Diversity and Service

James Pope has been a Skils’kin employee since 2012 and is currently a Senior Project Manager over our Custodial and Food services contracts at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls Montana. James leads a team of over 60 staff that are responsible for creating an exceptional dining experience and keeping facilities sparkling clean for the servicemen and women of Malmstrom Air Force Base. He is able to achieve this through his outstanding crew of cashiers, supervisors, custodial and food service workers. The crew he leads is primarily made up of people with disabilities. Part of why James is so successful in leading a diverse crew is because of his experiences in the Air Force, defending our country.
James joined the military in 1986 as a Heavy Equipment Operator. He built runways, base camps, roads, parking lots and did a lot of base maintenance. Later he was deployed to Desert Storm, where his main task was digging fox holes, setting up base camps and taking care of a runway for stealth bombers. He served at bases in Guam, Florida, Germany, and Arizona, continuing to take on larger maintenance and recovery operations. During this time James built up his ability to manage large groups of people. After that, James applied and was accepted for a humanitarian tour to the Islands of Palau. During this time he was a part of a team that refurbished schools, built a clinic and police station, and went to outer islands to deliver much-needed school supplies and toys to many wonderful people. James continued to evolve in his military career and moved up in rank, leading an entire squadron on a base in England. During this time James learned how to deal with large contracts and budgets, as well as the politics of a foreign country. While he earned many personal accolades and awards, James said his biggest accomplishment in his military career was “having 12 Airmen get promoted ahead of schedule, earn ‘Below the Zone’ promotions, and being a small part of having five of my Airmen reach the two highest ranks in the enlisted structure. Three became Senior Master Sergeants and two Chief Master Sergeant.” James retired from the military in 2011 while serving at Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Now, still working on the same Air Force Base James says, “The military opened the door for me to engage with a whole spectrum of people and one of the things that I learned while serving is that people, no matter where they were born, no matter their status, background, ethnicity, or abilities, have more things in common than differences.” “Most want the same things in life. They want respect, to be heard, a sense of purpose, to be treated fairly, feel safe, and to take care of those close to them and in turn to be taken care of.” James works to support his team to achieve these goals on a daily basis. These are the attitudes Skils’kin values so deeply in relation to our mission. Through the many exceptional veteran employees at Skils’kin, it’s become clear that James is not alone in choosing to carry his military values forward into his civilian career. In James’s words, “In the military, we were held very accountable for our actions and we held our airmen accountable for theirs. We also had to collaborate. We had to work within our own branch as well as other branches of service, other foreign militaries, and civilian populace. All of these values hold true at Skils’kin as well. I hold myself accountable and all of my employees as well. I have to work with a diverse group of people and we have to collaborate not only with those in our own company but with the military, the community, and other contractors to be successful and carry out our mission.”
In James’s own words, “My proudest accomplishments at Skils’kin are very similar to those I experienced in the military. I have been given the opportunity to help open the door for over a hundred awesome people to step through and reach their goals. I’ve watched them all as they worked hard, excelled and amazed me. Our mission here at Skils’kin is to enrich the quality of life for adults with disabilities but the truth is those adults have enriched the quality of my life.”
Richness in character and value is paramount in Skils’kin’s standards for employees. Through our close connections to the military community, on bases around the country, Skils’kin takes pride in sharing and aligning our company values with the values veteran employees bring to the workplace after service in the military.
If you are interested in working in one of Skils’kin’s many diverse and supportive worksites, visit our career postings or call at (509) 326-6760 and launch your career with one of the many, frequently updated job postings.

