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.

Elegance

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.
 
Sincerely,
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.

Acting with Accountability

Skils’kin takes even the small things seriously. It allows us to provide exceptional service in all of our departments. From Employment to Commercial Services to Payee Services, each employee at Skils’kin is responsible for looking over the details and getting things done right. This commitment sets us apart. It allows us to manage unpredictable situations with greater confidence and control.
 
The Quality Assurance Department is the driver of our new technology at Skils’kin. They allow us to innovate, track data, and create solutions. Recently, Skils’kin was able to leverage our technology to ensure client safety and employee accountability when an allegation was made regarding our services. From this claim, Quality Assurance launched an internal investigation. They began to aggregate data and facts surrounding the situation that ultimately refuted the accusation.
 
Quickly and easily we were able to determine what really happened, and it gave us the opportunity to live out our values. Through our innovative technology, we were able to act with integrity as we brought forward critical information, and ensuring accountability. The case was resolved and everyone involved had reason to be at ease with the outcome.
 
Skils’kin is always striving to get things right. Whether it is providing better services, creating a stronger financial plan, or protecting our people, Skils’kin prioritizes our innovation and our ability to get things done right.

Why We Work, Featuring Ben Rascoff

Why do I work? Four simple words that subjected me to hours of introspection. The easy part was recounting the variety of jobs I’ve been fortunate to have. The first job I can recall (if you can really call it a “job”) was picking up pinecones in the yard while my dad raked. “A penny a pinecone,” he’d say. I thought that was a pretty fair deal and was very happy accepting my two dollars or so after clearing the front and back yards. Then there was the paper route I did for a few years with my buddy, back when kids delivering papers was still a thing in Spokane. That was quite a lesson in discipline as we quickly learned that no matter how hard we tried, 4:45 a.m. arrived every day (rain or shine!) along with large stacks of newspapers that needed to be folded and delivered. When I turned 16, I immediately sought part-time employment and landed a job bagging groceries at the Rosauers on 14th and Lincoln. Over the years I’ve also worked at a number of restaurants washing dishes, bussing tables, serving, and tending bar. I’ve been a telemarketer (briefly!), worked at a local newspaper, been the guy that places flyers on your front door, and currently work as an attorney. Looking back, “work” has been one of the most consistent things in my life. So … why is it that I work?
 
My knee-jerk response to the question is “money”, and I suspect that is most people’s immediate response. However, the pennies I earned with pine cones or paper delivery weren’t necessary to my survival; they instead marked the beginning lessons of independence, pride in a job well done, and the development of my character to acquire the discipline in doing what needs to be done and achieving self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency. These traits exist not just weekdays between 9:00 to 5:00, but in all aspects of my life. I am certain that, upon reflection, the vast majority of us would agree that we receive more from our “work” than just money.
 
People involved in soliciting and collecting charitable donations know that one of the motivating factors for a donor is the positive feelings that the donor experiences when they give a gift, be it a gift of their time or money. In other words, people give not only to help the people and causes they believe in, but because it also makes them feel good. Humans, for better or worse, are inherently self-interested creatures. I am no different.
 
Why do I work? Well, I certainly work to provide money for myself and my family. I also work to genuinely help people and provide value to the world where I can. But, I admit it. I also work because it makes me feel good. Work allows me to feel like I contribute something to my community. It gives me a sense of independence and accomplishment, and feelings of skill and pride. I am not only giving by working, but I am taking something from it as well; “work” is important for my wellbeing.

-Ben Rascoff

Drive to Succeed

Skils’kin is a company that finds stories of success in every aspect of our operations. The reason why is because we hire employees who want to work and overcome obstacles to achieve their goals. Ashley Ewing is a newly promoted supervisor of the Malmstrom Airforce Base custodial contract. Ashley was hired in 2015 as a custodian. She worked on the base for one year then, due to health complications, she left the company.
 
Nearly three years later, Ashley returned to the Malmstrom Air Force Base and began working as a custodian again, but she held a deeper drive to succeed. With her new ambition and goals in mind, Ashley inquired about the Custodial Supervisor position. In order to gain the promotion, Ashley needed to demonstrate her ability to lead through her actions. She needed to display strong work ethics, communication and leadership skills, and a commitment to her team at Skils’kin, and finally, she would need a driver’s license.
 
