Community Link employees celebrate service milestones

September 14, 2015

As an innovator in the human service industry since 1972, Community Link provides a variety of support services to over 500 children and adults with developmental disabilities. Community Link helps people achieve learning breakthroughs, employ their skills and talents (ideally in the community, but also in our production workshop, and even in classroom settings), live as independently as possible in a home of their own, and make friends as active volunteers in community groups that welcome their presence and contributions.

Community Link was founded in 1972 as Clinton County Rehabilitation Center by a small group of parents seeking local services for their children with developmental disabilities. The agency began with a staff of six serving 27 people in Clinton County. In 43 years, the agency has grown to regularly serve more than 200 families of young children at risk of developmental delay and more than 300 adults with developmental disabilities annually across multiple Illinois counties and now employs over 150 staff members who perform a variety of roles to make Community Link the organization it is today.

With three locations in Breese, one in Fairview Heights, and seven residential homes in the area, talented, dedicated staff members are crucial in maintaining the high standard of support our participants deserve and have come to expect.

Several staff members are celebrating milestone anniversaries this year.

Beth Hake and Jackie Toennies have been with Community Link for 20 years.

Beth, Vocational Program Manager, was originally hired as a Trainer 3 in 1995. At that time, the entire Community Link organization was housed in what is now the Breese West Building, but the Production program moved to the East building later that year. Beth held the positions of Production Manager and DT Program Manager before taking the position of Vocational Program Manager in 2001. Beth is a hard worker, who is dedicated to the participants. She assists them with work training, supported employment, job placement, and job development. She is always willing to take on new tasks, such as Mandt training and vehicle training, and has a great sense of humor. Beth commented, “I have met and worked with many great people during my time at CL. Every day, I have the opportunity to see the participants work hard to be successful in life and work. My reward is being a part of their life. My co-workers/staff are part of my extended family. We support each other through thick and thin as we all have the same goal - keep Community Link as the best place for individuals to achieve their dreams.” 

Jackie, Part-Time Habilitation Assistant, has worked in both the production and classroom settings. For the last 8 years, she has shared a job with another staff member, so she works every other week. She works directly with participants at the Breese West building. Jackie has a positive attitude that radiates throughout the building. She is an employee that truly exemplifies Community Link’s core values of respect, commitment, and making a difference. She always displays respect towards participants and co-workers and does her best to make every day special for the people she comes in contact with. Jackie is the kind of person who inspires others around her to be better and Community Link is fortunate to have her as a member of our team.

Donna Gruenenfelder, Production Coordinator, has been with Community Link for the past 25 years. She handles planning and coordinating all of the production contracts that come into Community Link for the Breese East, Breese West, and Fairview Heights Metro locations. She sets schedules, communicates with contractors, supervises truck drivers, oversees the productions vehicles, drives the fork lift to load and unload, and oversees the recycling program. Anything that has to do with the work the participants complete, Donna is involved in and responsible for seeing that it gets done. She is a hard worker and willing to work in all types of weather! She has been a dedicated employee, who is caring and incredibly knowledgeable about contract work. Donna commented, “It has been a pleasure to be a part of the Community Link family for the past 25 years. I have been lucky enough to not only watch us grow from CCRC to Community Link, but to see the participants grow. I have seen ups and downs that come with any business, but what makes this job stand apart are those we support. At the end of the day, I know that I have made a difference in someone’s life and this has always made it worth it.”

Deb Gray, Production Specialist, is celebrating her 30th year at Community Link this year. Deb began her career with Community Link in 1985. She had worked as a teacher’s aide and was off for the summer when she committed to about 30 hours/week at what was then Clinton County Rehabilitation Center. About 10 years later she moved to the East location to lead a Production Group. Deb is very passionate about providing participants the opportunity to work and earn a paycheck just like anyone else. She teaches them appropriate interactions and attempts to instill work ethics and values. Two evenings per week, she provides job coaching to a couple of participants while they do their janitorial work. With Deb’s years of experience, she is an asset to Community Link. She is someone that can always be counted on. She has extensive knowledge about the participants she supports, and has the ability to focus on a participant’s skills and abilities, without focusing on what they can’t do. 

Lisa Rehkemper, IT Coordinator, started her career with Community Link 35 years ago as a Clerk/Typist at a time when computers were not prevalent in the non-profit industry. In the beginning, her position included a variety of duties including program secretary, client payroll, and operation of an offset printing machine creating brochures and newsletters. Lisa’s love for machines grew, and in 1984 when a few computers were purchased, Lisa was anxious to learn. By 1986, with the growth of Community Link, Lisa’s duties evolved and she became instrumental in setting up information on a computer database system. By 1991, Lisa’s duties changed to Personnel Administration, but her interest in machines remained. When asked to figure out a way to network the computers, she obliged. Prior to this, the computers were stand-alone machines; there was no communication between them. By 1997, Lisa was a full-fledged IT support person, taking on project after project for the next 18 years. Lisa is an example of how when desire and commitment meet, you can build a successful career and life.

These are only a handful of the wonderful employees working at Community Link who are striving to help our participants realize their dreams. If you want to be a part of this great organization and embark on a rewarding career, consider attending our Walk-In Interview Day on September 23rd from 2-7pm at Community Link’s Breese East building (1665 N. 4th Street, Breese). We are hiring for a variety of employment opportunities in multiple locations, which can be found on our website, www.commlink.org. Community Link is an equal opportunity employer. 

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