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FOCUS ON A Newsletter by ODC, Inc.



AN EVENING TO REMEMBER… ODC HONORS ANNUAL AWARD RECIPIENTS If there was one theme that emerged during ODC’s Annual Awards Dinner on December 10, 2013, it would be this... if we are together, nothing is impossible. “Our annual awards dinner is a great celebration of the successes and gifts of those individuals with disabilities who are served by ODC,” said Theresa Richards, chairperson of ODC’s board of directors. “It is also an opportunity for ODC to honor our community partners, without whom these successes would not be possible.” This year, over 180 guests came together to honor five individuals and organizations at the annual dinner. Two individuals with disabilities, one from Marshfield

and one from Wisconsin Rapids, were recognized with the Personal Achievement Award, which is presented to those who have overcome a significant barrier to employment. Selection is based upon number of years of employment with ODC or a community employer, growth within that work experience, a positive work ethic, and evidence of good citizenship in the workplace and community. The John P. Melsen Volunteer Service Award was presented to Jere Johnson, who volunteers his time to serve those with disabilities in the ODC’s Day Services program. His volunteer efforts on behalf of ODC also include extensive work on events and other fundraising activities.

(See In Our Own Words on page 2) ODC’s Employer of the Year Award and Partnership Award were also presented.


PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT “What kind of person is Jeff Wichlacz?” said Lynn Haefer, ODC Employment Resources Manager, who nominated him for the Personal Achievement Award. “Spend five minutes with him and you’ll walk away remembering his warm smile, his friendly personality and his kindness. But there is more to Jeff than meets the eye.” SEE RECIPIENTS / PAGE 3

LEFT: Jeff Wichlacz has been working at Security Health Plan in their mailing department since January 2011. | RIGHT: To his supervisor at Security Health Plan, Jean Brandt (top), Jeff says, “Thank you for fighting for me to be here.”

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

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. Together, we achieve! "Volunteering is a gift I choose to give myself. After years of working and raising a family, I

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can now give of myself and my time, not just monetarily, to the causes I value on a steady

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basis. I volunteer because I can, and I should. I

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At ODC, I choose to work with many of the

volunteer because I get so much back in return.

adult clients with the most needs. While sometimes challenging, I get so much joy out

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of being with them while we learn or play together. Their friendship and smiles keep me coming back each week. As parents, all we really want for our children is for them to be happy individuals who feel loved and needed. Ultimately, we as adults also want these same things. The clients of ODC are no different from the rest of us; they want to feel that they are wanted, be happy and loved. The self-worth and sense of belonging gained by being able to come to ODC to work, no matter how small a task that may be, and get a paycheck, no matter what the amount, is a proud moment. Just the fact that someone treats them like anyone else gives them a feeling of worth and belonging. That is so amazing to witness. I sometimes get goose bumps when I am together with the clients of ODC. We have done some fun stuff like going to Lambeau Field, visiting the museum, cleaning up public areas around the city or taking field trips. But I get the most satisfaction and joy from the simple things we do. From reading books, learning to tell time, cooking, washing clothes, counting money to playing pool, doing puzzles or games together, I see

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the joy and sparkle in their eyes as we just spend time together. This is

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I must thank Pam Ross and the employees of ODC for accepting me

why I volunteer... to be able to bring a little light to someone’s life.

and allowing me to join them in their mission. The biggest asset ODC

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has is its employees. I have seen such love and caring, along with some

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with how creatively and inexpensively they find solutions to roadblocks

incredible creative problem-solving. The staff continues to amaze me clients may have in performing work. My life is enriched each day that I spend with the staff and clients of

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ODC. I get so much more out of my time at ODC than I could ever give… and that is truly a gift." Jere Johnson, ODC Day Services Program Volunteer 2013 John P. Melsen Volunteer Service Award Recipient


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confidence to where six hours per week was no longer scary.” In July 2010, Jeff started at Security Health Plan in Marshfield with a temporary work opportunity that lasted six weeks. According to Haefer, Jeff excelled and was eventually offered a position in January 2011. By October 2013, he was working 25 hours or more each week in the company’s mail center. “You would be hard pressed to find someone with a more positive attitude than Jeff,” said Haefer. “Although he sometimes doubts himself, he always wants to please his employer and will fight his self-doubt to do so. Jeff ’s positive attitude boosts morale in his department and his co-workers love working with him.” Jeff, who never asks for the limelight, allowed Haefer to speak his words for him at the awards dinner. Through her he said, “I swear it must be three times a week that I look at the Security Health Plan building and think, ‘I can’t believe I’m working here! I’m doing what they’re doing!’ I want to thank everybody that helped me: ODC, Jean Brandt at Security Health Plan who fought for me to be there, my fiancé, Katie, and my mom for always being there for me. I really thank everyone who had anything to do with my life now. It’s really important to me that you know.” ... and that’s the kind of person Jeff is.


PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENT When the staff at Manilla Gorilla in Wisconsin Rapids heard that their employee, George Haskins, was to be the recipient of ODC’s Personal Achievement Award, they were overjoyed.

TOP: In less than one year, George Haskins has truly become part of the team at Manilla Gorilla. | BOTTOM: Manilla Gorilla recently hired another ODC employment candidate, Lucas Marshall (right), who is training under George Haskins' supervision.



Jeff came to ODC in 2009, when he began working in a training program for six hours per week because he felt that was all he could handle. Jeff struggled with anxiety and depression, and had been unable to work for nine long years. “When he came to ODC,” said Haefer, “he was anxious, afraid to try new things and his confidence was low. Slowly but surely, with opportunities and support, he built up his Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

“George’s supervisor, John Benbow, told everyone that they would shut down the warehouse if need be, so that all of George’s colleagues could attend the award presentation,” said Ann Lepak, ODC Employment Resources Manager, who nominated Haskins for this award. According to Lepak, Haskins is truly part of the team at Manilla Gorilla, a fulfillment and distribution company located in Wisconsin Rapids. He had worked in the food service industry for many years, so when he came to ODC for employment assistance, he was reluctant to try something new. In early 2013, with the assistance of ODC employment services staff, he joined an ODC work crew assigned to special projects at Manilla Gorilla, where he was ultimately hired. SEE RECIPIENTS / PAGE 4



Services program and how our qualified candidates can make a difference in your business or organization, please

“In less than one year, George has become a ‘leader’ at Manilla Gorilla,” said Lepak. “He was hired by them to unload trucks and price products, but his supervisor and lead worker quickly recognized his skills and abilities, and he began picking and packing items, preparing them for shipment and reorganizing the warehouse.”

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“George is committed to producing quality work. He truly cares about his co-workers and they truly care about him. He wants the company and all of his co-workers to succeed,” said Lepak.

On August 1, 2012, store leader April Hoesly made the decision to partner with ODC and hire Marlene Diercks in a retail helper position at the Kwik Trip store on West Grand Avenue in Wisconsin Rapids. With April’s leadership, the position was expanded to other stores in Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield, Merrill, Wausau and Plover.

Haskins closed the award presentation with his own words. He said, “A special friend sent me a card after hearing that I was receiving this award. She said she is so proud of me and that I have overcome so many things in life, but I didn’t let them bring me down. I looked at each obstacle as a challenge and said, ‘Yes, I can do that’! She also said, ‘Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently, and keep accomplishing great things.’ I am so happy to have special people that I know... my Manilla Gorilla ‘family’.” Editor’s Note: If you would like more information about ODC’s Employment

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EMPLOYER OF THE YEAR AWARD According to Ann Lepak, ODC Employment Resources Manager in Wisconsin Rapids, it all began with one Kwik Trip store leader.

ODC’s work with Kwik Trip motivated our employment services staff to nominate the organization for ODC’s Employer of the Year award, presented to a Central Wisconsin business or organization based upon the number of years it has worked with ODC’s community employment program, the number of individuals with disabilities hired by the employer through that program, and the support that it provides each individual to ensure they

are successful in their job. “Kwik Trip has made a difference in the lives of 10 individuals with disabilities,” said Lepak. “They have hired retail helpers in eight stores in only one year, and are looking forward to further expanding the program.” Kwik Trip’s retail helper position is a customized position for individuals with disabilities, based on the individual’s skills, abilities, and interests. The organization provides complete initial and on-going training, and allows ODC job coaches to assist with longer-term training needs. Retail helpers receive the same benefits as all of their co-workers, including a generous profit sharing program. “When I contacted Megan Schlinsog, store leader at the Marshfield Kwik Trip, she was immediately open to the idea of a partnership,” said Lynn Haefer, ODC Employment Resources Manager in Marshfield. “Her enthusiasm was evident from the start, and she worked to get everyone else at her store on board. She actually invited ODC to present at an all-staff meeting at Kwik Trip to describe the program, answer candid questions and explain how the retail helper would be a benefit to them. This was an amazing opportunity to set the tone for the whole store to accept our candidate, Krystal Keding."

LEFT: Marlene Diercks (center) with her colleagues at the West Grand Avenue Kwik Trip store in Wisconsin Rapids. She was the first ODC employment candidate to be hired by Kwik Trip. | MIDDLE: Tom Whitmans (center) is employed at the Merrill Kwik Trip store, one of 10 ODC employment candidates hired in Central Wisconsin by the company. | RIGHT: Krystal Keding (center) is employed at Kwik Trip in Marshfield.


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LEFT: ODC employment candidate Josh Follen (left) and Gary Jepsen, Marshfield Chief of Police, represented the City of Marshfield at the awards dinner. ODC Employment Resources Manager Mary Blanchard (center) works with the city and ODC candidates to ensure that the relationship is successful for both employee and employer. | RIGHT: According to his supervisor in the City of Marshfield’s information technology department, Brett Kingston (pictured) is “fast, efficient, dependable and attentive to detail”.

