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FOCUS ON A Newsletter by ODC, Inc.


BRIGHT FUTURES AHEAD! “Inspiring” doesn’t begin to capture the emotion of a Project SEARCH graduation ceremony. This year, our fifth class of graduates was honored in Marshfield; in Wisconsin Rapids, we celebrated with the inaugural graduating class. Project SEARCH is all about the interns, of course... the young adults with disabilities who come to the program during their last year of high school, ready to learn the skills that will help them journey into the world of work. Because of their experiences at the program’s host sites - Aspirus Riverview Hospital and Saint Joseph’s Hospital – and with the assistance of ODC job coaches and a dedicated instructor from each school district, they have gained work skills and social skills and have learned how to live more independently. They have worked through problems and learned how to be part of a team. They have proven to themselves that they can be successful. SEE PS GRADS / PAGE 4

ABOVE: Dane shows off his Project SEARCH Certificate of Completion as he celebrates with parents Suzanne and Chris Golden at the Marshfield ceremony. “When Project SEARCH was presented to Dane, you could see his eyes light up,” said the Goldens. “He said, ‘This is really going to be something for me!’ You can now see the confidence and skills that Project SEARCH built in Dane - it’s changed him. Today, he says, ‘Don’t worry, mom and dad, I’ll be fine!’” “Our hope,” they said. “is that he will be a balanced adult who is productive, independent, self-assured and happy! This program has not only given him confidence, but it’s given us confidence that he will be all of those things.”

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve


About Project SEARCH The Project SEARCH program began in 2011 in Marshfield and 2015 in Wisconsin Rapids. In both locations, the program is a partnership between ODC, the local hospital and school district, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), Community Care Connections of Wisconsin (CCCW), and IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct). The hospitals serve as the host businesses, providing student internships within a wide variety of hospital departments and providing space for classroom instruction. ODC provides job coaching services and assistance in seeking employment after graduation. The school districts identify students who will benefit from the Project SEARCH model, and dedicate a full-time classroom instructor to the program. Project SEARCH is an internationally-recognized model of employment training for young adults with disabilities. The program was developed in 1996 by Nurse J. Erin Riehle, then the director of the emergency department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). AS the flagship program, CCHMC provides technical assistance for replication and overall leadership to Project SEARCH worldwide.

In Our Own Words

1191 Huntington Avenue Wisconsin Rapids, WI 54494

This column, In Our Own Words, features the inspiring words and stories of those on the front lines of ODC’s mission: our staff, our volunteers and our supporters, as well as the parents and caregivers of people with disabilities. In this addition, we feature Jenna Moran of Incourage, a Wisconsin Rapids community foundation that has supported ODC since its inception in 1994. "One of the most rewarding experiences

2406 East 21st Street Marshfield, WI 54449

I’ve ever had was witnessing a community come together to celebrate each other,

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our assets, and the place we all call home at an event that I helped to plan.

M-F 7:30 AM - 4:00 PM

What I just described is the fifth annual Community Picnic in Wisconsin Rapids,


presented by Incourage on August 3rd. I hope you were able to join the thousands of your neighbors who attended to enjoy each other’s company, phenomenal food and

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entertainment downtown on the riverfront. Each year, I continue to

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unique. In addition to more than 50 community partners, over 300


be amazed by the number of businesses, organizations and PEOPLE who come forward wanting to contribute to something special and volunteers donated their time! Many people wonder why this event is offered at no charge. In the spirit of Incourage’s vision – “realizing a community that works well for all people” – we want the picnic to be inclusive and accessible


to everyone who lives here. We intentionally remove barriers such

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welcome and able to participate.


as admission fees and dress codes, so that everyone will truly feel

Our partnership with ODC is all about this shared vision: communities inclusive of all of their members, recognizing that people are the community’s most important asset and that positive community change happens when individuals have the opportunity

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to realize their full potential.

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called CommunityLife, with a start-up grant. This service helps

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connections with people in their community and fully participate in

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To that end, Incourage is supporting ODC’s new service, individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment, make new all of the great things our community has to offer. We’re proud to partner with ODC in creating opportunities for all of our community members to engage as employees, volunteers, neighbors and friends." Jenna Moran Advancement & Communication, Incourage

Make a gift! www.odcinc.com 715-818-6451


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Heather, Chris and Dustin (top) displayed their certificates – and shared their cake – at their Retail Helper Certificate of Competency graduation celebration. Chris (bottom right) enjoyed at least one piece of cake!