Dining Hall Hangar 97 Wins John L. Hennessy Trophy Award

The John L. Hennessy Award is a global competition measuring food service excellence at Air Force dining facilities. The program reflects the dedication, pride, and fellowship of the foodservice industry at Air Force bases. The award measures sustained excellence in food service management, force readiness support, food quality, employee and customer relations, resource conservation, training, and safety. Recently, Skils’kin’s AbilityOne food service operation, Hangar 97 at the Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base, underwent rigorous judgment for three days as their dining facility was evaluated. During that evaluation, three Skils’kin employees were pinned for their outstanding performance—read their story here.
After over a month of waiting the results came in and Hangar 97 of Altus Air Force Base was selected as the Region 2 (West) winner of the John L. Hennessy Trophy Award for exceptional hospitality and service. This award represents the hard work and collaboration the Altus team exercises on a daily basis. It is truly a special recognition that required exceptional work to accomplish. Skils’kin is proud to contribute to Hangar 97 and Altus Air Force Base’s success and recognizes it would not be possible without the coordination provided by AbilityOne.
All teams collaborated to achieve this award. They continue to contribute not just to Skils’kin’s mission of enriching the lives of adults with disabilities, but also to the missions of the Air Force and Aramark. Amber Barker, the Project Manager of the Altus Food Service operation, explains how her team was able to achieve this trophy, “When you hand good people possibility, they do great things and that is the case of this gathering of employees here in Altus. Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.”
Congratulations to Hangar 97, Amber and her entire crew for bringing this great achievement the Altus Air Force Base, AbilityOne, and Skils’kin.

My Team, My Work, My Community

I first started working when I was twelve. I mowed neighborhood lawns, watered plants, house sat, dog sat, raked leaves, and shoveled snow. If anyone needed anything done in the neighborhood I was the first person they would call. I even made marketing material on my Apple IIe and printed them off on a dot-matrix printer. I learned the power of marketing early in my life and it has been entrenched in me since.

From a young age, I knew that I needed to work, I needed to make money, I needed to be a contributing member to society. At least that is what my family told me. I can remember my parents and my grandparents talk about work. It was ingrained in me from a young age that if you want something you have to work for it. I distinctly remember being around the campfire talking with my family about first jobs and each of my families journeys in their careers.

Stories of my Grandma being very proud of the fact that she was raised on the farm, moved to the big city of Seattle and became the very first female bank teller at Washington Mutual. Stories of my Grandpa leaving school in 6th grade to help support his family during the great depression. Eventually working for Roosevelts’ New Deal program, the Civilian Conservation Core, helping build the Vista House on Mt. Spokane. Eventually starting his own company, Imperial Data Supply, in Spokane, WA.

What wasn’t talked about in my family was WHY we work. I didn’t know why I worked, it was just the way things were done. It was a means to provide for myself, a means to get material things. My understanding of why came later in life. My favorite jobs were always in service to people. Whether that was selling radios to customers at Huppins, serving the finest quality meat from Egger’s Better Meats, working Front Desk for the Residence Inn by Marriott, to consulting on what kind of LASIK treatment a patient should have at Restore Vision Centers.

I was least content when I felt I was just a cog in the wheel of commerce. My work was less purposeful, I was not engaged at all levels. There was something missing. My family’s model of work was to put your head down and be as successful as you can. So naturally, that is what I did. I was in my mid-thirties before I figured out what was missing. The common thread between fulfillment, purpose, and happiness was for me to be in service to others.

My current position as VP of Commercial Operations at Skils’kin has given me the opportunity to be in service once more. Every day I get to work hand in hand with some of the most talented and compassionate people I know. I get to help set goals and build a high-performance team. I get the opportunity to build people up and reflect their best selves back to them. I get to be in service to my team, my company, my community. This is why I work.

