461 Hartland Road, St. Albans, ME 04971 info@skillsinc.net 207.938.4615
thrift store manequines dressed for Halloween

The SKILLS Thrift Store Warms Up

On Thursday October 25, a few shoppers searched for last-minute Halloween costume pieces among the items at the SKILLS Thrift Store. Staff reminded them to vote for their favorite of the scarecrows displayed in the front window. The Scarecrow Rodeo was coming to an  end and one lucky shopper would win a $25 gift certificate. It was a little chilly, so someone turned up the thermostat.

Soon an unusual sound interrupted the quiet afternoon chatter. It sounded like a smoke alarm, but there was no fire. What was going on?

After staff and shoppers safely left the building, inspections revealed that it was the carbon monoxide detectors making all that racket. The boiler in the basement was leaking fumes. Breathing such fumes for too long can cause headaches, dizziness and other unpleasant effects.

Fortunately, the carbon monoxide detectors did exactly what they were supposed to do and notified staff that there was a problem before it became big enough for people to notice. For the safety of staff and shoppers, the Thrift Store was closed until further notice.

Over the next couple of days, Maintenance Supervisor Scott Martin, inspected the boiler and spotted the issue. The owner of the building was contacted. He promised to address the problem as quickly as possible. With the dropping temperatures over the last few weeks, the Thrift Store could not reopen without a safe source of heat.

While the store was closed, workers didn’t just stay at home. They went over to the L.C. Dill Center, where donations are sorted, and helped to pack up new merchandise for shipping over to the store.

At first, it looked like the boiler would have to be replaced, but a fix was found. Scott called in an outside inspector to verify that everything was safe. The store reopened on Monday, October 29th.

By Tuesday, the store was full of shoppers eager to cash in on the Halloween bargains before they disappeared and to view the winning scarecrow in the Scarecrow Rodeo.

With 46 votes out of about 120, the scarecrow built by Grange Waiver won a $25 gift card for the house! Dottie Corson was the lucky shopper who voted for Grange and had her name drawn from the pumpkin. She also won a $25 gift card for herself.

It’s back to business as usual in the warm, friendly SKILLS Thrift Store. Soon the window displays will be changed in honor of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday and a new raffle or promotion will be announced. Come see us!

performers in the SKILLS Variety Show

A Variety of Talents to Show

The SKILLS community is full of talented folks. On October 26, we came together at the L.C. Dill Center gym to share those talents. From year to year the show changes to fit the ideas of the performers, and it’s always a highly anticipated event on the annual calendar.

This year the name changed from the L.C. Dill Center Talent Show to the SKILLS Variety Show. The change happened for two reasons, said Patrick Bagley, Team Leader at the L.C. Dill Center.

First, performers came not just from L.C. Dill, but also from Pittsfield Community Supports and Ervin Community Supports. This year’s name was inclusive for all performers.

Second, the format of this year’s show was more like the classic TV variety show than like a traditional talent show. The people in the show decide the format and content every year. And this year was no exception.

“The practices start out kind of messy but it really comes together the last week,” Patrick said.

When they started rehearsals in early September, the last merchandise from the summer’s indoor yard sales was still waiting to be moved from the gym. By show time, the gym was adorned with Halloween decorations from the previous weekend’s Halloween dance. It added a festive air to the event.

Vocalists took the stage to sing country songs and classics backed by the Community Supports House Band.

Musical talent wasn’t the only skill on display. A few comedians took the stage as well, delighting the audience with classic jokes and surprising one-liners.

In the past they’ve had other sorts of performances like skits or dancing, but this year’s performers decided they’d rather sing and joke than act.

“A lot of the big decisions come from them,” Patrick said. “It’s their show.”

Singers, musicians, and comedians took their bows to the finale song, Celebration. At the end of show, L.C. Dill staff member Kathy Rodden presented the 2018 Landry Award. The award goes to the performer who has improved the most from the first rehearsal to the event. It was awarded to Brandi T. who performed the song, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”

Patrick and the team at the L.C. Dill Center have already started to think about next year. No spoilers – but it’s clear that SKILLS has definitely got talent to share.

campers gather on the shore of the lake

Brier Beach Camping Trip

two adults with developmental challenges look out through the window of a tentLast year, when a couple of people said they might like to go camping, staff member Errol Ireland thought, “Why not? Let’s make it happen.”

