The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

Challenge Industries

Teresa Battisti enjoying a break.
Deafness and blindness were not about to define a smart and determined Teresa Battisti, or prevent her from living a full, well-rounded life. From her first meeting with the staff at Challenge, there was a sense that Teresa had found a place she could work and enjoy, while receiving the supportive services she needs. Today, Teresa has overcome her communication limitations and enjoys giving back to the charity that has given her so much.

Mary Ann Knispell among her beautiful greens at Finger Lakes Fresh
Challenge Industries is a not-for-profit, vocational services organization in Ithaca, New York. It was founded in 1968 to offer employment and placement opportunities to individuals otherwise facing barriers to employment. Challenge matches individual abilities with businesses, agencies, and institutions around Tompkins County. Challenge also runs its own small businesses offering integrated employment opportunities. These include a commercial janitorial service, a document preservation business, and contracts with Cornell University and Ithaca College. Another such business is Finger Lakes Fresh, a hydroponics greenhouse operation employing workers with and without disabilities. Finger Lakes Fresh grows delicious, environmentally friendly salad greens, pac choi and basil 365 days a year, providing products that are healthy for the body and healthy for the heart. Earned income from Finger Lakes Fresh and Challenge's other businesses, in turn, supports Challenge's mission.

Administrative Assistant Ronde Bowers
As an unemployed single mother of three, Ronde Bowers was receiving temporary public assistance when she was first referred to Challenge's Job Club Program. Over the next six weeks, Ronde learned critical job-seeking skills and was helped to re-enter a challenging job market. Ronde, like nine out of ten Job Club participants, found work through the program and is now able to provide for her children. "The Challenge staff motivated us and shared so much valuable information," Ronde says. "They kept us focused and helped us realize anyone can be successful in a job search if they make the most of their education and life experiences. The support I got at Challenge means so much..."

"We are happy to see the outpouring of public support for our workers and their products," says Challenge President Patrick McKee. "Every individual we serve has the desire and the capacity to be a productive member of our community. Our job is to help them meet these goals. In doing so, both the individual and Challenge become integral components of our community's economic progress."

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