Executive Excellence

/Executive Excellence
1 02, 2019

NextStep for Life®

2019-02-01T11:09:23-06:00 February 1st, 2019|Executive Excellence|

NextStep for Life® in Arnold Finds Jobs for People with Disabilities

Hundreds now pursuing The American Dream thanks to work by not-for-profit agency

Imagine a person with a disability buying a car and a house after landing a good job and saving their money.

That occurrence is not as rare as you may think.

The not-for-profit NextStep for Life – Employment Services agency is helping hundreds of people with disabilities get paying jobs and pursue The American Dream.

Not all are buying cars and houses just yet, but quality of life, independence and pride have boosted amazingly ever since NextStep for Life helped them find work – and in many cases grow into a good-paying career.

Annette Kendrick is Director of NextStep for Life – Employment Services. She is a University of Missouri graduate who worked at MERS Missouri Goodwill Industries before joining NextStep in 1996 as a case manager. Kendrick was named Director of Employment Services in 2003. A member of her family is a person with developmental disabilities.

“Our goal at NextStep for Life – Employment Services is to get people with disabilities employed in the community. We do that with a variety of different services. We are known as a Community Rehab Provider, meaning that we help the individuals we serve prepare for seeking employment and we help them find it. We guide and coach them throughout the process of landing a suitable job and beyond.”

“We typically serve between 160 and 180 new people a year,” Kendrick says, “and we continue to work with individuals from the age of 16 until they want to stop working, which in some cases, is many years.”

“About 50 percent of the new individuals that we serve each year are 18 to 22 years old. In any year we also work with more than 300 individuals who are in our ‘Long Term Follow Along,’ which means they have gotten a job and we continue to support and counsel them for the life of their job.”

Many Good Employers in Arnold

The City of Arnold is fertile ground for employing job candidates from NextStep for Life. “Many partner companies in Arnold employ our individuals on a regular basis,” Kendrick says. “A few of them are Denny’s, Dierberg’s, Lowe’s, Pasta House and Schnucks Markets, among others.”

“For the individuals we serve, what we do is life changing. We recently presented Pasta House with our Outstanding Community Partner Award; the company currently employs five of our people,” Kendrick says.

Kendrick and her staff work from small headquarters at 12 Municipal Drive just off Missouri Route 141. It is one of five service programs operated by the NextStep for Life® organization, a registered 501(c)(3) charitable enterprise in Jefferson County.

Kendrick’s staff currently numbers 19 full-time and 11 part-time members, plus four additional part-timers in summer. Most staff members earned college or community college degrees specializing in family services, human development, social services and related disciplines.

NextStep case managers and job developers help job-seekers plan and strategize their job goals; develop resumes; fill out online job applications; participate in mock interviews and job readiness training plus related activities. Job coaching by NextStep staff occurs on specific job sites to help newly hired employees acclimate to their new positions.

“Every single full-time staff member in our office is cross-trained for different responsibilities and services that we provide – from staff members who greet you when you walk in the door to myself,” Kendrick asserts.

“Every one of us carries a caseload. For example, I am also a job coach. In addition, I take assessments of individuals who come to us for assistance. Any task that I ask my staff members to do I have done myself many, many times and I will continue to do that whenever needs arise as our activities ebb and flow.”

“In a given month we may have 25 individuals who recently got a job and they all need job coaching by us. We want those people to be successful – it takes virtually everyone here to visit the job location to coach them. We are proud to provide high levels of service to our job seekers and companies that hire them.”

Tim Bommarito is Next Step for Life’s Director of Marketing & Development. He earned a B.S. from Saint Louis University and worked as NextStep’s Employment Services Development Specialist for three years before moving into his current role. A member of his family is a person with developmental disabilities.

“NextStep for Life was founded in 1980,” Bommarito says. “In the late 1960s, Missouri legislation allowed counties to establish a tax to develop and expand support services for people with developmental disabilities. In 1978, Jefferson County voters established the Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (JCDDRB), now known as Developmental Disability Advocates.”

