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FOCUS ON An Update from ODC, Inc.




Each year in December, we at ODC take a moment to step back and reflect on the achievements of the individuals we serve and the importance of our community partners, without whom many of those achievements would never have been possible. We do this at a celebration called the Annual Awards Dinner, a truly magical evening where we present ODC’s Personal Achievement and Employer of the Year awards along with a community Partnership Award. We are pleased to tell the stories of our award recipients and hope that, by reading them, you can share in some of the magic of that evening as well. SEE AWARDS / PAGE 3

TOP PHOTO: 2017 ODC, Inc. Personal Achievement Award Recipients and Nominees | BACK ROW (L to R): Allyson Broeske (recipient), Gabriel Barrios, Nathan Derks, Vicky Van Beek, Sam Uthmeier, Matthew Erickson, Casey Tiffany, Ryan Kuehl, Mark Peters, Travis Gray (recipient) | FRONT ROW (L to R): Jessiah Treichel, Michael Ward (recipient), Sean Little and Katie Clements (recipient) Not pictured: Jason Smazal, Jeffery Daven and Matthew Dolan | BOTTOM PHOTO: A "full house", including family, friends and community members, attended the event to honor ODC award recipients. PLEASE NOTE: ODC and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development – Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) work together in supporting individuals with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment. Thank you to DVR for being a partner in our mission!

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve




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In many cultures around the world, the milkweed plant is a symbol of growth and transformation. Milkweed is a reflection of ODC’s goal to facilitate growth and positive transformation in the lives of people with disabilities. All proceeds from Milkweed Market support ODC’s mission.



Opportunity Development Centers, Inc.

KATIE TOP LEFT: 2017 Marshfield Area Personal Achievement Award recipient, Katie Clements, pictured with (L to R) Steve Clements, Jeff Wichlacz and June Clements | TOP RIGHT: Katie at work, "better and stronger each day" |BOTTOM LEFT: 2017 Stevens Point Area Personal Achievement Award recipient Michael Ward, pictured with ODC coworkers (L to R) Michele Politoski and Holly Bronk.



2017 Personal Achievement Award Recipient, Marshfield Area “When I got to know Katie about four years ago, I was immediately struck by her strength and dignity in the face of what often seemed like insurmountable struggles. When Katie was about 14 years old, she went to her mother expressing feelings of depression and anxiety – and, says her mom, that’s when the nightmare began. After years of many different counselors and different trials of medication, she slowly began making improvements in her life. It was at that point, in 2008, that Katie was introduced to ODC. Katie wanted to work, but she was still very, very sick. She spent much of her initial time with ODC in and out of hospitals, dealing with a mental illness that was consuming her life. ODC

supported her through some temporary work experiences but nothing was a good fit... until she completed a work experience at the Marshfield Public Library and was hired. Katie started her journey as a library “page”, tasked with reshelving items. That was almost seven years ago; since then, Katie has received a promotion and is happier than ever! She is now a Library Assistant, checking items in and out of the library and assisting customers in other ways. I know that having work in her life has been a lifesaver for Katie. It has given her a sense of pride in a job well done, and the confidence to get better and stronger each day. We are so proud to know Katie, and so happy that ODC could play a part in her growth and success. It was my pleasure to nominate her for ODC’s Personal Achievement Award.” - Jennifer Blum, ODC Director of Communication & Donor Relations


2017 Personal Achievement Award Recipient, Stevens Point Area “Someone recently asked what comes to mind when we think of Michael... and we said, ‘He just makes us smile!’ He has a wonderful sense of humor and always has a positive attitude – and we mean ALWAYS! He has a smile on his face and a warm greeting for everyone he meets.

