a better person. I want to be a good man. I want to be a good provider. I want to be a leader. I want to be somebody that is recognized within the community as somebody who did something and meant something to people, who helped people and made the work environment a better place. I want to put my own stamp on the world.”
Having discovered strength and success in the workplace through the AbilityOne program, Paul now seeks to venture out into the business community. He has asked for assistance with his résumé, and Skils’kin’s Employment Services department is going to market Paul to opportunities we have with businesses and organizations within the community, so he can continue to make meaningful impacts in the workforce.

A Snapshot of Success

Jaxon Riley, Training Director for Leadership Spokane, was in need of an updated professional headshot, so she came to Skils’kin and visited our photo booth. What she received was not only top-quality photos from a professional photo shoot, but the opportunity to witness firsthand how individuals with disabilities are an integral component of the Skils’kin workforce.
At Skils’kin, Jaxon had her pictures taken by Lark Riley, our talented morning receptionist and aspiring photographer. Lark has been doing photography for over seven years and studied graphic art and design through the Newtech Skill Center while she was in the Spokane IMAGES program. During the photo shoot, Lark fostered a warm, welcoming environment and, using her photography skill set, captured a series of engaging photos.

Lark Riley connects with clients to capture compelling photos.

“A good photograph requires a connection with the individual,” Lark explained. “Even though technicality, composition, and understanding of the camera are extremely important, it’s also important to connect with people because that will make clients comfortable. That’s what makes photographs compelling.”
Once the photoshoot was over, the pictures went to Jonathan Scinto, Skils’kin’s latest marketing and graphic design intern. Jonathan, who studied color theory and digital design while working on his A.A. from Spokane Falls Community College, performed color corrections for lighting and clarity before sending away the photos.
Professional headshot of Jonathan Scinto, Skils'kin Marketing Intern

Jonathan Scinto leverages his graphic design skills as an integral member of the Skils’kin team.

Jaxon greatly appreciated both the photos and the experience. She explained how the Skils’kin team was able to not only meet an urgent need, but was able to make the entire process an enjoyable experience. Jaxon explained that, like many people, she is “not terribly fond of having [her] picture taken,” but the team at Skils’kin “made the photo shoot a very pleasant experience,” for which she was grateful.
Many individuals with disabilities have the training, experience, and skill set needed to perform high-profile professional work. Yet, because of hesitation, fear, or misunderstanding, many individuals with disabilities never get the chance to flex their capabilities in the workforce. At Skils’kin, our focus is to bridge that disconnect. To change that narrative surrounding individuals with disabilities. Our photo booth is just one snapshot of what true success in the workplace looks like, success that we rediscover on a daily basis. Who will join us?

Celebrating Capabilities: Skils’kin Employment Services Employee Helps Participant Discover Potential

One year ago, Richard, a participant in Skils’kin’s Employment Services program, secured employment at the Arc as a custodian. Richard is a well-known regular at the Arc of Spokane Community Center, so when a position opened up at the Arc, the maintenance lead specifically requested Richard for the position. From the beginning, Richard enjoyed his work immensely, as his work filled him with purpose and gave him opportunities to build relationships with coworkers.
However, not long after Richard began his position, his job security came into question. He was underperforming, there was a lack of clear communication with management, and Richard felt an overall lack of direction. Furthermore, Richard began to doubt himself, and his confidence was shattered. These difficulties culminated in an unfavorable review, a review that was far short of what Kaleb Ashby, Richard’s job coach, knew that Richard was capable of doing.
“It was hard to see Richard struggle when I knew he was capable,” Kaleb recalls. “There was a lot of internal struggle with himself because he took his struggles personally.”
Kaleb, however, helped turn everything around.
To clear up the inadequate communication and lack of direction, Kaleb put together a task list for Richard and handed it to the manager at the time, asking for approval. They went back and forth until the appropriate standards for quality were met and the expectations of Richard were clear. Kaleb then helped Richard refine his skills, and as a result, Richard began to complete his tasks in half the time.
While Kaleb was coaching Richard, there was a specific moment that proved to be the turning point. Kaleb had been teaching Richard how to tie knots on trash bags, but Richard continued to struggle with the task. He exploded at himself in anger, asking himself why he could not do this, saying to himself that there was something wrong with him.
Kaleb quickly curtailed this negative thinking. He told Richard, “There is nothing wrong with you. What you have to do is tell yourself that you can. You may not do it right away, but you can do it.”
That moment set Richard on his path to success. “He just needed someone to say that there is nothing wrong with him,” Kaleb explains. “He was blaming his disability for his limitations, and he wasn’t celebrating his capabilities. He shifted his attitude after that. From time to time, I would hear him audibly tell himself while he worked, ‘I can do it… I can do this.”’
Kaleb helped Richard find his potential, and ever since, Richard has been confidently performing at a top level. But Kaleb is not stopping there. Kaleb has coached Richard to a point where he can now fade out, but he is also actively working to get him more hours, so Richard can spend more time doing the job that brings him so much purpose. With Richard now tapping into his potential, there is no doubt he is ready for it.

