The Opportunity Center has been recognized with a quarterly Outstanding Service Provider award by ContinuUs, formerly Southwest Family Care Alliance, for the excellent quality of service it provides for adults with disabilities.
Since 1965, the Opportunity Center has been creating opportunities for people with disabilities to develop their full potential in society.
According to Ashley Trautsch, a Prairie du Chien area ContinuUs supervisor, the Opportunity Center was nominated and chosen for the award for many reasons.
“Their huge advantage is the advocation that comes from here. They do a great job of getting the clients out into the community. And their job development program has helped to get clients off the work floor and into community employment,” Trautsch said. “They have many staff who are long-term here, and they are great at troubleshooting what’s best for each individual member and his or guardians. They specifically include the members in decisions about their long-term plans. They do a great job overall.”
Sheila Swatek, a case manager who has worked at the Opportunity Center for 41 years, since the organization’s current facility was built on North State Street in Prairie du Chien, proudly spoke about why her employer is deserving of this recent award.
“We try to provide what they want us to provide, along with doing what’s best for our clients,” Swatek commented. “I really enjoy being around the clients. They work so hard and are so proud of what they do. We give them a reason to get up and get going every morning.”
"I like the way staff members are nice to us, and I like the good work that's here."
Sam Laxton is just one of hundreds of people who have found employment thanks to the Vernon Area Rehabilitation Center, or VARC.
"VARC provides primarily employment opportunities for individuals with varying abilities. We provide employment here at VARC, and also develop opportunities outside of VARC for people to engage in employment in the field that they would like to be in," explains Liz Filter, VARC's director of rehabilitation.
This year, the company is celebrating their 40th year in business.
"We started with just 6 individuals that we were providing services to out of our first location in Viroqua, which is now our corporate headquarters."
Now, they have served over 600 people- allowing them to flourish in the workplace and the community.
"It has taught me how to act in the community, and work really good in the community," says Sam Laxton, a VARC employee.
"It's a pretty unique opportunity that people in my position have and that all the employees that work for VARC have because they get to know that they have contributed towards the advancement of that population and provided those opportunities for people that they may not otherwise have," says Filter.
Their hope for the next 40 years?
"There's definitely a need in our communities to provide services to people and provide those opportunities, so growth and expansion is one of our primary goals and to continue to provide people a sense of contribution in their communities."
Reach, Inc. is pleased to announce the hiring of James Thomas as Director of Human Resources. Jim began his duties at Reach on January 5th, 2015.
Jim grew up on a small town in upstate New York. He attended college at Norwich University, Vermont, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Biology and was commissioned a lieutenant in the United States Army. The next 21 years he traveled around the world, in numerous Army assignments. His overseas assignments included Panama, Germany and Korea.
His last assignment was as an instructor at the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. While in the Army, he earned his Master’s Degree in Management from Florida Institute of Technology. After retiring from the Army at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Jim moved to Wisconsin with his family and settled down in Chippewa Falls. Jim worked at United Healthcare as a Compliance Trainer. He then began working with CEVA (TNT) Logistics in Menomonie, WI as an Operations Manager, then Safety & Training Manager and eventually as Human Resource Manager. He has also taught at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) as an Adjunct Instructor. Jim has been a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) since 2007. Jim is married and has two grown daughters. He enjoys running, cross country skiing and gardening in his free time.
Jim replaces Heidi Colonna, who took a position with Chippewa Pharmacy, Inc. Heidi worked for Reach for the prior 20 years.