The Main Method for Instruction

At Skils’kin we prioritize our education and safety programs to create opportunities for all employees to feel comfortable, confident, and safe in their work environments. Every year Skils’kin departments are responsible for organizing and guiding monthly safety trainings that are relevant to the department activity. Ordinarily, these trainings are led by an instructor with a PowerPoint and a written test to prove competency. While these training sessions are effective and allow us to track and update our employees training it is not always the best learning environment for all of our employees. As Skils’kin considers all of the different departmental functions we ask our project managers to take ownership of their training schedule to make sure it is relevant training and teachable. Amanda Main is the Assistant Custodial Manager at the Fairchild Air Force Base who recently took her team through Ergonomics training.

In an effort to engage her team as deeply as possible Amanda Main decided to experiment with the implementation of her training. After taking in feedback from previous training sessions Amanda knew team members didn’t feel engaged through just listening, so she gave them the opportunity to do. Amanda created a role-playing situation for the training to take place in. The simulation gave participants the chance to learn by doing. Printed photos and labels transformed the training area into a van and a bathroom. Amanda asked the participants to go about tasks they would perform in their daily jobs, but the remaining team members were an audience that would “stop” the role-playing when they saw a violation of the ergonomics training. This experience engaged the whole group, allowing everyone to see and understand the training in a real-life situation. Through the excitement of the new training style, a high number of employees actively participated in the training and even went as far as to integrate more training outside of ergonomics during the simulation. From personal protective equipment to driving safety the simulated experience had the team engaged and everyone was having fun participating.

Innovation is a value at Skils’kin and applying new methods of learning allows us to accommodate everyone’s best learning style. Creating live-action situations to show competency and create engagement is a simple change that impacted our employees. We always encourage our managers to feel empowered and take ownership of what they think will make their department more effective. Through Amanda Main’s innovation, the distribution of this new training technique is underway. Employees and managers will now have more options with training to customize and teach topics in whatever method works best.

Courageous Kids Climbing Visits Spokane

“Climbing is about overcoming challenges and gaining new perspectives. Climbing has taught me that I am stronger and more capable than I think. It helps me put “real life” challenges into perspective. The lesson isn’t about getting to the top; it’s about the struggles and successes along the way. A rock wall, a rope, and a climbing partner are excellent teachers in confronting fears, overcoming perceived limitations, and practicing the art of teamwork. None of us get through lifealone, just like no one climbs alone.”-Megan Curran

Megan Curran, Director of AbilityOne Food Service Operations is a passionate person and fortunately, she has no hesitation to share her passions with others. Megan began rock climbing in 2014 and has worked with Courageous Kids Climbing since 2015. Jeff Riechmann, along with Larry Morton, founded Courageous Kids Climbing 14 years ago. Now it is an incorporated non-profit since April of this year. Jeff and Megan were two of several volunteers at Courageous Kids Climbing at the YMCA in Spokane Valley on, Saturday, September 14th in the early afternoon.

The climbing wall awaits as miscellaneous equipment lay nearby. Jeff explains, “I can get anyone up there as long as the are 3 months to 103 years old and weigh less than 300 pounds. Then he continued, “If there are problems, I have around $10,000 in equipment to help me.”

Bradyn and Kellan are a couple of the courageous kids here to climb. Kellan first tried the arc harness, a seated platform that is on ropes. He ascended past the halfway mark. Then when he joined us on the ground; he was ready to go back up, but with just the harness for aid. He made use of any grip he could and he ascended more than his previous climb. As he reached for each hold not only was determination in his eyes, so was happiness. His strength and determination was focused on the ascent.

Climber 2, Bradyn is visually impaired but also an unstoppable daredevil. He ascended multiple times and did every route except the most difficult one. His mother, Lizzy, said that he first climbed when he was 4 and now he is almost 10, Bradyn is devoted to this sport and leads a very active lifestyle.

He goes to every Courageous Kids Climbing event and Lizzy said that they are looking for someone to train him with outdoor climbing. He strives to be unhindered, free and in control. He also skis, hikes, snow shoes and rides a bike. (He is least fond of snow shoeing). He is ready for any obstacle.

Without people like Megan and Jeff many individuals might not even have a chance to best their limitations. This is good free fun that builds independence and fulfillment. Giving individuals with disabilities the opportunity to prove themselves. Megan stated, ”It’s inspiring to watch adaptive climbers reach new heights. Whether ascending in an Arc Harness or by pulling up their own bodyweight, a climber encounters new sights, textures, and sensations that shake up their everyday perception of the world. Nearly everyone can benefit from this style
of learning.”