“At Kwik Trip, it will never be about what people can’t do, it’s about what they can do,” said Steve Wrobel, public relations at Kwik Trip, Inc., who spoke on behalf of the organization at the awards dinner. “The retail helper program we are celebrating here is really an extension of that philosophy.”


PARTNERSHIP AWARD According to Jason Angell, Director of Planning and Economic Development with the City of Marshfield, the city’s partnership with ODC has been a great opportunity for everyone involved. “Everything about ODC has been great,” said Angell, “from the employees that we have hired to the partnerships that we have with their staff. It’s just a great opportunity for us.” The city has hired three ODC

employment candidates within the last year. The first was Eric, who was hired to work in both the information technology and finance departments. Brett Kingston was later hired in the information technology department, and Josh Follen has taken a parking enforcement position with the Marshfield Police Department. “Eric set the bar high, proving that our candidates are bright, capable and versatile” said Lynn Haefer, ODC Employment Resources Manager. “Brett’s supervisor stated that he is fast and efficient,” said Mary Blanchard, ODC Employment Resources Manager, “and he is impressed with how much Brett accomplishes during his work shift. Brett is a really dependable employee, and because of his focus and attention to detail, this job has been a great fit.” “Perhaps when Josh came in here, in the eyes of many of the other employees, he was looked at as a person with

Empowering People With Disabilites To Achieve

exceptional needs,” said Gary Jepsen, Chief of Police, who accepted the award for the city. “But within a very brief time period, I think in their eyes he just became the exceptional person.” “I would urge anybody who is considering opening up the doors to an exceptional needs person to do so sooner than you would anticipate,” said Jepsen. “I do not think you will be disappointed.” “Going forward, we hope that this is just the start of things to come,” said Steve Barg, City of Marshfield administrator. “We would like to see more individuals being placed with the city and doing quality work the way these three have done in the past year. We’re just so grateful to have a connection with an agency like ODC... what a wonderful thing for the City of Marshfield to have ODC here. It’s a win-win for everyone, and it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”



WATCH THE FUN! February 8, 2014, 11:30 am at Anchor Bay Bar & Grill

THE ODC PLUNGESICLES 2014 POLAR PLUNGE® TEAM for Special Olympics Wisconsin


In Their Own Words In Their Own Words features stories of opportunity,

Jan talked with Arborwood Lodge Assisted Living, and

support and personal achievement. In this column, we

they offered me a temporary work experience. After I


worked there just a few weeks, they offered to hire me


as a permanent employee and I said ‘yes’! I must have

“I graduated in 2012 from Lincoln High School in Wisconsin Rapids. In high school, I was involved in a work experience program for three years where I got experience as a volunteer at assisted living facilities in their activities departments. I also stocked shelves and folded clothes at Walmart. In 2013, I met with my ODC case manager, Jan, for the first time. I was interested in working as a dietary aid or activities coordinator at an assisted living facility. We also talked about kitchen work or cleaning, or getting

done something good! Right now, I’m preparing foods and beverages and serving breakfasts and dinners at Arborwood. Jan says that one of my strengths is working with the elderly... that I am very kind and accommodating to them, and always interact with them. I love my job and want to stay there as long as I can! I could move up… the person that I replaced moved up to activity director, so the sky’s the limit!”


my child care certification so that I could work in day care. The first thing we did was put my resume together so that we would have something to give to employers.

LEFT & RIGHT: Amber prepares and serves meals at Arborwood Lodge Assisted Living. “I love my job and want to stay here as long as I can,” she said.


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»»» JOBS «««


2013-14 ODC, Inc.

Board of Directors Theresa Richards Chairperson

Director, Strategic Initiatives Ministry Health Care

Lyle Lang Vice-Chairperson President Lang Furniture



for housekeeping Wisconsin Rapids



for custodial or stocking Marshfield

Luke Weiland Secretary

Attorney Luke A. Weiland, Attorney at Law, LLC

Tom Janke Treasurer

President Corenso North America

Dale Arendt

Executive Coach The Arendt Group





for stocking or dishwashing Wisconsin Rapids

Arborwood Wisconsin Rapids

John Corrigall

VP Human Resources & Administration Renaissance Learning, Inc.

Patricia Curti Lori Gropp

Academic Business Systems Manager, Division of Education Marshfield Clinic

Jeff Hill

Owner Gene Hill Construction

Dave Krause

Assistant Vice President Forward Financial



for stocking & customer service Marshfield



for packaging/assembly or clerical Marshfield



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Josh Linn

Administrative Manager The Bridge Center

Jeff Meyers

Vice President - Commercial Lending WoodTrust Bank

Pam Ross ODC President | 715-818-6447


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


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2014 Winter: Focus on Ability  

Focus on Ability is a quarterly newsletter published by ODC.

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