Looking through a window at tall buildings, with an out-of-focus red blur obscuring part of the left side of the image

CEO Letter: February 2018


“‘I know it when I see it’ is a colloquial expression by which a speaker attempts to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters.”
-from Wikipedia

As I frequently mention, our culture is based on the solid foundation of our mission, vision and values. When many people make the decision to become a part of our team, it is due to the fact that we are not structured like a typical non-profit. Nor do we fall into the same cadence or configuration of a standard corporation. I take great pleasure in meeting and knowing employees in all of our locations. I enjoy not wearing a suit to work every day. I take pride in the fact that I am addressed by my first name instead of “Mr. Behler.”
In other organizations, many employees strive to make their way to “The Corner Office.” For some it is status, others a rite of passage and some believe that is where the most influential and important people reside. If you have had the opportunity to visit the corporate office, our layout is a far cry from that model. We essentially have three corner offices: two are located upstairs and one is on the main level. One of the upstairs offices is cramped as it houses three of our AbilityOne administrative staff, the other is where you will find our CFO Nicolle Laporte. I have chosen to have my office on the main floor and while it is located on a corner, it is not glamorous by any means. I made a conscious decision to be where I can interact with as many of our staff, clients and visitors as possible.
There is a lot of value and motivation for me being able to authentically connect with those around me. This might mean I learn firsthand about a job one of our clients just obtained or a Commercial Services employee stops to tell me what they used their gift card to purchase. Maybe it’s an employee with a disability who has become comfortable enough to stop by my office after my frequent “How’s it going?” that I call from my desk. Due to these opportunities, I understand when our organization is running on all eight cylinders because “I know it when I see it.” Connections between teammates and stakeholders is imperative to success. I too look forward to my email inbox to see the next company newsletter where I can learn something from the employee spotlight or a unique success from the weekly updates. These are ways in which we can all “know it when we see it” and take pride in the strides our team is making.
When I speak about how we deliver our mission, it is by sharing illustrations of the manner in which our employees create success. If our organization was a race, it would be a relay; it takes an anchor to hold the team down and a number of different individuals with different speeds and abilities to get us across the finish line. Each of us play a different role each day and I know when the right players are in the game when I see it. I am thankful to be a part of this team and to have one of the best seats in the house to see the magic happen.
Brian Behler's signature

Former Skils'kin IT Intern Andrew Mack

Skils’kin IT Internship Results in Job Opportunity

Andrew Mack, a former Skils’kin IT intern, recently started his career as a help desk specialist at Rosauers Supermarkets’ corporate office. In his new role, Andrew helps the IT team perform upgrades at different store locations.
Andrew credits Skils’kin CFO Nicolle Laporte for giving him the experience he needed in working with different people and troubleshooting technical issues. Having completed the internship and launched his career, Andrew now excels at helping people with their IT issues. “It’s all about customer service,” Andrew explains.
Rosauers has given Andrew a temporary position for 11 months, and there is a possibility that the position could be extended depending on their needs. Andrew’s manager, Steve, feels that this could be a launching point for Andrew’s career as he gains experience. He will also make connections for future opportunities.
Congratulations, Andrew!