Over the following months, Ashley demonstrated her abilities to be a leader and understand the responsibilities of the supervisor role, all while studying for her driving exam. After taking the test Ashely received her results and did not pass. Some people think success is defined by how well you are doing, but a better example of success is how a person handles failure. Ashley told her supervisors how challenging the test was, and let them know she was not willing to give up.
 
Upon seeing her determination to succeed the Malmstrom Custodial crew rallied around her and asked if there was anything they could do to help her. On her breaks and during lunch she worked with her co-workers studying and preparing for the exam over the next few days. With the extra help from her co-workers, Ashley passed on her second try.
 
Within the next couple of days, Ashley was offered the promotion to the supervisor position and took it. Determination led to success, but it was her team’s belief in her that helped her achieve the promotion. The culture formed at Skils’kin encourages people to keep on trying. Through the support of her community at work and her own tenacity, Ashley showed that goals are attainable.

Extending Experience

When Fairchild Air Force Base Grounds Project Manager Jon Booze was able to offer a Grounds Laborer position to Zach Cooper he saw the impact immediately. There was a full range of emotions, but mostly Jon saw a boost in confidence. For the first time in a long time, Zach really believed in himself, and this was going to be his first job.
 
After the job offer was extended, Zach was called into the Skils’kin headquarters for a new hire paperwork meeting. When Skils’kin extends a job offer, the new hire paperwork meeting is considered their first day on the job, and if an employee falls short then maybe there are other barriers to their ability to work. In this case, Zach missed three meetings for new hire paperwork. The HR Coordinator, BreAnna Mauth, working with him knew she was going to need to rescind his job offer based on this rough start. No one wants to be on either side of this conversation, but it was necessary.
 
Bre scheduled the first new hire paperwork appointment, and Zach never arrived. When rescheduling the next two meetings Bre took it upon herself to be more communicative and supportive than before, to ensure he understood the expectations of working at Skils’kin. Still, he was unable to complete the new hire paperwork meeting and she knew what action needed to come next. While the conversation was hard, Bre had a feeling that this wasn’t the end of the road for this employee. A few weeks later Skils’kin was contacted by Zach, and he wanted to start fresh. He understood his mistakes and was willing to take ownership of them. Like before, Bre was willing to move forward, as long as he was ready to meet the set expectations for work. A few days later Zach arrived at his new hire paperwork meeting fifteen minutes early and prepared. He set himself up to succeed and Skils’kin was ready to support him if he was ready to work.
 
Through the roller coaster of this hiring process, Bre understood she was investing in a person, because she really believed in him and wanted to see him succeed in the long-term. Starting a first job has a lasting impact on one’s working life, and will inform expectations for years to come. Skils’kin is ready to meet people where they are at presently and set them up for success. For everyone, this looks different, but to an extent, expectations are set for a reason. Giving someone a pass on the first day is not the right way to set expectations for work at Skils’kin or any other job.
 
Job ready-ness is key for new hires, and for many of our employees, we want to see them move on to new jobs after they work for us. In order to make sure we’re curating high-quality employees at Skils’kin we must uphold common business standards and expectations while offering grace and accommodations to coach employees to become better workers. A common theme of a job-ready work environment is setting the right expectations and giving them the framework to succeed.
 
This experience allowed Bre to realize she has never worked at a company like Skils’kin before, “I don’t know of another company that is so willing to let someone learn a lesson while still believing in them.” A job is making a positive impact on this employee’s life by creating a solid foundation of work ethics and experience.
 

“This job has shown me that I am good at a lot of things I didn’t know I was good at. It has made me a stronger person and I like that I’m doing something for a good cause.”–Zach Cooper

 
Zach is still working on base as a Grounds Laborer. His Project Manager has seen the impact of his first job and continues to build up expectations around work with him, and the rest of the crews. The crews and supervisors on-base reinforce expectations with each other and create a coachable work environment for everyone. In doing so, everyone gains valuable experience and builds confidence around work.