MICHAEL Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

Michael has an extensive work history and a lot of great experiences under his belt; however, it was a matter of finding that perfect workplace that allowed him to work at his own pace while maintaining the quality that is so important to him. After working at a number of community jobs that weren’t a perfect fit, Michael sought assistance from ODC. At p3

TRAVIS TOP LEFT: 2017 Wisconsin Rapids Area Personal Achievement Award recipient, Travis Gray (second from left), with (L to R) Tim Engelien, Dominique Tobler and Stephanie Engelien | TOP RIGHT: Travis Gray with Christina Eberhardt, ODC Employment Coordinator.

our facility, he received the training, guidance and support he needed to build his confidence and increase his skills. Michael was presented with an opportunity to be part of an ODC work crew charged with cleaning our Stevens Point facility. We can’t tell you how happy we were when, in April 2014, Michael was offered a permanent position cleaning our ODC location. Michael’s work ethic, his desire to achieve outstanding quality, and his ability to positively contribute to his place of employment are some of the reasons that we nominated him for the 2017 Personal Achievement Award. It is very, very welldeserved!” - Holly Bronk, ODC Administrative Assistant & Michele Politoski, ODC Accounting Assistant


2017 Personal Achievement Award Recipient, Wisconsin Rapids Area

Then in July, right after his seasonal position ended, Travis was offered a position at Dollar Tree. He was eager to learn the job and caught on quickly. From the very start, he needed minimal job coaching. Travis is on time to each and every one of his shifts and really looks forward to going to work. Travis is an excellent advocate for community employment, encouraging others to explore that option. Although he no longer participates in ODC’s center-based services, he still maintains the friendships that he made there. The social aspect of work at ODC is very important to many people, and often times a barrier to community employment; Travis shows others that leaving ODC really isn’t so scary, and that this fear can be overcome with great success! If you ask him today, Travis will tell you that he loves his job and he loves his life. He lives independently, has lots of good friends, and is always busy with activities when he’s not working. He really has found his niche!” - Christina Eberhardt, ODC Employment Coordinator

“Travis a happy man, and proud to tell you so! He began training at ODC in 2002, shortly after graduating from high school, and he was interested in community employment from the very beginning. He was always willing to participate in new jobs, including work crews at local businesses. He volunteered with Random Acts of Kindness and at the Bethesda Thrift Shop, and was an active participant in the ODC men’s cooking group.


His first community job was at Burger King, where he worked as a dining room attendant. He then took on another part-time job as a cleaner at Central Wisconsin Counseling. Last spring, he also worked a seasonal position in the garden department at Home Depot.

It was that will, combined with a little support from ODC, that led Allyson to become ODC’s 2017 Personal Achievement Award recipient.


2017 Personal Acheivement Award Recipient, Northwoods Region Finding the right job can be tough for anyone, and people with disabilities may face even more barriers and challenges when it comes to earning a paycheck. But for Allyson Broeske, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

“When Allyson came to ODC, she immediately told me that she was ready to work,” said Eric Gudmunsen, ODC Opportunity Development Centers, Inc.

ALLYSON TOP LEFT: 2017 Northwoods Region Personal Achievement Award recipient, Allyson Broeske, with The Waterford at Colby Executive Director, Kelly Crowder | TOP RIGHT: Allyson pictured with her proud family | BOTTOM LEFT: Paul and Rita Meier, owners of Blue Heron BrewPub in Marshfield, accept the 2017 Partnership Award.

Employment Coordinator. “She felt that the sky was the limit for her… and she was right!” When ODC provided Allyson with assistance in finding a job, we found that she loves spending time with elderly folks, so the opportunity to participate in a temporary work experience at The Waterford at Colby senior living community was right up her alley. During this “trial period”, Allyson had the opportunity to “try out” the job with on-the-job support from ODC staff, and her prospective employer had the opportunity to see if Allyson would be a good fit. In six weeks time, her impressive work had earned Allyson a job offer. “The residents light up when they see her coming,” said Gudmunsen, “and staff have all welcomed her to the team, recognizing how much she brings to the organization.”

“Allyson has become a key component of our daily routine,” said Kelly Crowder, Executive Director at The Waterford. “We are grateful to have such a loyal, hardworking and enthusiastic employee!”

