Preparation Through Transition

The transition out of the school system is an exciting and stressful time for all. It is a real landmark of success and the beginning of a new chapter. The changes and choices quickly start to define what your life will look like at this time, but there is a great deal of relief if there is a plan established. Setting goals and a direction for your life after school can be overwhelming, so knowing what the next steps are as you meet them allows for greater and easier success for all.
The variety of transition programs throughout the Spokane school districts is vast, making for great access to all who utilize it. In these programs, teachers work with their students to start thinking about life after school. This personalization means students can prepare for the choices they make. Whether it is working, going back to school, or starting their own business, these teachers are willing to explore all options in order to find what will be successful for their student.
Aubra Pollack is the Capstone teacher at Cheney high school. The Capstone program is meant to assist students with the transition from public school into the adult world. The Capstone team is dedicated to each and every student. They provide oversight, one-on-one training, transportation assistance, personally oversee the work experience and make each day a new and fun experience. Through these experiences and coaching, one of Aubra’s students had a clear idea of what he wanted to do after high school. For this young man, all the support he needed were available as he was connected with the lead grounds staff at the Fairchild Air Force Base. As he and Aubra met with the Skils’kin staff it became clear that through the Capstone program’s deep teaching and coaching out of high school they had supplied Skils’kin’s teams with many excellent employees.
Through dedication and planning the high school transition may be traversed easily before it is finished. With the right care and mindset, plans can be set to start reaching goals that will determine life after high school.

Celebrating Cheryl Vaden’s Life

Cheryl Vaden had worked for Skils’kin on a SourceAmerica contract for over 10 years as a cashier. On January 29th she passed away after a long battle with illness. While she worked as a cashier at Montana’s Malmstrom Air Force Base she was better known for her positive attitude and smile. She was a true team player and the kind of co-worker everyone looked up to. She displayed all of Skils’kin’s values, but especially Relationships, as she formed meaningful connections with our Air Force community. Her supervisor James Pope felt assured that the last interaction most people had in the dining hall would be with Cheryl at the cash register. James also estimated the hundreds of positive customer comment cards he received that raved about her politeness, attitude, and professionalism.
She left a legacy for all of the staff at Malmstrom to try to be the most considerate and thoughtful people they can be. She will always be remembered during the holiday season as she read The Night Before Christmas annually. Last December she was not able to attend the holiday party, but she was missed so badly her team engaged with her by video chat to bring the spirit of her joy to the party. Her co-worker Tracy Reiding has formed a plan to commemorate Cheryl, “We need to put her picture up at our next Christmas party. We also need to put it up at every Christmas party after that because she needs to be there with us.”
Koreen Varty was a co-worker and friend of Cheryl, and I will leave you with the refection of her loss as I feel others who knew Cheryl would share these feelings. “This beautiful lady was not just one of my employee. She was my friend, she was a fighter and she was amazing. No words can describe the loss that we feel. Her smile will be greatly missed. You fought an amazing fight my friend Cheryl Lynn Vaden. You will always be in our hearts. Love always.”

Veterans Task Force

The Veterans Task Force is an ad hoc group comprised of military veterans and representatives of resources that are for veterans. This group is meant to create connections for vets at any stage of their life and transition into civilian life. Peer connections, veteran speakers, and resource groups specific to veteran assistance creates growth for the vets who attend. The Veterans Task Force is a community group always looking to expand their offering to their members.
Ian Graves, HR Business Partner, started his connection to this group through the VA employment program Skils’kin had partnered with in the past. Ian had seen Skils’kin’s veteran employees as some of their strongest, and by building a stronger connection to their resources Skils’kin could help improve their experience and recruitment. Ian returned to his supervisor and wanted to develop this connection into something greater and on-going with his discovery. Without a doubt Ian was told to explore this collaboration, he was allowed to be his own leader.
As Ian continued to integrate himself in the group he saw some deeper connections. He realized that there was more opportunity to give back to the group and create some crossover. While attending a meeting Ian and the rest of the group noticed they weren’t finding the most conducive environments for sharing information and inviting speakers. Simply, it was too noisy. Quickly Ian offered Skils’kin’s space in order to host a better meeting and make the connection for their members of Skils’kin’s mission.
During the Veterans Task Force meeting at Skils’kin, Ian invited Chris Cale, Director of Quality and Compliance, and Brian Behler, Skils’kin CEO, to speak and demonstrate Skils’kin’s role in the veterans’ community. Chris, as a veteran himself, spoke about his transition to civilian life. He talked about his various positions and how they kept him connected to his military roots. He said, “When you’re transitioned out of the military, going back on the base for work feels like you’re going home.” Brian, on the other hand, addressed more global issues. He spoke of the institution of work, and the importance of job availability for all. Veterans and people with disabilities alike make transitions in their lives, and employment can help ground those efforts. Both of these speakers made a lasting impact on the Veterans Task Force and the rest of the meeting flourished with conversation and connection regarding the veteran transition.
The connections and collaborations we make at Skils’kin are meant to empower individuals, enrich lives, and create a stronger community. By working with the Veterans Task Force Skils’kin has made a lasting partner committed to providing opportunities and engaging the Spokane community.