He and some other team members ended up taking 11 people on a camping trip. The event was a huge hit. So huge, that he and team leader Joshua Fournier repeated it again this year.

This time, 10 people camped out overnight for 2 nights. For some, it was their first time sleeping out of doors. Others were on the trip for the second year in a row.

On Saturday August 25, two whole houses and people from some of the day programs joined the campers for a barbecue – bringing the campsite population up to 21.

“We had so much fun,” said team leader Josh. “It went fantastic.”

People went swimming and fishing. They made s’mores. Some people just enjoyed being out in nature, where it was quiet. Well, mostly quiet.

One night one of the campers had a friendly call and response conversation with their neighbors in the next campsite over.

“No one’s tent fell over this year,” Josh said. Although they had a close call with a canopy. That’s what happens when you step out of your comfort zone. Adventures!

Next year’s camping trip is going to be even better! Don’t miss it.

A butterfly released in memory of those who have passed on lands on a yellow chrysanthemum

5th Annual Memorial Picnic

Coming together as a community to celebrate and remember

A few passing showers couldn’t dampen our spirits as the SKILLS community came together for our annual picnic on August 30.

Staff pose in the photo booth at the 5th annual picnic.Staff and the people we support made the trip from St. Albans, Waterville, Skowhegan, Newport and the surrounding towns to the SKILLS Memorial Park at Pittsfield Community Supports.

A couple of new friends joined us this year. Lori Lefferts, Director of HR, brought her miniature horse Fregley along for everyone to meet. And DJ Johnny spun tunes for the crowd. DJ Johnny aka John Pierce is a staff member at Ervin Community Supports. When the leadership team learned that he DJ’s in his spare time, they invited him to share his talents at the picnic.

While some things change, others stay the same. Everyone enjoyed the food and the company. As usual, the dunk tank was a popular hit.

In Remembrance

a butterfly lands on the head of a woman
A butterfly lands on Lori during the butterfly release in memory of those we lost this year.

But the picnic is more than a chance to dunk the Executive Director, it’s also a chance to remember those we’ve lost over the past year.

In a re-imagining of a tradition, our balloon release was replaced with an environmentally friendly butterfly release. Crystal Temple, Senior Finance Specialist, had been taking care of the butterflies for the last 24-hours to keep them healthy until it was time for them to fly.

Before the release, Stephanie read the popular poem “I am Always With You.” She also read the names of the seven members of the SKILLS family who passed away this year:

  • Fredrick “Nicky” Nelson
  • Michael Kennedy
  • Madeline “Maddie” Varnum
  • Freddie Hewes
  • Stephanie Lord
  • Linda-Lee Richards
  • Belinda C. Coots

When the butterflies were released some leapt from their box. Others lingered to land on the friends and family gathered there.

Returning to the food and fun was all the better since we knew that those who had passed away were with us in spirit.

Skills Double-teams the Special Olympics State Competition

Special Olympics athletes 2018 Winter Games
The Phoenix Flames from the Ervin Center
Special Olympics Athletes march in the Winter 2018 Games Parade
The River Hawks from the L.C. Dill Center

Two teams means twice the fun at the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games.

Twice a year, athletes from all over Maine come together to test their athletic prowess and compete for the gold at the Special Olympics Maine state games.

This year, SKILLS sent two teams of athletes to compete at Sugarloaf in three of the four available sporting events.

From the L.C. Dill Center in Skowhegan came the River Hawks. Their team of eight athletes competed in snow shoeing and cross-country skiing. From Ervin Community Supports in Waterville, came the Phoenix Flames. Their team of five competed in cross-country skiing, snow showing, and alpine skiing.

Events were held from Jan 28 to Jan 30.