ONWARD AND UPWARD, GRADUATES! A huge “congratulations” to our most recent graduates of the Retail Helper Certificate of Competency program! Heather, Chris and Dustin each earned their certificates and we hosted a celebration at our Marshfield center, complete with a graduation cake! The graduates received a Certificate of Competency from Mid-State Technical College, verification that they successfully passed a test of their retail skills, including inventory management, stocking and customer service. This certificate will aid in the job search for Dustin and Chris; Heather has already been hired as a Retail Helper at a Baltus Convenience Store in Marshfield.

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

The certificate of competency program, developed and implemented in 2014, is a partnership between ODC, Weiler Convenience Stores and Mid-State Technical College in Marshfield, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR), and Community Care Connections of Wisconsin (CCCW). ODC and Weiler stores worked with Mid-State to develop a curriculum that includes the essential functions of a service industry position. Using this curriculum, ODC staff provide on-site education and training at a Weiler store. Upon completion of the training, individuals are tested on all components of the training and a Mid-State instructor will sign off on the Certificate of Competency. Onward and upward, graduates!


ABOVE: “This is one of the great things we hear about Project SEARCH, and the reason we keep adding more program sites around the state,” said Governor Scott Walker (far right), who attended the Wisconsin Rapids graduation ceremony. “Aspirus Riverview Hospital has found that those businesses who choose to participate in the program may come in thinking that they’re doing a service… but what they find is that the interns add as much to their workplace as they get in return.” ”I can say, without a doubt,” said Todd Burch, CEO of Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics, “that the hospital is a better place today because of the contributions of these 12 Project SEARCH interns.”


Each and every one of them has grown, and leaves the program with a bright future ahead. But Project SEARCH has also been a learning experience for ODC as an organization. Ten years ago, this same group of young adults would likely have graduated from high school, then come to ODC’s center for a period of time while we worked with them to obtain community employment. But these graduates will not enter ODC’s work center... they will move directly into a job in the community. Participation in the Project SEARCH program, with its high expectations and intensive learning experiences, helped them to grow and learn more quickly. For 50 years, ODC’s center-based programs have provided a supportive environment where people at all levels of ability can participate in work and training. Over the years, however, we have put tremendous effort into transforming our organization and increasing community employment and other community opportunities for those we serve. Our vision is that our communities are strengthened and enriched by the abilities and contributions of all members. What we’ve learned over the past several years is that many of the individuals we serve can be successful in community employment with the right approach, and the right amount of support. We know that people can grow beyond our expectations – and beyond their own expectations – if we provide them with opportunities. We see them grow in confidence, independence and self-esteem, being truly included as valued members of the work force and their communities. “Hurray” for our Project SEARCH graduating classes of 20152016! May all of your dreams come true!


ABOVE: Austin received his Project SEARCH Certificate of Completion from Ann Lepak, ODC’s Director of Employment Services, at the Wisconsin Rapids ceremony. “When the interns arrived on September 1st, they instantly won the hearts of our employees,” said Jane Walczak, Manager of Education / Employee Health at Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics. “We all appreciated the energy and positive attitude they brought with them each and every day. They wanted to be part of our organization, and they wanted to work hard there. We will miss their smiles, and the spirit they brought to our organization.” “At first,” said Walczak, “we worried if we had developed a program that would benefit them. But what we did not realize is what bringing them into our organization would do for us. We hope that this year has brought as much joy and pride to them as it has to us.”