Support Skils’kin by Donating to Innovia Foundation

At Skils’kin, we’re proud to partner with Innovia Foundation, a local community foundation with more than four decades of experience in driving community transformation in the Inland Northwest.
Innovia Foundation serves as a catalyst for change, bringing together nonprofits, social organizations and community leaders — passionate people from all sectors and backgrounds. The foundation works with donors to invest in long-term solutions, addressing specific challenges in our region and supporting opportunities that make Eastern Washington and North Idaho vibrant and healthy.
We have partnered with Innovia Foundation to help build our endowment and ensure that Skils’kin has a sustainable future. We are grateful for our partnership with the foundation because we know no single organization can do this work alone. Skils’kin is confident Innovia is the right partner, through shared values and a vision that is accomplished through community building. It requires all of us.
Please invest in the long-term future of Skils’kin by donating to our endowment fund at Innovia Foundation. Here’s how to take the next step.

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Sara Propelled Herself

Sara Karaffa is an exceptionally compassionate and adaptable individual who has found great success in securing meaningful employment at two different SourceAmerica job sites.
Sara had an exemplary work history leading up to her employment at Skils’kin. She has shown exceptional commitment and work at every job she had held in the past. Once employed in the food service area of the Malmstrom Air Force Base, Sara took on several responsibilities and quickly felt comfortable as she had worked in food service previously. Over the next four years, Sara grew strong in her position until it was terminated. But Sara was not ready to end her employment with Skils’kin, and Skils’kin was not ready to part ways with Sara as an employee.
Sara started the very next day in Custodial services, and it was entirely new to her and her expertise. She knew kitchens and cash registers, not chemicals and cleaning supplies. When it came down to it Sara felt she wasn’t ready, and hid. “I was afraid to ask for direction… I avoided work by locking myself in the bathroom until my shift was over… within a week I was called in and my performance was reviewed… If I didn’t do my job, I would lose it.” This was not who Sara was. Known for her exceptional performance and adaptability, Sara propelled herself into learning and committing to her new position.
Over the next year and a half, Sara proved herself the way she set out to and achieved the Employee of the Month Award for May of 2018. Soon after the Shift Supervisor position opened Sara decided she’d like to pursue it. Malmstrom Air Force Base Custodial Project Manager Jason Ewart reviewed the applications and interviewed all other candidates to find Sara was the best applicant. Sara had shown dedication over the years, she took challenges head on, and she genuinely wanted to be there every day, all qualities Jason looks for in his supervisors.
Sara competed for and earned advancement into a supervisory position, where, for five months now, she has been supervising and training a crew of four on her evening shifts, as well as continued to cashier in the dining facility once a month for the Montana Air National Guard.
The shift Sara leads runs smoothly. Everyone is on the same page and is focused on the mission. Sara’s workers feel comfortable with her, she works as a mentor to provide skill knowledge, keeping the shift running smoothly. Sara believes everyone is capable and she understands struggles when learning new tasks and doing things differently. Sara personally trains workers on her shift, and everyone views her as a natural leader.
At one time, Sara faced serious challenges that put her employment in jeopardy. Now, through dedication and collaboration, she has overcome those challenges and continues to excel in a supervisory position. She is a proven custodian and cashier, leader and trainer, and Supervisor for the Malmstrom Air Force Base. She embodies the definition of personal success. In every way, Sara is an example of leadership and inspiration to others, both with and without disabilities.