-Steve McBride


Share Why You Work

Skils’kin Sponsorship Night at The Spokane Civic Theatre

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a play based on a book of the same name. It’s been an international hit on the stage since 2013 and was a Tony winner for Best Play in 2015, now it is coming to Spokane Civic Theatre. The play’s main character is a 15-year-old young man named Christopher. He has an extraordinary brain. The play follows him through a restless investigation of the world around him that leads to an earth-shattering discovery that will change his life forever. While it might not be clear from this brief description, this play holds a very special place in the Skils’kin community. From the beginning of the play, it’s clear that Christopher is different than the other characters. He feels lost in a world where everyone else has a place, cared for by some but isolated by the rest, he’s deafeningly smart but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. While the play never states it, it could be speculated that Christopher is on the Autism spectrum.
Spokane Civic Theatre has been one of Skils’kin’s custodial customers for over a year. Quickly they’ve become meaningful community partners as they welcomed and embraced our Commercial Services employees into their culture. When The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was slated to be performed Skils’kin was one of the first to be brought in as a sponsor. The connections continued as the production was being directed by Skils’kin’s own Melody Deatherage.
Throughout her childhood Melody found her passion for theater in school. She went on to study theater at Eastern Washington University and found Spokane Civic Theatre as a community where she was free to express herself. Her first role at The Civic was Titania from Shakespeare’s classic play A Midsummers Night’s Dream. From then on Melody has followed her passions of acting and directing and has been a part of over 50 productions at The Civic. She says when acting there is a sense of liberation as she is able to directly connect to the audience, but directing has a variety of other rewards as she is responsible for almost every aspect of the production. Melody says the goal of her productions is to make an emotional impact on the audience. The cast and crew are a diverse group of people coming together to work towards a common goal, each show is meant to communicate thoughts and emotions that create a lens through which the audience sees a part of the world. In a show like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the thoughts, and emotions communicated to the audience are unique to the disability community. Throughout the show, Christopher is met with barriers that most people don’t understand from first-hand experience. It allows the audience to witness these challenges playing out on the stage, and they get a chance to see and begin to understand them without judgment. The Civic is truly a community that is committed to telling the stories of everyone. Melody recognizes that a show like this would never be possible without the commitment of every single person involved, and feels honored to direct this production.
Through Skils’kin’s co-sponsorship of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we are offering discounted tickets to Skils’kin employees for the opening night show, as well as an exclusive mixer event before the show. This event, discount, and deep connection to our community theater would not be possible without Melody.
Join us for Skils’kin Sponsorship Night at Spokane Civic Theatre’s opening night production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time on March 22nd at 7:30 pm, or any other showing from March 22nd-April 14th on Thursdays through Sundays.
Purchase tickets online, or call the box office at (509) 325-2507

A Wave of Gratitude

“[Skils’kin] is, by far, the best company I’ve worked for.” —Tim Taylor
Tim Taylor has been a Commercial Services Attendant for over 10 years at Skils’kin. He’s worked on several crews and a variety of contracts and projects. What stands out about Tim is he’s a people person. Over the years Tim has been able to connect with many people, and that’s helped him know his true self.
Recently, Tim shared an experience with Nichole Garcia, Commercial Service’s Assistant Manager. While picking up a paycheck he let her know he’s been enjoying his job more than ever these days. Tim told her that working at Skils’kin has given him the opportunity to feel important. Not just important in the sense of getting his tasks done, but an important person to others. Tim has made many friends while working at Skils’kin, and he goes out of his way to help them however he can. Most recently, Tim built trust and a friendship with one of his coworkers. As she was going through a transition in her life Tim was a listening ear for her. Tim wanted to help and offered to give her rides home, as well as helping her as she was moving houses. Tim went out of his way to support someone in their time of need and made a new friend of one of his coworkers. When Tim is asked why he does things like this it’s simple for him, “You can never have too many friends.” Helping others has made a big impact on Tim’s life. It gives him a sense of accomplishment, and he feels a wave of gratitude for the chance to help others.
Nichole felt a deep connection to what Tim shared with her. It’s the reason she comes to work every day at Skils’kin. In her new role as an Assistant Manager, she seeks to support the crews in as many ways as possible. When Nichole started at Skils’kin she made it clear that it was okay to talk with her, and now, almost every shift crew comes in early to talk with her and their supervisors and get ready for the day.
Tim recognizes that Skils’kin is unique. At other jobs, it felt like something was missing. At Skils’kin he knows he can count on his supervisors. They are willing to listen without judgment and try something new at the suggestion of any crew member. By having these supports Tim is better equipped to pay it forward and support others.
“This work opportunity gives me the chance to share my light”—Tim Taylor

“Dancer Dancer”