“There were no service providers for people with developmental disabilities in Jefferson County at that time,” Bommarito explains. “In 1980, JCDDRB established a non-profit corporation named Exceptional Ones, Inc., which became Developmental Services of Jefferson County (DSJC) in 1991.  The Employment Services office opened on Jeffco Boulevard in 1998 and moved to 12 Municipal Drive in 2003. DSJC was renamed NextStep for Life in August 2010. Our organization was named a ‘Top Workplace’ by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for six consecutive years (2013-2018).”

Starting last January, NextStep for Life – Employment Services had placed 96 individuals in paying jobs by December 15, 2018, and anticipated 100 placements by year end.  In 2017, the service placed 118 individuals in paying jobs.

“Many individuals who started as dishwashers or table bussers or in entry-level jobs at restaurants or retailers have been promoted to better-paying jobs where they work, such as to cooks and hostesses,” Kendrick says. “After a few years many have moved to jobs with higher pay and benefits at different organizations.”

NGA Job with Security Clearance

One young man that NextStep placed in a Walmart job several years ago now works at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) – the government agency that provides classified data to policymakers, intelligence professionals, military, and first responders from facilities in Arnold. He worked as a landscaper for $14 per hour on NGA’s campus after gaining his security clearance, then was promoted to a transporter. He now makes $17 per hour and also has NGA health and insurance benefits.

Another young man that Kendrick helped place in a factory job wanted to buy a house so his mother, sick with cancer, could have a home. After working and saving money for years, “He recently stopped by our office to tell us that he bought a house and that his mother is living there with him,” Kendrick says.

In addition, a NextStep job veteran who moved on to another position at a Christian food pantry after some years bought a car, a condominium, and leads a very happy life. “We don’t place our individuals in any job so that they can simply have a job and get paid – we place them in jobs that are a good match for them so that they can have long-term success,” says Kendrick.

Bommarito and Kendrick say NextStep strives to work with as many people with disabilities as possible to provide lifestyle and work options and supportive services to improve quality of life, build pride, and boost self-respect for the individuals involved.

“We want to help them live the American Dream of finding a job, paying their bills, spending their money in their community, and enjoying life,” Kendrick asserts.

One individual says of her experience in the NextStep summer program, “I learned that I can move to different job roles and have found my strengths for each one. I learned how to work with different personality types and which ones I seem to mesh best with. I learned that I have to go to work when it’s a beautiful day and I would rather be doing something else, but at the end of the day it feels good to have gotten the job done.”

NextStep for Life receives referrals from the Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation division of the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education. The Vocational Rehabilitation division has 25 district offices in Missouri – five of them serve metro St. Louis, including Arnold.

To learn more about NextStep for Life’s Employment Services and related programs, call 636-282-4400 or 636-933-0244 or email info@nextstepforlife.org. Website: http://www.nextstepforlife.org.

Story by Jeff Dunlap for the City of Arnold

26 12, 2018

Jeffco Subcontracting, Inc.

2018-12-26T11:00:28-06:00 December 26th, 2018|Executive Excellence|

Jeffco Subcontracting, Inc.

A Special Place to Earn a Paycheck

Some anglers may envy the task that Chris Ingram is handling this week. He is assembling a new fishing lure called the Genesis Ti, a product from Omega Custom Tackle Company of St. Louis that is popular among professional and amateur fishermen.

Chris Ingram at JSIYet Chris has no time for fishing today. He is busy working at JSI, also known as Jeffco Subcontracting, Inc., a sheltered workshop at 2065 Pomme Road in Arnold.

Chris is developmentally disabled. He spends about 30 hours every week assembling and packaging different types of products for JSI customers in metro St. Louis. “It’s a good job,” he says with a smile.

About 110 JSI employees who are developmentally disabled work there. Every employee earns a paycheck, receives Social Security benefits, and makes a positive difference.

Dozens of companies, large and small, rely on JSI employees for production assistance so those companies can be more efficient and competitive – companies like Barnhart Industries, CCP Newco, Luxco, Schlafly Beer, Thiel Tool & Engineering, and more.

How does JSI help them?