 

Training for Special Olympics Maine Winter Games

special olympic athletes skiing

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of January, Special Olympics athletes focus on training for their events. Two or three times each week they can be found outside practicing for such events as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

When the weather is bad, they practice indoors. Even if they can’t be on the snow, they can work on endurance and physical fitness. All this to prepare for the event of the season – the Special Olympics Winter games at Sugarloaf.

Special Olympics athlete wins gold medal
Sharon earned a gold medal during her very first skiing competition!

Though the the training season only lasts a couple of months, preparation never really stops. Athletes are athletes even when they’re not competing. Being a Special Olympics athlete means paying attention to your personal health and fitness, so you can do your best year after year.

Some of these athletes have been participating in the Special Olympics since childhood. Most participate in the Summer Games as well.

It’s well worth the effort they put in. Athletes get a lot more than a medal. They get a sense of accomplishment, the knowledge that they trained hard and did their best, and the opportunity to push themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of.

While time trails and heats pit athletes against competitors, the real challenge is beating your own personal record.

A Brief History of the Special Olympics

The Special Olympics is a global network that provides a platform for adults and children with intellectual challenges to see themselves for their abilities not their disabilities.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics in 1968 to honor her sister Rosemary and others with similar challenges. What started as a day-long summer camp has become an international phenomenon with more than 5 million athletes and 1 million volunteers across 170 countries.

Eligible athletes are those with intellectual disabilities, cognitive delay, or a closely related developmental disability. But on the field they’re all athletes, striving to do their best.

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
– Special Olympics Athlete Oath

Special Olympics events are held at the area, state, national and international level. SKILLS falls into the Somerset and Upper Kennebec County Area. Normally, time trials are held about two weeks before the main event.

The whole state comes together near the end of January for the Special Olympics Maine Winter Games at Sugarloaf.

members of the self-advocacy group, Standing Together

SKILLS Self-Advocacy Group Stands Together

When the leadership at SKILLS asked program participants what SKILLS could do to better support them, one big idea rose to the forefront. They wanted a self-advocacy group.

The first meeting was held on May 17, 2017. At that meeting, the group set an ambitious goal: to change the world. They’re doing that by speaking up for themselves and others, making their own decisions and asking for support when they need it.

Anybody who participates at SKILLS is eligible to join the group. While it’s modeled loosely after groups like Speaking Up for Us (SUFU), participants voted to remain an independent group. They named it Standing Together.

the self-advocacy  group is learning by doing

This group is an experiment. Everyone is learning as they go. For example, meetings were originally in the evenings but people had trouble getting there. When the group moved meetings to the daytime, they saw a jump in attendance.

It’s run by group members, not by staff. So far they haven’t decided if they want to elect officials for the group, but the idea is on the table.

One of the original staff advisors, Cary Kelly, is retiring, so Patrick Bagley from the Dill Center has stepped in to help Cindy Shaw facilitate. While Cindy and Patrick are there to answer questions and help line up guest speakers, it’s up to the group members to run their meetings and set their agenda.

“It’s their job to make this work,” says Cindy. “This is what Standing Together is all about.”

The group discusses such topics as guardianship, personal relationships, communicating with your doctor, staying safe and dealing with the R-word.

the self-advocacy group is making a difference

Members of the SKILLS self-advocacy group lead attendees of the Annual Talent Show in the R-word Pledge
Members of the SKILLS self-advocacy group lead attendees of the Annual Talent Show in the R-word Pledge

Less than a year old, Standing Together is already making a difference. They led the R-word pledge at the annual Dill Center Talent Show and are discussing fundraising for causes they care about.

Their meetings are held monthly at different sites within the SKILLS network. All members of the SKILLS community are welcome to attend.

SKILLS volunteers give back to our community

SKILLS volunteers because it’s our community too

Across the communities that we serve, SKILLS volunteers are working quietly behind the scenes to feed the hungry, care for animals and generally make the world a better place.

Many of these volunteers are the people that we support. At SKILLS we believe that giving of your time and talent makes you and your
community better.