Professional portrait of Skils'kin President and CEO Brian Behler

Skils’kin President and CEO Brian Behler Elected to SourceAmerica Secretary Board Position

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON – At its December meeting last month, the SourceAmerica Board of Directors elected Skils’kin President and CEO Brian Behler to serve in a board officer position as secretary of the SourceAmerica board. Behler has been a SourceAmerica board member since March 2015.
SourceAmerica is a 501(c)3 national leader in creating employment opportunities and choices for people with disabilities through a network of nonprofit agencies. Its national network of nonprofits employs more than 111,000 people with significant disabilities.
“I’m excited about this position,” Behler explains, “because SourceAmerica and the Board is really in tune to how we create not just a few jobs, but many, many jobs for persons with disabilities in community settings while leveraging the success of the AbilityOne program to really enhance integrated community employment.”
As the CEO of a SourceAmerica-affiliated nonprofit, as well as an accomplished businessman and former CPA, Behler is able to bring a solutions-driven perspective to the board, a perspective that SourceAmerica leadership greatly values:
“Brian truly understands our mission from the perspective of the nonprofit agencies that make up our network – that’s exactly what we need for all of our organizations to excel in a rapidly changing environment,” said SourceAmerica President and CEO Steve Soroka. “We’re fortunate to have him at the forefront of our work at a national level to improve employment opportunities and choices for people with disabilities.”
“Brian is an excellent choice for an officer position on the SourceAmerica Board of Directors,” adds Carol Lowman, SourceAmerica Chair elect, current Vice Chair, and L2NL President and CEO. “He has a heart for the mission, the business acumen of an entrepreneur, and the intellect of a strategic thinker. His voice on the Board will help establish a vision and course to provide employment to all individuals in the disability community who want to work.”
Skils’kin is a community-based, nonprofit organization that provides employment and representative payee services to adults with disabilities, helping them grow and thrive within the community. Through these collaborative services, Skils’kin helps individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment and effectively manage their financial resources, promoting integration and, ultimately, a top quality of life in the process.
For more information, visit the Skils’kin website, or contact Mark London, Vice President of Marketing, at

Close up of a riding mower mowing a field

Skils’kin FAFB Grounds Team Achieves Success Amidst Challenging Season

Skils’kin’s AbilityOne grounds team at Fairchild Air Force Base (FAFB) recently received their annual Contractor Performance Assessment Report (CPAR), and the team achieved commendable results amidst what proved to be a very challenging grounds season.
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 grounds team at Fairchild earned “Very Good,” the second-highest rating, on all but one evaluation area:


Evaluation Area Rating
Quality Satisfactory
Schedule Very Good
Cost Control Very Good
Management Very Good
Small Business Contracting Very Good
Regulatory Compliance Very Good

The team was able to accomplish these results despite facing a very challenging grounds season. Heavy rainfall in spring hampered progress, a major water line break off-base hindered irrigation operations, and the loss of experienced personnel complicated the grounds team’s efforts. However, the grounds team at Fairchild was able to rise to the challenge.
As stated in the CPAR, the new grounds workers were “performing at a high level” by the end of the season, and, notably, the team “provided tremendous support for the Fairchild AFB Air Show,” mowing designated areas to the proper specifications in a timely manner. Based on the team’s performance, the assessing official stated that she would recommend Skils’kin for similar requirements in the future.
Congratulations to the Skils’kin FAFB grounds team!

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.”

CEO Letter: January 2018


“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is noblest; Second by imitation, which is easiest; Third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Closing the calendar on another year gives pause to review the successes and challenges of the previous 12 months. You will often hear me urging for us to look forward, but there is value in taking stock in where we have been, doing what Confucius tells us is noblest, reflecting.
I am eager to start the New Year with the most dynamic and poised team to ever be a part of Skils’kin. We are moving towards a year that will be chock full of opportunity for personal and organizational growth and development. In February, we will begin delving into our strategic plan. For those of you that were here for this activity in 2015, you are well aware of the undertaking this is. I always attest to the power of words and there are few places that this is as evident as our Mission and Vision statement which were dramatically changed during this process previously.
In Confucius’ quote, he speaks to imitation as a means to gain wisdom; you need to look no further than our vision statement to know how disparate we are from that declaration. I am proud to be a leading company in creating opportunities and choices for adults with disabilities. Do we have room to grow? Yes. Do we have possibilities for learning? Again, yes. However, I am confident that we are primed for not only good but great work in the coming year. We are creating more focus and awareness in each area of our business; we are advocating at the local, state and federal levels for change; we are making a difference in every community we serve.
Skils’kin has navigated rough waters and yet continuing to create a wake of change as we charge ahead. I encourage each of you to reflect on the choices you have made around personal growth and purpose. I urge each of you to be steadfast in your belief in what we do. I ask each of you to demonstrate the power of inclusion, awareness and compassion.
Happy New Year to you and yours and I look forward to 2018 and what wisdom we can glean.
Brian Behler's signature

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