Jeff adds, “Courageous Kids Climbing provides me the opportunity to share my love for climbing with those who may not ordinarily have the opportunity to experience climbing. This has proved to be a very rewarding experience. To see a child exceed the expectations of their parents is one of many rewards.”

The events in Spokane take place every April and September. If you would like more information, like other locations, please check Courageous Kids Climbing on Faceboook. Thank you Megan and Jeff for bringing this event to Spokane and allowing Skils’kin to be part of it.

Megan Curran and Jeffrey Riechmann: another day with Courageous Kids Climbing.

Returning to Pay it Forward

Often in life things work out in a way that allows us to return to the good parts of our lives. Whether it’s through reflecting on nostalgic moments, a coincidence that reminds us of the past, or something deep inside that remembers and draws us back. It is what we come to know to be a part of us, it’s what we are good at, and often, it is what we believe is right. Aaron Tomcho is a Skils’kin employee who has come, and gone and returned for these reasons. Over a decade, Aaron found himself employed at Skils’kin again.
In 2006, Aaron began receiving DVR services from Skils’kin’s Employment Department. As a young man, Aaron was working to establish himself as a member of Spokane’s workforce. Through the services he was receiving, he completed his GED while developing his interviewing skills and confidence in job searching. Aaron soon gained employment working on the Fairchild Air Force Base as a Grounds Laborer. Throughout the year, and to the end of the summer of 2007, Aaron continued to receive DVR services; as Aaron became independent, his job coach realized he didn’t need as much support anymore. By this point, Aaron decided he no longer needed services.
In 2008, Aaron went on to start his independent job search, feeling prepared and confident after his supported services and first work experiences at the Fairchild Air Force Base. His DVR experience taught him that he simply needed the confidence and practice to put himself out there. Aaron knew he was skilled and motivated, but he felt so inhibited by his anxiety that he convinced himself he couldn’t do it on his own. After a year of support, he was able to present himself professionally as a strong candidate during interviews. In his newfound independence, Aaron gained employment at Sacred Heart Hospital as a Lab Assistant. In this position, Aaron continued to develop his technical skills while working towards his long-term goals. As a lab assistant, Aaron worked in a fast-paced environment handling samples and processing data for the hospital. Over the next four years, Aaron took on more responsibilities and continued to build up his confidence.
With a goal of going back to school, Aaron continued to develop his career plan. In 2016, he began attending Spokane Falls Community College, working towards his associate degree in information technology. Although Aaron was successful in school, he soon encountered issues affording classes. In order to complete his degree, he needed to reevaluate his timeline as a student and take on a part-time job. Utilizing his job searching skills from so many years ago, Aaron still had the skills and confidence of a professional in the job market. During this job search, he came across a Skils’kin job post and he remembered his experiences from a decade ago. Aaron said he “remembered Skils’kin was a great place to work,” and applied for a position as Food Service Worker on the Fairchild Air Force Base. Aaron was able to easily land the job through his appreciation for and previous investment in the mission. He knew Skils’kin for “being compassionate to the people they serve,” and he wanted to join the mission to back in to pay back some of the support he received. Aaron is now working at the Fairchild Air Force Base Warrior Dining Hall as a Food Service Worker and is planning on starting classes in the fall semester to pursue his goals in cybersecurity. We wish you the best of luck on your journey, Aaron.

garden vegetables

Setting the Foundation

Transitions in Spokane is a non-profit that works to end poverty and homelessness for women and children in Spokane. Transitions operate six different programs that provide services and support for their members. The New Leaf Bakery and Café is one of their programs that provides job training through hands-on training in a commercial kitchen. Recently, the New Leaf program had been given a grant for a community garden. A community garden project is exactly what New Leaf wants to support in their community, but there are large landscaping and labor requirements associated with a garden to get it up and running.
Ian Graves, a Skils’kin HR Business Partner, volunteers his time and experience on the Transitions HR Advisory Board and heard about the community garden grant as it came in. Quickly, Ian connected New Leaf with Jon Booze, Skils’kin’s Grounds Project Manager at Fairchild Air Force Base. Once Jon heard from New Leaf he was able to get a scope of the project and volunteered his time to help. Jon helped get the garden started by relocating and distributing soil throughout the community garden, building a level foundation for the garden. Jon was happy to help and let New Leaf know he was an open resource to the ongoing projects surround the project.
Connections build a stronger community, and Skils’kin has a knack for getting involved and going above and beyond.

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.”