That’s why staff members and the people we support work together to volunteer in our communities.

SKILLS volunteers are Feeding the Hungry

SKILLS has been involved with Meals on Wheels since 2012. Groups from the L.C. Dill Center and Pittsfield Community Supports go out twice a week.
They deliver meals to about 40 people along the Skowhegan and Norridgewock routes. A staff member drives the van, but the people we support are the ones who knock on the door and deliver the food.
It’s hard to tell who enjoys it more, the volunteers or the homeowners and their pets who get food for the week.
“They are very appreciative and the guys love to talk to the people,” says SKILLS staff member Randie.
SKILLS volunteers load food for Meals-on-Wheels deliveries.
SKILLS staff member Randie works with a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer to load food into the van.
Meals on Wheels isn’t the only way SKILLS helps feed the hungry. Ervin Community Supports brings a group to the Brown Methodist Church in Clinton to support their community luncheon. Members of the community are invited to come in and share a hot meal. The people that we support help prepare the food, serve food and clean up afterward.

SKILLS volunteers are caring for our furry (and feathered) friends

Supporting people in need is important, but we like to make sure that pets are taken care of as well. The Dill Center helps support the
animal shelter by delivering donated blankets that might not be suitable for sale at the thrift store. The dogs and cats love their cozy blankets, and the people we support enjoy visiting with the animals.
A group from Dill Center also helps care for the pet birds at Cedar Ridge Nursing home. The birds make the nursing home environment a little more pleasant for the people who live there.

SKILLS volunteers are making things better everywhere we go

At the Waterville Public Library a group from Ervin Community Supports helps dust and keep the books in order. It makes a better experience for everyone who visits.
That’s always our goal, to make things better. And that’s why we volunteer.

SKILLS participates in the Festival of Trees 2017

Every year, SKILLS participates in the Good Will-Hinckley festival of trees. Our theme this year is Jingle Bells, submitted by Crystal Temple of the SKILLS finance department.

In keeping with the theme, people we support decorated bells and created a beautiful display with the help of staff members. About 35 people from the day programs as well as House in Shawmut, and Petra House decorated bells for the event. They used pictures from Pinterest and magazines for inspiration or created their own original designs. A few staff members made bells too.

A group from Ervin Community Supports went out to Good Will-Hinckley just before Thanksgiving to decorate the tree and get it ready for the event.

New this year, SKILLS decorated two trees. The large tree is there for everyone to enjoy. The smaller tree will be raffled off as a fundraiser for Good Will-Hinckley.

Join us at the Festival of Trees December 8 to the 16th at the Prescott Building on the Good Will-Hinckley campus.

Secrets of the SKILLS Maintenance Team

Maintaining 36 facilities in 11 towns scattered across Central Maine might sound like an impossible task, but that’s exactly what Shawn Gross and his team do every day.

Meet the team

For about five months, Shawn was the only full-time member of the maintenance team. His teammate, Paul, worked just a day or two a
week.

“I like working with my hands,” Paul says. “I’m not stuck in just one place.” Paul had been working with the maintenance department for seven years when Shawn came onboard. He says Shawn’s leadership has made a big difference. “He’s a great boss. I’ve learned a lot from him,” Paul says. “Shawn will say “what can you do differently to fix this problem?” It helps us learn from our mistakes and own up to them as well.”

But two sets of hands just weren’t enough. After some trial and error, Shawn found Scott Martin to fill the open full-time position. Scott had been working as a DSP at SKILLS for more than a year, but his background was in the building trades. He was happy to return to his roots by joining the maintenance team.

“It definitely makes it easier with two folks on,” Shawn said. “Scott can go one way and I can go the other.”

Skills Maintenance Team
Paul, Scott and Shawn pose with the ramp they built to help people access the stage during the L.C. Dill Center Talent Show.

They also had lawn care help this summer from Ryan Jackson. “I’d like him to come back next summer,” Shawn says. “He proved himself a good guy,
a good worker.”

Understand the Challenge

Because most of the facilities are in rural areas, an unexpected trip to the hardware store can cost the team hours.