On a short-term, seasonal, or a continuing basis, JSI employees provide assembly, packaging, re-packaging, collating, de-collating, product inspection, labeling, re-labeling, and custom work at its 44,000 sq ft facility. JSI saves customers money by eliminating their need to buy assembly equipment, or special equipment for heat-sealing, stretch-wrapping, heat-shrinking, blister packing, or clamshell packaging needs. Its overhead is low compared to that of some other temporary work agencies. And it provides a working life for special people who might not find paychecks elsewhere.

Service Oriented

Russ at JSI for Arnold newsletter

Russ Kuttenkuler is JSI’s Executive Director. He joined the not-for-profit 501(C) 3 organization in January 2015. Earlier, he worked as a unit manager for German chemical company Henkel, as an engineering manager at Sigma Aldrich, and as a site operations leader at Solutia, Inc. He earned a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

Kuttenkuler left corporate business for JSI because “I wanted to do something in my life more service oriented than what I used to do in previous jobs. In this line of work, JSI makes a positive difference for our employees and for our customers every day.”

JSI was in trouble when Kuttenkuler joined the enterprise in 2015.  Several customers had pulled their business, and another announced it was moving product packaging and assembly operations from JSI to a facility in Mexico.

“When I got here JSI really did not have a sales, marketing, or much of a customer service function,” Kuttenkuler says, “and some customers were not happy with JSI services at the time.”  In July 2017 he hired Kelly Baker as full time Sales & Business Development Manager.

JSI KELLY BAKERBaker earned a B.S.B.A. degree from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She worked as a sales representative for Capital Steel, Inc. for nearly five years before joining JSI. In addition to her JSI role, she is a Certified RYT-200 Yoga instructor in her spare time. “I love to help people,” she says. “Working with JSI is a lot more helpful to people than selling steel.”

At JSI, she is responsible for increasing the workload to provide continuing employment for employees. “Customer work that we attract offers our employees a sense of security and accomplishment, and a degree of financial independence. It also motivates our people. The things we do here and the people we benefit are gratifying in many ways.”

In the late 1960s, the State of Missouri passed legislation referred to as “Chapter 205.968 through 205.972 of the Revised Missouri Statutes.” This permitted counties to establish a mill tax for the purpose of developing and expanding sheltered workshops, residential and support services for their citizens with developmental disabilities.

In 1978 Jefferson County voters established the Jefferson County Commission for the Handicapped through the passage of “Proposition S – The Special Ones.” That year, Jefferson County Commissioners appointed the first handicapped facilities board consisting of nine members.

Essentially, JSI was founded in 1979 by a group of local parents whose adult children were developmentally disabled but could not find meaningful paying jobs. The local parents’ group and others in Missouri had advocated with legislators and business leaders to help establish the Jefferson County Commission for the Handicapped and to pass Proposition S.

JSI’s local umbrella organization is Developmental Disability Advocates, a Jefferson County governmental entity that administers county property tax dollars for services that benefit individuals with developmental disabilities. It provides resources to create opportunities.

In Missouri today, approximately 6,300 people with developmental disabilities earn money working at 90 sheltered workshops. The state’s system is known as the Extended Employment Sheltered Workshop Program.  It is not connected to Medicaid and it is funded by state, local, and business activities. Workshop employees are paid based on their ability to perform.  If an employee produces 50% of what a non-disabled person produces, they’re paid 50% of what that person makes. JSI employees who are developmentally disabled can earn wages of up to $10.34 per hour, depending on their abilities, Kuttenkuler says.

Good News

JSI LOGOKuttenkuler, who is a member of The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers advocacy organization, recently announced some very good news. In October of this year, JSI achieved record-breaking operational results that were 10% higher than the organization’s previous record-breaking month. He credits JSI’s entire organization with achieving that milestone, including all of the facility’s employees and supervisors/managers Paula Aleto, Ken Curfman, David Schumer, Christie Schumer, Gena Dunn, Susan Wilds, and Sandy Suschank.

“We offer a big shout out and thanks from deep in our hearts to every one of our customer companies, without whom we could not achieve our mission and goals,” Kuttenkuler asserts.

Kuttenkuler and Baker are proud that JSI has been able to sustain employment for its workers so that the employees can have a place to go every day, maintain self esteem, and earn a paycheck.