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TOP LEFT: “It’s been amazing, seeing the growth in David over the past year,” said Bill and Sue Akey, parents of Wisconsin Rapids Project SEARCH graduate David Akey. “We thought that after high school, David was doing pretty well. ‘He’s grown,’ we said, ‘and he’s doing fine’. Then, when he started with the Project SEARCH program… the routine of getting up every day and getting ready for work, driving himself to work and coming home when the day was done… it’s been a tremendous experience. You can tell that he’s very proud and happy.” “David’s dream is to work as a pharmacy technician,” they said, “a job he learned about and practiced during Project SEARCH. How would he ever have known that this job existed had it not been for Project SEARCH? He never would have had that opportunity.” MIDDLE LEFT: Marshfield Project SEARCH graduates celebrated with ODC staff and Anne Dick, Project SEARCH classroom instructor. “When I think back to Sept. 1,” said Dick, “I think about the 12 interns that I saw walk through the doors of Saint Joseph’s Hospital. They had no idea what road lie in front of them. They took a leap of faith, in an attempt to discover something more about themselves.” "When I asked them to identify their strengths and their career ambitions, they found this to be challenging,” said Dick. “They had a difficult time believing that they had skills that would be of any value to an employer. Today, I see young adults that believe in themselves, and are ready to make decisions and obtain a career. In these individuals, I see courage, strength, confidence, respect and friendship.” BOTTOM LEFT: Trinity and each of her fellow graduates spoke at the Marshfield ceremony and had the opportunity to thank everyone who supported them throughout Project SEARCH, including ODC staff. “Every year, I continue to be awed and inspired by our Project SEARCH interns,” said Mary Blanchard, ODC Employment Resource Manager. “The changes that we see in them from September through May are sometimes nothing short of miraculous. This doesn’t happen all by itself… there is such an incredible group of people that come together to work collaboratively and cooperatively with one mission in mind: to help this group of young people transition from interns to working adults.”

What's next for the graduates? ODC staff begin the task of assisting Project SEARCH interns in obtaining community employment long before graduation day! Of the 12 Marshfield interns, six are employed at businesses including Walmart, Bows and Britches Daycare, Capital Building Services Group, Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital and Mueller Publishing. Five of the interns, including one that is also employed, are participating in temporary work experiences that provide additional skills training and often lead to a job! Those businesses include Biggby Coffee, Stoney River Assisted Living, Eastside Salon and County Market.

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

Of the 12 Wisconsin Rapids interns, three obtained employment before graduation at Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics Outpatient Rehabilitation, Copps Food Center and Advanced Janitorial; three more have since been hired at Metcalf Lumber, Taco Johns and Walmart. Six of the interns are participating in ODC work crews at the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters and Stevens Point Brewery this summer. All interns who are not yet employed are working with ODC staff on job development activities.


ABOVE: Richard’s Hotel Marshfield colleagues, including Connie Carolfi, Banquet Captain, and Ashly Chamberlain, Front of House Manager, nominated him for the Heart of Hospitality Award.

THE HEART OF HOSPITALITY “Always working hard.” “Will come in when we need extra help, and does it with a great attitude.” “Goes out of his way to help.” “Is always upbeat and friendly.” “Deserves to be recognized for consistently showing a great “heart of hospitality!” These words were used to describe Richard, who was nominated to receive the Heart of Hospitality Award by his colleagues at Hotel Marshfield... and Richard won, hands down! “Richard had so many nominations, we didn’t even have to vote!” said Tricia Berg, a member of the hotel’s executive team which was charged with choosing the recipient. The Heart of Hospitality Award is given twice per year at properties managed by IDM Group, a hospitality company specializing in hotel management. The award celebrates individuals who “contribute to the professional culture of the facility”, “represent the spirit of hospitality”, “display the compassion of a hospitality professional”, and “execute the high standards that guests expect and deserve”. Richard is one of 11 ODC candidates hired by Hotel Marshfield since the business opened their doors in 2014. He works as part of the banquet team, responsible for setting up and working with the team to ensure a flawless event for hotel guests. Richard’s award celebration was attended by his colleagues including Cory Latourell, Hotel Marshfield General Manager; Becky Rogers, IDM’s Director of Operations; and Nedd Nedderson, IDM President. p6

“People are sometimes challenged by the thought of hiring people with disabilities,” said Rogers. “Cory didn’t even think twice about finding opportunities for ODC candidates, and has done it time and time again. It’s been very powerful for the rest of the Hotel Marshfield team, too. Yes, it’s about that individual, but it pays dividends in so many ways.” Nedderson agrees. “I’ve been in the hospitality business for 40 years, working alongside people with disabilities," said Nedderson. "Everyone says that it’s wonderful if the individual you hire works out, but the truth is that these candidates are a huge ‘win’ for the business.” “We sought out opportunities to hire people with disabilities for two reasons,” he said. “Number one is their commitment to being there and working hard; number two, the most important reason, is attitude. They have an ability to ‘lift up’ everyone that they work with. Everyone respects them because they’re able to earn that respect immediately.” “Working with ODC is a ‘win-win’ for us,” said Latourell. “We don’t even really do interviews with ODC applicants that come our way because we know ODC only sends us the best candidates. There’s no doubt at all about bringing anyone on board.” Congratulations to Richard... and many thanks to Hotel Marshfield for being a partner in our mission: to empower people with disabilities to achieve their work and life goals!