BLUE HERON BREWPUB 2017 Partnership Award

“At ODC, we work to build inclusive communities where people with disabilities contribute as neighbors, friends, co-workers, volunteers and citizens. But this can only be accomplished with the help of our community partners – those who provide opportunities for work and training to the individuals we serve, and those who give generously to support our mission. Paul and Rita Meier, owners of Blue Heron BrewPub in Marshfield, are truly such partners. Seven years ago, they hired through ODC for the first time; almost four years ago, they hired their second ODC employee. Over those many years, they have always been willing to open their business to temporary work experiences and training for those that wanted to “try out” a job or gain kitchen experience. They have “pulled out all the stops” when hosting ODC’s Employer Appreciation luncheons and our Evening to Inspire events, making sure that we’re honoring our special guests in style. Earlier this year, Paul and Rita also showed their support by presenting ODC with a check for over $16,000, proceeds from their incredible Oktoberfest event at the pub. While we know that the Meiers work with ODC because the employees they hire make a real, positive difference for their business, we also know that our mission is important to them personally. I’d like to quote Paul and Rita as they described their feelings to us:

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve


‘What we have realized by hiring two individuals through ODC is that not only do they contribute to the overall workforce, their attitudes bring a huge boost to kitchen morale. We’ve learned that disabilities aren’t really a very remarkable thing. When you can find the strengths within an individual, they can make a big contribution to whatever they do in life.’” - Pam Ross, ODC President & Mary Blanchard, ODC Employment Services Supervisor


2017 Employer of the Year Award, Stevens Point Area “UWSP has been a tremendous partner in employing the individuals we serve. ODC has worked with the organization for over 25 years, beginning with a paper shredding job in the Personnel Department. This position is currently filled by Donald, who is in his late 70s and has been employed there since 1998. When asked when he will retire, Donald states, ‘I’m going to work unitl I die.’ Now that’s commitment! In 2015, the UWSP Museum of Natural History worked with ODC staff to develop a tour guide position for an individual that we support. A script was developed and programmed into his Dynovox communication device, which he uses for all of his verbal communication. He now delivers information about the displays to the museum’s visitors. University Dining & Summer Conferences currently employs a total of six individuals at DeBot Center and Dreyfus University Center. They are one of our most accommodating employers, with a willingness to modify hours and job duties to fit the needs of their employees. They have also allowed us to assist individuals with mandatory trainings so that information is easily understood.

We appreciate UWSP and University Dining & Summer Conferences for recognizing the value of working with ODC Employment Services to fill their positions, and the value of bringing diversity to their workplace.” - Ginger Groshek, ODC Supported Employment Manager


2017 Employer of the Year, Wisconsin Rapids Area “It was about a year ago that I visited Jennings & Co. one afternoon. I introduced myself to Trudi Sturm, General Manager, and asked about any openings that they might have. Trudi shared that they were having trouble filling some spots in the kitchen and it had recently dawned on her that she should call ODC, as she had experienced such a great fit with the first employee she hired through ODC back in 2013. Trudi literally said, ‘Just bring me some resumes - I can hire two people. I trust you guys!’ So our team reviewed the best candidates and I delivered a few resumes to Trudi... she barely even glanced at them and asked, ‘When can they start?’ She reiterated her trust in ODC, knowing we would only recommend those individuals who were the best fit, not only with the job duties and abilities but with the workplace culture and environment. She hired three people right then and there! Later, Trudi said her new employees are hard-working, eager, dependable and loyal. Trudi said she wouldn’t hesitate to contact ODC again if she ever had a need, and she has – quite a few times this year! Jennings & Co. has been incredibly supportive of all the individuals they’ve hired through ODC. From the very beginning, each employee has truly been ‘one of the team’, which is really more like family. The support provided by coworkers in the kitchen has fostered significant growth in many of these individuals.