John L. Hennessy Pins Awarded to Skils’kin Staff

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. Skils’kin’s AbilityOne food service operation at the Altus Oklahoma Air Force Base underwent rigorous preparation to excel during the judges’ three-day evaluation of their dining facility.
In order to prepare for this inspection the Skils’kin team, Aramark team, and military staff felt the need to expect the unexpected. They began by assembling a list of extensive tasks to completed before the inspection. These tasks included extra power washing, cleaning vents, and door hinges, as well as shampooing carpets in the office areas. These additional items were all done on top of the exceptional and detailed cleaning the Altus team keeps up. The three days leading up to the judges’ arrival were hectic and chaotic in employees’ words, but the effort was worth it once the judges arrived. During their stay and inspection of the dining hall, they were thoroughly impressed by the facility and the manner in which it was run. From top to bottom the Altus facility met the judges’ expectations and they were truly wowed by the personable staff operating the dining hall. After the inspection, nine John L. Hennessy pins were awarded to staff members, three of them being from Skils’kin. Amber Barker, Brandi Spriggs, and Shawntoya Darville were the pinned Skils’kin employees. They felt proud and deserving of this honor as they work to exceed expectations every day they come to work, regardless of a panel of judges.
The results of the John L. Hennessy Award will not be known until March of 2019, but the accolades already received are noteworthy. Food Services Project Manager, Amber Barker, said the week was crunch time, they had a higher guest count than ever before, and it was all hands on deck. Amber and her staff pulled through and deserve the pins and praise the judges offered.

Frigid Times

Grand Forks North Dakota is not exactly known for its moderate weather. The summers are hot and the winters are colder. In fact, while this is being written it’s sunny with a high of -5⁰F and a low of -11⁰F. For the past month, this has been the average. Due to this extreme weather, even by Grand Forks’ standards, businesses all over town have been closed as a precaution for employees. The same applies to Skils’kin’s employees at the Airey Dining Facility in the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Yet the dining hall must remain open to feed the Airmen and women on base.
With a limited number of workers from the agencies that serve the dining hall available, those that were there witnessed collaboration between the teams that showed a deeper mission that they all shared. Between Skils’kin, Aramark, and the military staff on base roughly fifteen people came together to share the responsibilities keeping the dining hall operational during these closures. From military staff helping out with dishes and running the registers, to Aramark staff helping with snow removal and serving, the present members of the facility were operating as one whole team.
While washing dishes Skils’kin Dining Project Manager Christie Johnson recalls Aramark’s Chef Dan Horski approaching her just to say “Thank you, I really appreciate you.” It was unexpected, and it reminded her that no ones’ hard work goes unnoticed.
Aramark manager Jim Maides also stepped up by creating a plan of action ensuring crew members’ safety through jumpstarting cars, planning carpools, and even picking up an employee’s mother to take both of them home safely.
At the end of the day, the leadership team between all three of these entities wanted safety for their employees and to continue operations and serve the men and women of the Air Force Base. Under extreme weather conditions, everyone involved rose to the task and guaranteed results. Thank you to our loyal workers, and please continue to stay safe during these frigid times.

Finding Deeper Connections

Anthony Vela’s job is a custodian on Skils’kin’s commercial services crew. He is well spoken, engaging, thorough in his work, and is passionate about many things outside of his job. How Anthony aligned his passions of prop making and costume design with his custodial position isn’t clear from the onset, but it is the deeper connections that Skils’kin offers to make that prioritize an individual’s goals.
After beginning his position in commercial services in 2018 Anthony worked on installing soap dispensers and providing janitorial services. While every project he had worked on was important, currently he is working on the team servicing the Spokane Civic Theatre, and this makes all the difference for Anthony’s goals. Through his work at the theater, he has been able to build relationships with most of the staff at the theater and express his interest in working in the costume and prop studio. The staff at the theater encouraged him to create a portfolio of his work, which the Skils’kin Marketing department worked with him to assemble. Anthony hopes to begin volunteering for the Civic Theatre’s production of Young Frankenstein to show his dedication to the theater, and to keep his foot in the door when the right position opens up.
Anthony expressed that it was really easy to become familiar with the theater through his custodial position and had become a recognizable face. He also thanked the marketing department for working with him and teaching him some professional points on how to present himself and continue to build his portfolio. As he volunteers and waits for a position to open up he appreciates the fact that they will know where to find him, as he is a fixture in the theater at this point.
Working towards a goal is always a long process, but that doesn’t mean some shortcuts don’t exist. Through Anthony’s position and ability to meet the right people he is putting himself on the right track to break into a difficult field for most to pursue. Keep up the dedication Anthony.