In late February I drove through the falling Spokane snow on the freeway, on my way to meet Aaron Krout. A four-wheel-drive truck merged from an on-ramp and started fishtailing back and forth in front of me. Thankfully, it was able to regain control and pull off to the shoulder. The pace of the freeway slowed down. I wondered how many people would even be attending the Spokane Valley Senior Center dance this afternoon, and hoped whoever did would arrive safely.
In a large ballroom seven or eight seniors sat at tables as music lightly played. Community Inclusion Specialist Bill Knight introduced me to Aaron. He took my hand and said hello before returning to his coloring page. “We ordinarily don’t do coloring sheets here,” Bill tells me, but the weather affected attendance, and the dancefloor was empty.
“Dancer dancer,” Aaron says to himself before walking to the window. Barbara Knisley, a senior center member, watches him sway back and forth to the music as the snow falls outside. She knows he wants to dance, and joins him on the dancefloor.
Before that, Barbara told me how Aaron “clicked” with the group when he joined. Everyone is there to dance, and he was never shy on the dancefloor. I asked her if Aaron has taught her anything. She says Aaron has shown her how to practice patience and caring. “Are you kidding me Barb?” another lady interjects from across the table, “you’ve always been patient and caring.”
Barbara cares for Aaron as they dance. They’re comfortable and familiar with each other. She asks him to slow down his rhythm and they enjoy the rest of the song together, like old friends. It’s clear, Barbara has spent a lifetime practicing her patience and caring.
I turn to Bill as they dance. I’m looking for the story. I’m looking for tension, growth, change. “A good relationship doesn’t expect someone to change” Bill answers. I realize change was never the goal. Aaron was able to connect with this group right off the bat, because they share interests and because he wanted to connect.
Aaron wasn’t going to change the group, and the group wasn’t going to change him. Simply, Aaron added to the group. He contributes his liveliness, his heart, his charming dancing, and extra smiles. Barbara tells me “Aaron has given more to this group than we can give to him,” as I pack the camera bag. I thank her again and go to Aaron. He takes my hand says goodbye. As I walk down the hallway I hear his passion echoing, “Dancer dancer”.
–Zack Rosse, Marketing Manager

Quilting Community

For the past three years, Debra Hays has been a Community Inclusion (CI) member with Skils’kin. She has joined several community groups throughout Spokane with some assistance from CI Specialists. These activities are specialized in her interests and help enhance her skills and independence. Through the years Debra has participated in many activities, but for the past year and a half, she has been consistently attending the Corbin Senior Center quilting group, The Sandbox Quilters.
As a member of The Sandbox Quilters Debra has grown in her sewing, cross stitching, and quilting abilities, but more importantly, she has grown as a community member. The Sandbox Quilters are a close-knit group. Every week they meet and have lunch and help each other. Debra says that this is one of her favorite parts of the group. As Debra has become more independent she has gotten better at asking for help. The other women in the group assist Debra in her quilting projects and help make sure she is able to get on her bus safely. In return, Debra provides help for others where she can. She enjoys being able to offer her opinion on quilting patterns when others in the group ask for input. She was also able to inform one of the members of what the process of receiving DDA services was, as that member was preparing to do so for one of her family members.
Debra’s experiences with The Sandbox Quilters have helped her move toward independence. She expressed how she felt stronger in her social skills and how she continues to use them throughout her life. Debra is truly engaged in her community.