Kuttenkuler says that the management skills he transferred from corporate business to JSI are not as different as some people might think. “The business skills are very similar,” he explains. “Like a corporation, JSI is a business – we make stuff, we sell stuff, we negotiate prices, and we generate income.”

“Managing employees who have developmental disabilities is not all that different from managing employees who do not have them. No matter who they are, employees everywhere are human beings and they deal with similar issues.”

For company testimonials about JSI employees’ commitment to their work and delivering high-quality results for customers, scroll through the JSI website.

“By working here, JSI employees gain internal motivation,” Baker asserts. “They feel accomplished as individuals and as part of a work-life community. Many have worked here for more than 20 years. Check us out. If your company has some work that we can do for you, let us know!” Call 636-296-6211. 

Story by Jeff Dunlap for the City of Arnold

29 11, 2018

St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc.

2018-11-29T10:11:01-06:00 November 29th, 2018|Executive Excellence|

St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc.

Going Strong: Arnold-Based Home Improvements Firm Founded in 1960

Now a healthy 81 years old, Al Nothum doesn’t get around as much as he used to. Yet the home improvement company he founded in 1960 keeps serving clients across metro St. Louis from its headquarters at 18 Arnold Tenbrook Road.

“My father visits the office regularly, and he always talks about the business,” says Al Nothum’s son Brad, who today is president of Arnold-based St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. Now in business for 58 years, the firm provides more products and services than its name implies.

“When my father was 28 he decided he didn’t want to work as an employee any more for a construction company, which he had done for years,” Brad Nothum says. “He wanted to own and operate a home improvement firm to serve his own customers.”

With a pocket full of dreams and creative plans but not much else, Al Nothum hung out a shingle for his new company in south St. Louis and hired two of his friends to work for him.

“Dad started out as a general contractor,” says Brad Nothum. “After a year he began to expand services. The company began getting known for doing different types of home improvements along with siding and guttering. Every year or two Dad would add a new product or service to the company capabilities.”

The company that Al Nothum founded began to grow – slowly. “As I remember,” Brad Nothum recalls, “Dad never did just one thing in particular that immediately prompted a huge spurt of new business, but there were a lot of little ones.”

For example, when Al Nothum began to offer different types of new soffits for sale and installation in residential homes, 100 new customers did not call right away with orders, but a few did. Little by little, the company grew and expanded.

“About the only thing that generates a lot of new business all at once is when a tornado hits the metro area and we get lots of calls for roof and siding repairs,” says Brad Nothum.

“Our business growth has always been slow but steady, and I think that’s the way Dad liked it,” he says. “I don’t think Dad did a lot of advertising over the years except in the Yellow Pages – a lot of our new business came in by referrals and word of mouth, and it still does.

Family Values

After graduating from Oakville High School in the late 1970s, Brad Nothum worked part time for his Dad – “I was hanging gutters,” he says. Then he enrolled at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. When he earned a degree in business, he joined the company full time in the office, working in sales and operations management.

By then the company was a family affair. Brad Nothum’s mother Betty and his sister Maria worked in administration. His brother Al Nothum, Jr., worked in direct sales for many years; another brother, Tim, worked in installations. Art Nothum, Sr., was the boss. (Al Nothum, Jr., later joined the Missouri Highway Patrol and Tim Nothum later joined Dave Sinclair Dodge.)

St. Louis Gutter & Siding HQ, Arnold MO“Twenty-five years ago we were not offering all the products and services that we do now, but we offered a lot of them. We had a good business with good customers,” Brad Nothum says. In 1993 the firm bought vacant acreage on a hillside at 18 Tenbrook Road and built its 3,500 sq ft headquarters building overlooking the Tenbrook Industrial Park. Within a few years, however, the U.S. recession of 2007-2009 hit the construction industry. Some family members thought the firm might go belly up.

But not Brad Nothum and his father.

“The recession hit the commercial construction industry really hard,” Brad Nothum recalls. “Those years were tough for our company, probably our toughest, but we got through those tough times. I know that there were people here who worried that we would go out of business, but I wasn’t. Most of the work we did then – and do now – is for residential projects, and the residential market wasn’t as hard hit as commercial construction during the recession. We managed to pull through, thanks to our residential work for clients who wanted to improve the look and quality of their homes,” he says.