They try to keep themselves organized with the maintenance list. Any team leader, manager or supervisor can add to the list. And yet, Shawn estimates that about 70 percent of what they do never makes it onto the maintenance list.

“So much of it is, “oh, while you’re here…” says Scott.

One of their challenges is keeping everyone happy. Sometimes it’s a budget issue. Sometimes it’s a manpower issue. Sometimes it comes down to urgency. Client requests always take priority.

“We are here for the clients,” Shawn says. “These are their homes. When we go in if there’s an issue or they’re having a bad day, we come back. We’re a guest in their home. We’re here to make their homes as safe as possible,” Shawn says.

Both Shawn and Scott are certified DSP’s. Shawn is also CRMA and MANDT certified. “I used to like to say I was probably the only CRMA certified maintenance man in the state,” Shawn says.

Both men believe that those certifications have made them better at their jobs. “It is a tremendous asset to be in the homes and understand what goes on and working with the clients and also the stress that a DSP can be under at various times,” Scott says.

A team effort

Both men agree that the best thing about their job is the people. “I truly enjoy everybody I work with,” Shawn says.

He says team leaders and staff step up to do whatever maintenance they can safely do. It’s rare that he gets called out for things like lightbulbs or plunging toilets.

Shawn’s personal mission since he took over in February of 2016 has been to make the maintenance department a department to be proud of.

“It has definitely been a team effort to get where we are,” Shawn says. “When something goes right, or wrong, they know who to come to.”

Talent Show 2017 – A Great Time for Talent

If you missed the L.C. Dill Center Talent Show this year, you missed out on something great. Singers, musicians and comedians played to a packed house in the Dill Center gym. They brought us “Through the Years, a time traveling trip through music and comedy from the 1950s to today.”

2017 Dill Center Talent Show Packed GymTammy Worth, Team Leader at the L.C. Dill Center opened the festivities by dedicating the show to staff member Kathy Roddin who has worked with the organization for 30 years, and has been involved with the talent show almost that long.

Ron R. kicked off the performances with his guitar and a rendition of Hound Dog that got the crowd jumping. Highlights included “Hakuna Matata” sung with the help of a paper mache lion and “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” amplified by giant boxing gloves. Perhaps the most spectacular performance was “Greased Lightning” with its period appropriate costumes, cardboard speedster, and polished choreography.

An unexpected guest showed up during Matt N.’s performance of “Love Potion #9.” Shadow, one of the two Dill Center cats, took a turn across the stage. Things got a little dicey when she decided to rest on the cardboard set.

Shadow crashes the 2017 Dill Center Talent Show

Fearing the weight of the feline would bring the show crashing down, staff member Brandon and Maintenance Manager Shawn sprang into action. With the help of a ladder they removed Shadow from the set and the show went on.

Both the audience and the performers clearly had a great time. Everyone laughed, clapped and sang along, celebrating their talents and each other.

Standing Together, a group that meets monthly to discuss their rights and work on building healthy relationships, led the group in the R word pledge. The pledge acknowledges that using the word “retarded” to mean stupid hurts both people with disabilities and the people that love them. The crowd pledged not to use the R word in that way and to call out anyone who does so.

The R-Word Pledge
I pledge that I will not use the words “retard” or “retarded to mean “stupid.”
I understand that this is hurtful to people who have disabilities
and to people who love them, so I will be careful with my words.
I will also try to remember to pay attention when
other people use those words, and ask them to stop.

After the finale, which brought everyone back on stage, staff member Kathy presented the Landry Award to the performer chosen by a staff vote. That performer was Laurie B. who was thrilled to receive a plaque in recognition. Her name will also go on the roster that hangs in the Dill Center.

One performer requested the microphone to give the staff a special message, “I want to tell the staff how good they’ve been teaching us and everything,” Patty said. “They did a really good job.”

Tammy was also pleased with the way the event came together. “It was a wonderful turnout and I thank everybody who came to it,” she said.

There’s no doubt that next year will be even better.

2017 Dill Center Talent Show finale