LEFT: 2017 Stevens Point Area Employer of the Year, UW-Stevens Point; receiving the award were (L to R) Angel Alcantar, Suzette Conley, Russell Reeves, Ray Reser, Lisa Viegut and Lisa Nelson | RIGHT: 2017 Wisconsin Rapids Area Employer of the Year, Jennings & Co.; receiving the award were Peter Jennings and Trudi Sturm.


Opportunity Development Centers, Inc.

But to me, the true mark of being a good employer is seen in the fact that their employees LOVE their jobs, and are successful and happy. That’s our goal in ODC Employment Services… so a big thanks to Jennings for helping us reach that goal!” - Christina Eberhardt, ODC Employment Coordinator


2017 Employer of the Year, Northwoods Region Nicole was only 13 years old when an accident caused her spinal cord injury. Despite her doctors’ prognosis, she was determined to gain back some strength and movement... so she decided to add alternative therapies like acupuncture and massage to the more traditional modes of physical therapy. Now, 10 years later, Nicole has had success in bringing back some movement and function. She has also found her calling as a certified hypnotherapist at Back to Bliss Center for Wellness in Colby. When it came time for Nicole to seek employment, she needed a little assistance... and that’s where ODC entered the picture. ODC staff assisted her in finding the “perfect job”, one that suits her to a tee. “Nicole is amazing,” said Monica Groth, owner of Back to Bliss, which has centers in Marshfield and Wausau as well. “I’m so glad we found her through ODC... she’s “our kind of people”! Back to Bliss has also hired another member of their team through ODC: Trinity, who works as a laundry aide. Trinity is supported full-time by an ODC job coach. “I feel like diversity is so important,” said Monica. “You can see it in the workplace, how it changes people. It’s also important for the community to see diversity, because many people are not familiar with anyone who is not like them. Now our staff doesn’t look at Nicole as a person with a disability – she’s just Nicole.”

“It’s great to have an organization like ODC that supports that diversity,” she said. “We couldn’t have Trinity here without her job coach because I don’t have the time to provide that support. Because of ODC, we are allowed to have this wonderful diversity in our building.” - Jennifer Blum, ODC Director of Communication & Donor Relations


2017 Employer of the Year, Marshfield Area “It has been my honor and pleasure to work with Walmart staff over the last 18 years. During that time, ODC has placed over a dozen individuals in various departments throughout the Marshfield store; what has consistently impressed me is their willingness to not only hire individuals through ODC, but their commitment to helping those new employees grow and develop into mature, responsible, and dependable Walmart associates. They work hand in hand with our staff, offering constructive feedback and direction, and allowing additional training time for employees needing further development. Walmart has been a true partner with ODC in helping those we serve to achieve their goals. They have a huge variety of departments in which to work, and have been open and receptive to moving newly-hired associates through different department settings to ensure a good job match. Walmart continues to offer great employment opportunities to the individuals we serve, and works collaboratively with our staff for the common goal of success on the job.” - Mary Blanchard, ODC Employment Services Supervisor

LEFT: 2017 Northwoods Region Employer of the Year, Back To Bliss; receiving the award were owners Monica and Josiah Groth | RIGHT: 2017 Marshfield Area Employer of the Year, Walmart; receiving the award were (L to R) Randi Thom and Zach Houston, pictured with ODC's Mary Blanchard.

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve


Opportunity Development Centers, Inc. 1191 Huntington Avenue Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494

Administrative Office 1191 Huntington Avenue Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494 715-424-2712 2406 East 21st Street Marshfield, WI 54449 715-387-1161 41 Park Ridge Drive Stevens Point, WI 54481 715-344-4563 1027 S 17th Avenue Suite C Wausau, WI 54401 715-842-2300


Make a gift!

www.odcinc.com/donate 715-818-6451


THANK YOU ENOUGH! Thank you to the over

660 INDIVIDUALS & ORGANIZATIONS that made gifts to ODC in 2017.


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2018 January: Focus on Ability  

Focus on Ability is a newsletter published by ODC. Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to achieve their work and life goals.

2018 January: Focus on Ability  

Focus on Ability is a newsletter published by ODC. Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to achieve their work and life goals.


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