“Starting many years ago, we worked on projects valued at $600, but we also have worked on $6,000 projects and $60,000 projects, and everything in between. We respond to marketplace needs and to customer needs, and we do whatever necessary to meet client expectations.”

“I believe that our high quality standards for commitment and customer value originate with the fact that we began as a small, family-owned company,” Brad Nothum asserts. “In the beginning, our company didn’t have much and we served each and every client as if they were our only client. We still feel that way. We work to satisfy our clients’ needs one at a time.”

Today, St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. has 14 full-time employees, plus six that work part-time. Eight employees are full-time home improvement installers, and three are full-time home improvement sales personnel. “A number of our employees have been with us for many years,” Brad Nothum says. “We generally have excellent relations with our vendors – many of them have served us for years – and they provide us with state-of-the-art residential improvement components.”

“Our headquarters location in Arnold is convenient and central within the greater St. Louis market area that we serve. Arnold is a great place for conducting our business. Today we address a large variety of residential improvements from siding, gutters, windows, and roofing to customized work and architectural sheet metal details,” he says. “People know us because we have been around for a long time and we do great work.”

Brad Nothum and his wife Wendy are the company’s sole owners since they purchased the firm in 2015 from Brad’s father. To learn more about Arnold-based St. Louis Gutter & Siding, Inc. and the firm’s capabilities, visit its website.

Story by Jeff Dunlap for the City of Arnold Community Link

27 09, 2018

Rock Roll-O-Rena Skating Rink

2018-11-29T10:12:10-06:00 September 27th, 2018|Executive Excellence|

Rock Roll-O-Rena Skating Rink

Fun-Filled Blast from the Past

In 1964, Harold Long concluded there were few places in Arnold that his four children could visit for fun and avoid trouble when they were not at school – not only his kids, but kids from other local families, too.

Although he was not a skater Long decided to build an indoor roller skating rink and open it to the public for an admission fee.

With four partners, Long purchased about an acre of land along Jeffco Boulevard. He hired an architect and construction team. His vision began to take shape when the 8,700 square-foot skating surface of polished American maple was installed like a giant oval.

Long was correct that there were few places in Arnold back then where kids and families could enjoy indoor recreation in both summer and winter. There was a movie theatre and a bowling alley within close driving distance, but not much else for people who wanted something new for having fun with friends and family.

On February 27, 1965, the Rock Roll-O-Rena opened to a mighty fanfare of newspaper publicity and public enthusiasm. The place was packed with people old and young. Long and his wife Maxine had promoted the grand opening in advance by notifying churches, schools, and local businesses, and by christening their skating rink with a distinctive name.

JoDonna Neifert was nine years old when the doors opened. “It was named for its location in Rock Township, and ‘Roll-O-Rena’ was used rather than ‘arena’ so the name would sound different from anything else,” she says. As a teenager, JoDonna started working in the snack bar, and has worked in the Rock Roll-O-Rena ever since.

Romance on Skates

JoDonna Glen NeifertWith her husband Glen Neifert, JoDonna co-owns and co-manages the Rock Roll-O-Rena today. Long is her maiden name. Her father Harold managed the business for more than 30 years, often with help from his original partners Elmer and Sandra Bullerdick and Herbert and Gertrude Crow. JoDonna’s brother Paul Long and his wife Tammy also worked there for years.

It is a venue where visitors are transported to a different time, perhaps to childhood or their teen years, or to the place where they spent their first date or experienced their first kiss. With its 1960s-style yellow and orange colors and snack bar booths, it’s a retro setting that seemingly never changes as people, some holding hands, skate around the gleaming maple floor while music plays. Rock Roll-O-Rena endures the test of time.

“So many people visit and tell me they remember skating here on a first date or coming here to meet someone – a lot of them met their husbands or wives as teenagers and later married each other, and now their kids come here,” JoDonna says, smiling.

JoDonna and her husband Glen were one of those teen couples. Says Glen, age 63, “I came here in 1973 to roller skate for the first time, and it turned out I could skate pretty well. I saw JoDonna and decided to stick around for a while to talk with her.”

“We met for the first time by the pinball machine,” Glen recalls, “and one thing led to another.”