Opportunity Development Centers, Inc.


Jeff Meyers was recently elected chairperson of the ODC Board of Directors. He has served on the ODC board since 2013, and he replaces outgoing chair Lyle Lang of Marshfield. Jeff is currently the senior vice-president/senior loan officer at WoodTrust Bank. He has been with WoodTrust for eight years and in banking for nearly 20 years. He earned a degree in business finance from the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management, and later his MBA from UWOshkosh. Jeff currently holds a board position with Junior Achievement of Portage and Wood Counties and is an active Junior Achievement classroom volunteer. He also serves on the Saint Michael’s Foundation Board of Directors. He has served as a coach for Plover/Whiting Youth Athletics and is active in the Stevens Point Ice Hawks Youth Hockey program. Jeff is married to Tammy and they have two children: Sarah, age 11, and Colin, age nine. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking, boating with family and friends, golfing and working in his garden. He and his family reside in Plover. Two individuals were also elected to the board at the annual meeting:


Co-owner and travel consultant with High Street Salon, Spa and Travel, Diane has lived in the Marshfield area for over 50 years. Many of those years were spent working alongside her husband, Jerry, on their family dairy farm, Norm-E-Lane, Inc. Diane is an active and engaged community member. When her kids were young, she spent many years as a Clark County 4-H leader and superintendent of Grace Lutheran Church’s Sunday school program. More recently, she has been an active committee member and chair of the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Vita Bella gala. She continues to be heavily involved with Marshfield’s Relay for Life Committee for the American Cancer Society, many Marshfield Clinic events including Fore the Kids and Auction of Champions, and is currently a board member for Marshfield Noon Rotary. In her spare time, she loves to travel, play tennis and spend time with her family, including four children and eight grandchildren. Diane first became interested and more aware of ODC after attending an event at which ODC was honored several years ago. She has since attended several Evening to Inspire events and has been inspired herself by ODC’s commitment to serving people with disabilities.


Al Thurber is a native of Wisconsin Rapids who returned to the community several years ago. He brings over 30 years of diversified business experience to the ODC Board of Directors. Al is the corporate controller at Renaissance Learning. He is a certified public accountant, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and business administration from the UW-Stevens Point.

2016-17 ODC, Inc.

Board of Directors Jeff Meyers Chairperson

Vice President - Commercial Lending WoodTrust Bank

Josh Linn


Parent Representative

Lori Gropp

Secretary / Treasurer

Academic Business Systems Manager, Division of Education Marshfield Clinic

Brenda Dillenburg

Marshfield Campus Dean Mid-State Technical College

Dave Eckmann

Special Assistant to the Chancellor, Economic Development UWSP

Jeff Hill

Owner Gene Hill Construction

Cindy Kiesling

Executive Director Labor Education and Training Center

Diane Meissner

Owner High Street Salon, Spa and Travel

Tammy Salewski

Vice President Ron’s Refrigeration & Air Conditioning

Nan Taylor

Director, Business Development & Community Relations Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics

Allen Thurber

Corporate Controller Renaissance Learning

Pam Ross

ODC President

pross@odcinc.com | 715-818-6447

Al has a son with a disability and believes passionately in the mission of ODC - the positive contributions that the organization makes to the community, and how it transforms the lives of those it serves. He likes to spend time with Tiger, his wife of 28 years; he enjoys boating, traveling, various outdoor activities and is an avid bicyclist.

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve


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

save the date for


Thursday, October 20, 2016 West 14th Restaurant | 108 West 9th Street, Marshfield, WI more information to come, so stay tuned!

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2016 Summer: Focus on Ability  

Focus on Ability is a quarterly newsletter published by ODC.

2016 Summer: Focus on Ability  

Focus on Ability is a quarterly newsletter published by ODC.


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