Fort D.A. Russell Days

The military celebration Fort D.A. Russell Days at F.E. Warren Air Force Base is held in conjunction with Cheyenne Frontier Days annually. The event welcomes the public onto the Air Force Base for a full weekend of events. From historical reenactments to military demonstrations and experiences, the weekend of Fort D.A. Russell Days is the best opportunity for a civilian to explore the F.E. Warren Air Force Base and begin to understand the mission and history of one of the oldest bases in the country.
The weekend of Fort D.A Russell Days and Cheyenne Frontier Days are highlights of the summer in Wyoming. The popularity of the weekends continues to grow as the community rallies around the base and the continued exploration of American history. With thousands of civilians coming out to the base, and a number of high ranking military officials, the appearance of the F.E. Warren Air Force Base is of paramount importance. Leading up to this event the Skils’kin Grounds crew on the F.E. Warren Air Force Base had been anticipating and preparing for perfection throughout the weekend. While every day on the base is important, it is not too much of a stretch to say this is the most important weekend of the year, every year. With that in mind, Project Managers, Supervisors, and Laborers alike were thinking about their part in making every year’s Fort D.A. Russell Days flawless.
The weeks before the event the supervisors stepped up and begin to take a score of everything that needed to be maintained before the Base opened its doors to the public. From additional parking, camping areas, event areas, and the regular mowing, the Grounds team had its work cut out for them. Garrett Kirk, the Project Manager at F.E. Warren, noted the supervisors played a pivotal this year, using their collective knowledge of the event from years past to create a comprehensive plan the team was able to carry out. So leading up to the event, the grounds team was preparing and planning out irrigation and spraying that would align with the set plan for D.A. Russell Days weeks from then.
Included in the events of the Air Force Base this year was a tradition that had not been held at the base for the past twenty years, but this year the Thunderbirds hosted their air show over the base. In order to guarantee the success and accuracy of the pilots, the F.E. Warren Grounds team was asked to mow out the centerline to create a point of reference for them in the sky. Over 10,000 citizens came to the air show, and many of the grounds workers were able to watch as well. As the Thunderbirds rolled overhead the Skils’kin team was able to let out a breath filled with relief and pride as they had completed the final event for the weekend. The show allowed everyone to reflect on the success of the base. The Crew was then released, along with the rest of the town, for a half-day after the air show leading right into the events of Cheyenne Frontier Days. During this week the city shuts down, in a sense, to come together to enjoy their community and its history.
The important work of the F.E. Warren Grounds crews is meant to go unnoticed throughout the weekend. Consistent, clean, and fresh grounds are merely the backdrop of a weekend of exploration and celebration. So let’s take the effort to look around the beautiful events we are lucky enough to attend, and notice the weeks of effort that lead us to these moments, and be thankful for the small things that make the big things so great.


Kure Products is one of Skils’kin’s Commercial Services’ fastest-growing entrepreneurial business partners. Kure works to put out the most elegant and sustainable shower dispensers on the market. As their business grows more homes, hotels, gyms, and spas are brought into the next stage of environmental practices and style. The newly designed products (featured in the image) continue to raise the bar for dispensers around the world as they penetrate the market overseas.
Skils’kin is proud to be a featured partner on Kure’s website. Some of the truest collaboration we take part in comes through partnerships with socially committed groups, and Kure is just that. Thank you for the ongoing support and credit as a partner, Kure, and we look forward to working together to build a better world.

A Declaration of Decoration

Recognition is just a word, but it is powerful when it becomes an action. When people are recognized for the good service they do it brings forth positive affirmation and happiness. It’s not always in monetary or material gain for it to be powerful. It just has to be given with honest appreciation for it to be impactful. It’s an action that can affect many, though it was given to one or a few.
When an individual or team is recognized in the Custodial department at Fairchild Air Force Base, it’s a big deal. It’s not often that the occupants of the buildings we service say thank you, let alone request one of our crew’s presence for something special. A Lieutenant Colonel from the 384 Air Refueling Squadron at building 2007 did just that.
On several occasions, this Lieutenant Colonel invited the custodial crew on route 3 to join the parties he would have to let those under him know he appreciated their dedication and hard work. He informed the Lead for route 3, Steven Bakken, that he very much appreciated the crew’s hard work and quality. Steven said thank you to these invitations, and he informed that Lieutenant Colonel that as much as they would like to do that they have a lot of work to do and must move on to service the other buildings on the route. The Lieutenant Colonel respected this, but it was very important to him that the custodial crew understood how much they were appreciated. Steven was told the Lieutenant Colonel would like to do something special for him and his crew the following week. He asked Steven if they could remain a little longer in his building after they were done cleaning. Steven said yes, of course.
Steven informed me of this conversation with the Lieutenant Colonel. He was elated for his crew but also wished all our custodians were recognized for the hard work they do every day as well.
The following week the Lieutenant Colonel presented and gave his squadron coin to Steven Bakken, and the custodians under him: Lyla Walker, Frederick Anderson, Marlon Barlow, and Cassidee Bursch. To be given this coin is a great honor. It was given out to this squadron for outstanding service and dedication, and going above and beyond expectations.
I spoke with the Lieutenant Colonel the following day because I was out when the coin was given. I thanked him for showing his appreciation in this wonderful way. He was surprised I came and thanked him, and said in a humble and sincere way, “I appreciate them. The crew is friendly, courteous and they do a wonderful job. They take their job seriously. I respect that.” I thanked him again for his appreciation.
This action of recognition was very much appreciated by the custodial crew on route 3, and when others hear about this recognition it will make a difference. It’s also an affirmation to them that their hard work and quality is noticed.
On behalf of route 3, Fairchild Air Force Base custodial, and all who work hard, people do notice and appreciate you.
Kimberly Schmidt, Project Manager Skils’kin