After Glen visited the roller skating rink several times, JoDonna’s father offered Glen a part-time job. “That was a big change maker,” Glen says.

That year Rock Roll-O-Rena expanded its indoor space by one third, not including the maple skating floor. Glen helped out with the improvements.

When he and JoDonna started dating, they sometimes also watched movies at a long-gone Jefferson County drive-in theatre. In 1975 Glen and JoDonna got married. From the start they made a great team for the small business. For one thing, they both love the skating rink, and they love being around people from all walks of life who visit there.

“If you don’t like people, you shouldn’t be in a public business like this,” says Glen, adding, “We are ‘people people.’ And we love the kids who skate here.”

The Neiferts work together very well. You might say they are a true Mom and Pop operation. Since their marriage, they both have handled the financial books and record keeping, and they manage Rock Roll-O-Rena advertising and promotions, such as for fundraisers and their “Kids Skate Free” program among others, including a speed skating lesson program.

When JoDonna and Glen got married, Harold Long was the boss and owner. By then he had bought out his original partners. JoDonna and Glen shared Long’s business values and recreational mission that, then as now, included preserving a safe environment to enjoy skating fun:

  • Skating is supervised at all times by “skating guards” (employees).
  • Skating speeds must be reasonable; passing other skaters must be done carefully.
  • No skater should move recklessly or jeopardize others’ safety.
  • No skater is allowed to carry children on skates anywhere in the building.
  • Alcoholic beverages, illegal substances or anyone under the influence are prohibited, and no smoking is allowed in the building.

Cater to the Skater

Rock Roll-O-Rena is open ThursdayFriday, and Saturday evenings, and also for private parties. In fall, winter, and spring it is open seven days a week with Tuesdays and Wednesdays reserved for private skating groups, such as from churches, schools, and scout troops. Parents often drop off their children there to skate and then pick up the kids after an hour or two, or stay to skate with them. On Saturday nights the crowd often includes high school kids “and every Saturday night is a different experience,” JoDonna says.

Rock Roll-O-RenaThe polished maple skating floor can accommodate up to 700 people; the entire building can handle up to 1,000. About 650 pairs of roller skates in different sizes are available to rent for $2 each. New pairs of skates can be purchased.

Harold Long passed away in 2002 and his wife Maxine in 2005. Times have changed, yet much about Rock Roll-O-Rena remains the same. As the owners today, Glen and JoDonna say they have managed to keep Rock Roll-O-Rena in business for so many years because “we cater to the skater.”

“We listen to our customers and respect their opinions,” says Glen. “We have done that since the beginning,” adds JoDonna. “Many of our customers have become good friends.” These days, about 500 people a week go there to roller skate.

“The bottom line is that you’ve got to stay focused on the customer and ‘work your business’ to keep it going,” Glen asserts. The Neiferts remember the hard times encountered during the recession of 2007-2009, when they always managed to provide paychecks for their part-time employees, but sometimes did not pay themselves.

“You’ve got to keep your credit up,” JoDonna says.

The potential liability of running a roller skating rink is enormous, and expenses keep increasing. The Neiferts’ biggest expenses for the business are liability insurance, utilities (air conditioning and heating their 14,500 square foot building), and fees they pay to music licensing organizations so the Rock Roll-O-Rena sound system can play popular music for skaters.

“We’ve played every kind of music you can think of,” says Glen, who programs the sound system. “The music we play during any year always reflects the tastes of American consumers. During the disco years of the 1970s skaters were moving to all the disco sounds. We’ve played rock, country, pop, jazz, classical, and hip-hop through our loudspeakers. You’ve got to talk to your customers to find out what kinds of music they like when they’re skating. No matter what music it is, it’s got to have a beat.”

Will the dwindling number of roller skating rinks in America go the way of the circus?

“That’s a good question,” Glen says. “The way I see it, roller skating rink owners that don’t constantly ‘work their business’ will eventually close their doors. Every rink owner has got to like people of all ages, including kids, and they’ve got to love the business they are in.”

“The Rock Roll-O-Rena has a tradition of being a family-oriented place where people can come to skate, have fun, and be safe. As long as it does, we’ll be here.”

Story by Jeff Dunlap