Project SEARCH Student Finds Employment

Project SEARCH is a national transition to work model for high school seniors with disabilities. The program is for 18-22-year-olds who plan on gaining competitive employment after school. Project SEARCH affords them the opportunity to gain genuine work experience through several unpaid internship settings, while creating a core group of resources to build upon that experience, and a forward-looking team that develops job opportunities during and after the program. In 2006, Skils’kin was selected as the only supported employment agency to partner with Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and serve as a single point of entry for jobs at the medical center.
Bechalynn Scharff is a student who joined the Spokane Project SEARCH in the fall semester of her 2018 school year as she prepares to graduate. Within a cohort of eleven other students, she began to experience the power of Project SEARCH. Along with daily class time, Bechalynn was placed into six-weeklong internships. Her first placement was with Providence Facilities crew, gaining grounds and landscaping skills first hand. Her second internship was with Providence Dining Services, practicing her ability to weigh, measure, and follow multi-step instructions regarding specific dietary needs. Along with all of this experience, one of the most important features of the program is the daily class time and the ability to reflect and share experiences through the cohort of peers. Understanding the struggles and successes of each individual makes for a deeper meaning of everyone’s experience and uncovers more of what holding a job looks like quickly. For Bechalynn, it was through this feedback she was able to equip herself for work so effectively. Aaron Kagan, the Spokane Project SEARCH Lead Teacher, noticed Bechalynn had a vocational mind. He said during her internships “she was ready to make a fix when it was brought to her attention. Her problem solving was sequential, and the hospital recognized that and knew they could teach her anything.” Through her immersion in the hospital setting and outstanding performance, the Providence Hospital recognized her employability and offered her a permanent, part-time, paid position on their Central Warehouse crew. In this position she will be filling orders from different floors and delivering them around the hospital, acting as a reliable stream of supplies for nurses and doctors.
Bechalynn’s exceptional and professional attitude, her aptitude to learn and adapt to a variety of tasks, and her understanding and willingness to make tomorrow better than today is what makes her so employable, and through Project SEARCH she was able to manifest these traits. This program offers a deep commitment to the institution of work, and Skils’kin is honored to provide a piece of their support through our dedication to employment for all.

Taking Next Steps

Ben Jones is a sharp and humorous individual. By the punchline of his first joke, he has the next one ready to go. Generally, this makes him endlessly entertaining to be around, but sometimes it’s hard to know when to turn it off.
For several years Ben Jones worked as a cashier on Skils’kin’s AbilityOne food service operation at the Fairchild Air Force Base. This job was great for him—good experience and hours, lots of social interaction, and great pay. But while working on the Air Force Base there is a higher expectation, and no room for second chances, so it turned out to not be the right fit for Ben.
For the Skils’kin employees that knew Ben, they believed he deserved a second chance. Upon their recommendation, Ben was hired on to Skils’kin’s Commercial Services crew. Steve McBride, Vice President of Commercial Services, hired him and began to understand his communication style and love of comedians, and how it could become problematic at work if his favorite mode of communication was sarcasm. The Commercial Services team began to work with Ben to coach him on when it was or wasn’t appropriate to use sarcasm. Ultimately Steve let him know that he will keep getting fired from jobs if he continues to communicate using sarcasm. After that conversation the change was clear. He didn’t give up on being funny, but he was ready to communicate differently while working.
Now that Ben was more employable than ever he wanted the right job. During this time he was working part-time at Commercial Services as well as the deli at Safeway. Ben was really looking for something full-time. He was tired of multiple commutes and wanted to consolidate his work. Without any luck job searching on his own Steve McBride helped connect Ben to Skils’kin Employment Services. While he wasn’t a fully supported client the employment team offered up their resources and Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist Shanna Swan worked with Ben to update his resume and fully prepare him for the job search.
Through the experiential training of Commercial Services and the support from the Individual Employment team, Ben had the confidence to interview on his own and is now employed full time at Burger King in the Spokane International Airport.
Through collaboration and willingness to understand an individual, Ben is now more successful than ever. The second chance is not the solution alone, it is the experience of making it to the other side that made the second chance valuable.