In Memory of Gerri Moore

Gerri Moore was Skils’kin’s Community Relations Facilitator from 1997 to 2010. She was an integral team member during that time and helped shape Skils’kin as it is today. Her role meant she took ownership of Skils’kin’s outward facing messages as a marketer, as well as the internal activities as a curator of culture.
Gerri is remembered at Skils’kin for the community impact she had on many different groups. She was always willing to step in as the front desk receptionist when needed. Her calming presence and joyful outward expression made her an excellent person to greet everyone who came to the Boone Office. She also helped coordinate meetings for the Board of Directors. Her professionalism and readiness to coordinate and accommodate ensured the Board of Directors’ meetings were engaging and meaningful. She also developed a voice for Skils’kin as she began to communicate to the valuable constituents and advocates in the Spokane community through the monthly Skils’kin newsletter and annual report. These publications have continued to help solidify Skils’kin’s identity to this day. Finally, for rest the Skils’kin employees, she was always best remembered as the event planner. Annually at the holiday party or the summer BBQs, Gerri created events that connected employees to each other and to the culture of working at Skils’kin.
Aside from the impactful work she did at Skils’kin, Gerri is remembered as a friend. She always had a bright smile and had a great sense of humor. She didn’t drive but people didn’t mind picking her up to go places because she was great company and such a good conversationalist.
Gerri’s connections to Skils’kin run deep. The work that she did for the company helped shape standards for our community relations to this day. For those who knew her at Skils’kin understood her passion for people and her ability to connect with others. Gerri Moore will always have a lasting legacy at Skils’kin.

Advocacy in Employment

Sorretie Jaro is a leader and an advocate for disability rights in Washington. By working with several advocacy groups Sorretie is facilitating a conversation about how to spread a message and lead change. Sorretie works with the adult chapter, the Student First group, and the People First Lilac Chapter through People First of Washington, an advocacy group that was established in 1981. The group is meant to be an educational resource and support group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). They believe in equal rights as citizens, regarding job opportunities and advocating on issues that affect their lives. In partnership with People First, Sorretie is also a SARTAC (Self Advocacy Resource and Technical Assistance Center) Fellow. Through this partnership, Sorretie is spreading awareness with the power of video. She created her project for SARTAC, “Empowering Advocates Through Video”, with the help of Skils’kin’s marketing department. She has found that for some people advocating through a video can create a larger impact by casting a wider net.
The Skils’kin employment department is excited to work with someone like Sorretie. With a vision for change it is always exciting to be a part of new partnerships and advocacy moments in Washington.

Finding Talent

Lisa Russell is the General Manager at McDonald’s on 29th in Spokane. She has worked at various McDonalds for the past fifteen years as she recently transitioned to Spokane from Idaho. In that time she has worked her way up to the position she currently holds. Lisa built a very successful store in South Spokane through high standards, strong people skills, and an attitude that is directed towards coaching, correcting, inspiring, leading and developing an amazingly diverse group of people. Yet, in the fast food industry there is a high turnover rate and regular new hires, and for that reason, several of Skils’kin’s job seekers are valuable staff members to a manager like Lisa. While she is willing to invest in her employees not all of them are willing to take her guidance and grow in their positions.
Liz Mascarin is one of Skils’kin’s Employment Advisors. She prides herself for being a business-minded job developer. Liz was able to engage with Lisa and demonstrate how partnering with Skils’kin could truly benefit her restaurant. She was able to address Lisa’s needs and introduce her to Bob Parry, her new lunchtime prep worker. Bob was ready to work and commit to his position. As time passed Lisa had positions continue to open and close, but Bob remained. Liz recognized Lisa’s need for reliable employees, and soon Marci Kagele and Fallon Ford joined the team.
When we interviewed Lisa, she told us about her team and how happy she has been with everyone. Bob, Marci, and Fallon are independent in their roles, and she is seeing room for growth in everyone. Each of the employees have opened up to Lisa and other staff, and through their investment, all of them won employee of the week at some point. She says they truly are exceptional employees because she can rely on them. When she assigns them to a shift she has full confidence that they will be there, and that is the peace of mind she needs. Yet beyond these employees as individuals, Lisa says she’s seen a cultural shift her in her store. All of her employees have a better understanding of people’s needs, they are communicating better, they know how to address change and move forward as a team.
General Managers are responsible for the pace and rhythm of their store. The manager’s ability to hire the right workers, schedule the right shifts, and create workflows makes up the core of a business’s ability to run. Lisa made a more consistent staff through the hires she made. It integrated higher levels of accountability and standards of work, just as it created comradery and a culture of communication. A manager is meant to inspire a team of diverse people, they learn and grow with them. Lisa has led her team towards success while tapping into a valuable talent pool.