Ability Building Center holds recognition banquet

By : 
Jan Lee Buxengard

“Into The Future” was the theme for the Ability Building Center (ABC) Houston County Recognition Banquet held October 25 at the Four Seasons Community Center, Caledonia. 

“There are 300 in attendance here tonight to celebrate service anniversaries and special awards for the ABC family in Houston County,” announced Bruce Remme, Executive Director of ABC, Inc., which was established 62 years ago in Rochester, Minn. 

“Between Houston and Olmsted counties, we are a 1,000 person strong organization,” he pointed out, adding, “There have been a lot of changes going on. What a turning point this is into the future!” 

This was the 17th annual banquet in Houston County since the merger of ABC Works and Woodland Industries. Woodland Industries started in 1980, and this is ABC’s 38th year of providing services to Houston County. 

Last November, the fund raising event “Murder Mystery” raised $30,000.  

Community employers honored

Each year, Woodland Industries recognizes an employer who has provided work for its participants, where they are able to work at and gain community work skills and integration into the community. This year they chose Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center in Caledonia. 

“Since December of 2006, Woodland Industries has been sending a job coach and two participants to HVMHC,” relayed Woodland’s work site coordinator Helen Olson. “The participants that work there look forward to Wednesday mornings to be able to go and do light custodial work. Woodland Industries feels very fortunate to be able to continue this relationship with HVMHC and appreciate their business.” Accepting the award were Christy Ferrington and Gary Hempel of the HVMHC’s Adult Rehabilitative Mental Health Services program. In accepting the award, Hempel stated, “We so much appreciate being able to serve your participants - a work force we see is so active.” 

Master Metals, a sheet metal contractor in Onalaska, Wis. was named Employer of the year for ABC Works. “In January 2014, they hired a crew to clean their offices, restrooms, dust and vacuum,” stated Cathy McCabe, Employment Coordinator for ABC Works. “Master Metals is also very supportive to ABC when it comes to donating to our fund raisers, as they have joined the benefactor circle at the bronze status.”

To John McCabe, owner of the Master Metals, McCabe stated, “ABC thanks you for your support and we look forward to many more years of working together.” 

Employees recognized

Alicia Wolter was named Employee of the year for ABC Works. “After starting working at ABC in April of 2006, Alicia has worked at Subway in Winona and La Crescent.” Cathy McCabe, employment coordinator for ABC Works, statedand continued, “Alicia’s responsibilities include washing dishes, taking out the garbage, clearing tables and food prep. She also works at University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, where she clears trays in the dish room. In the summer when not at UWL, she volunteers to work at other Subways where needed. She enjoys reading to her co-workers and helping them in any way that she can, and also likes arts and crafts and planning activities. This spunky, fun, energetic young lady is awesome to work with!” 

Each quarter a participant from Woodland Industries is recognized as a Woodland Outstanding Worker (WOW). To earn this achievement, staff members look for participants that work on meeting their goals, have a positive attendance, and go above and beyond to be a valuable employee. 

“This is always a hard task to only pick four participants a year, as Woodland has many amazing outstanding workers,” Helen Olson, work site coordinator for Woodland stated. 

This year’s WOW recipients are Sam Scheck, Dianne Gauger, Paula Betten and Rick Goetzinger.

Vicki Wilkes Award

The Vicki Wilkes Spirit of Independence Award is given in memory of Vicki Wilkes, to a participant from Woodland Industries or ABC Works who has demonstrated growth in independence over the past year.

Danielle Burg initiated this award in 2005 in memory of Wilkes, who died in May 2004 at age 42. Wilkes was employed at ABC Works and will always be remembered for her independent nature and strong work ethic.

This year’s recipient of the award is Amy Jean Rommes. “For the past 22 years, Amy has been learning a variety of work tasks and, with her smile and energetic personality, she motivates others to want to work hard and be friendly like her,” announced Burg. “Amy is always willing and ready to try new jobs as they come and puts her whole heart into all of her work. She assists others at Woodland in learning new words in sign language and is very understanding and will reteach signs when forgotten. Amy has worked hard to independently learn her work schedule and always have a positive attitude. She is a big helper at work, carrying the snacks in the breakroom at every break to help her co-worker. Amy enjoys working in the Twice is Nice store, where she helps bag customers purchases. She is always looking where and who she can help. Amy brightens everyone’s day with her gorgeous smile. Amy is an inspiration to all!”  

Service awards

Judy Johnson, manager for ABC Works and Woodland Industries, announced Years of Service awards for program participants and staff. The recipients include:

*Five years: Wayne Clauss, Laura Frye, Richard Halverson, Eric Lacher, Don Loken, Kathy Roberts, Nick Rohrer, Tami Sabo, Hannah Schwab, Jacob Terpstra, and David Trocinski;

*10 years: Wayne Breeser, Eddie Gittens, Jake Harris, John Inglett, Christina Ives, Mike Richards, Tara Webb, and Diane Workman; 

*20 years: Kate Breen and Helen Olson;

*25 years: Allen Larson and David Yohe;

*30 years: Paula Betten, Chris Bundy, Bryan Flick, Cathy McCabe, Lisa Meiners, Laureen Rupprecht, Diane Shuda and John Stapleton; 

*35 years: John Buege and James Womack.

Johnson also acknowledged that Deb Schulte will be retiring in January. “She has provided stable leadership for 32 years.” 

History of ABC

ABC (Ability Building Center) Inc., established in 1956 in Rochester in the basement of the Samaritan Bethany Nursing Home with two participants and one staff, is a non-profit corporation, governed by a voluntary board of directors.

The mission of ABC is to improve the quality of life in Southeastern Minnesota by providing rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities and other special needs.

ABC Works, which has locations in La Crescent and Caledonia, is for people who need extra help on the job or to develop skills to get a job. The program offers employment opportunities as well as social, recreational, communication, and therapy supports.

Woodland Industries, located in Caledonia, is a vocational rehabilitation center to serve clients and use their abilities in a productive way.

To learn more about the programs offered by ABC, visit its website at www.abcinc.org or call Woodland Industries at (507) 725-2092, or ABC Works at (507) 895-7161.