Why We Work— Amber Barker

Working, unfortunately, was created before my time. Therefore, it was never up to me if I would work or not. Work was instilled into me by my parents whose parents implanted work into them and their grandparents to them and so forth. That was the way of the world. Work was the future. Work is the future. Building, creating, always evolving. I’ll pass along the extraordinary work ethic I have unto my own children.
I do however, wish, I didn’t have to depend on an alarm clock or the rooster’s crow to ensure I wake up and make it on time to work. I’d much rather wake when I wake and arrive when I arrive. No such luxuries in my near future. ☺
So I’ll just keep on keeping on so that my family is taken care of and I can make sure to continue creating memories my kids can remember forever.
On a more heartfelt note; I want to know that I’m making an impact on someone’s life. As small and insignificant as it may appear I’m employing adults that are normally overlooked and devalued. I genuinely care about people at a personal level rather than looking at people simply as an employee. And that makes me CARE to work.
—Amber Barker
Skils’kin Project Manager, Altus Air Force Base

One Year Celebration of the Airey Dining Facility

In 2018 Skils’kin began food services operations at the Airey Dining Center. The restaurant is open seven days a week, including holidays. The daily service has regularly rotating seasonal items like sandwiches, Italian, grill food, soups, and a variety of options to meet any dietary needs. The Skils’kin team has played a critical support role in making the facility clean and functional for the Servicemen and women of Grand Forks in the past year.
Skils’kin’s involvement with the AbilityOne program is a critical part of our success and allows us to bring our mission to life across the country, creating over one hundred jobs in dining facilities alone. The addition of the Airey Dining Center was an exciting opportunity to develop a new team and build success through Skils’kin’s values.
Looking back on the past year, the beginning stages had a rocky start compared to how the team operates now. From August to November, the team was undergoing even more transitions as a new project manager was being hired. In order to ease the workload members of Skils’kin’s Leadership team stepped in to support and develop the operation. By November Christine Johnson was selected as the new project manager and operations really began to take shape.
Christine Johnson came together with a team of 20 to take up the supporting role at the Airey Dining Center, managing dishwashing, facility cleanliness and cashiering. From the beginning, it wasn’t a perfectly clear path, but through connecting and understanding each other’s strengths Christine and her team began to understand what the facility needed and how they were best suited to meet those needs. Through the winter the team was well underway. By taking note of the tools and equipment they needed the team was able to do their best work through the support they received from Skils’kin Leadership, the Military, Aramark Staff, and the Grand Forks Community.
Soon it was no longer an issue of understanding the workload, the focus was continually developing a strong team that was ready to grow with the operations. Throughout the year Christine had regular turnover that encouraged her to promote from within, honoring those who wanted to take on more responsibility and see the facility succeed. From the original team of 20, 5 are still working at Airey today. The crew began to focus on the culture they were creating and were mindful of each other through communication and accommodations. This core continues to influence new hires and welcomes them to the team. Another big key to their hiring success, outside of maintaining a great culture, was partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and WorkSource, the local VocRehab center. They have been big supporters of Skils’kin’s mission and help connect many great employees to our company.
Now looking back a full year later, Airey Dining Center is stronger than ever. The teams from each shift came together to celebrate and reflect on the year. Lots of good food was served and relationships were strengthened between crews. As excited as we are about our successes in the past, we are equally excited about the opportunities in the future. Growth and opportunities for promotions are rich and programs supporting employees’ needs are on the horizon. After a year like this, the crews at the Grand Forks Air Force Base are chasing down every opportunity to make their community better.