Staff News

New Year, New Fitness Goals

Our Health and Wellness employee program has been going strong for five years and provided countless gym memberships and wellness incentives to our employees. After five years of partnership with LA Fitness, we are excited to announce a new partnership with XSport Fitness. Their locations are 24 hours, which help meet the needs of our employee schedules. Additionally, XSport Fitness allows employees to bring a guest with them each time, which makes working out all the more engaging. Locations have pools, free classes, and many more great amenities. We can’t wait to break a sweat!

Holiday Happenings
The welcome table.

We closed out 2019 in style, with a celebration of the end-of-year holidays and our annual Parent-Client Luncheon.  

A time to celebrate and to reflect.

At the end of November, we had another fun celebration with our traditional Thanksgiving party. Each year, we cater all of our clients’ favorite Thanksgiving foods such as turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and of course some apple pie for dessert! Staff pitched in to decorate our Developmental Training Center with streamers and posters, and it was so nice to see everyone get dressed up for this special meal. In the spirit of being thankful, we would like to recognize all of our hardworking employees who worked on Thanksgiving and spent time with their Rimland family. We couldn’t do this without you!

Delivering delicious dishes.

For the Parent-Client Luncheon on December 20, our headquarters was festively adorned with holiday lights and glittery ornaments decorated by our clients and hung brightly from the ceilings. The clients came sharply dressed in holiday attire and ready to celebrate in high fashion! Parent volunteer Mrs. Ann Moltz greeted our visitors at the door and showcased holiday candles and cards created with love by our clients. We were overwhelmed by the generous donations for these small offerings! The conference room was transformed into a winter wonderland complete with special “photo booth walls” for our clients and guests to create some great family memories. After a delicious lunch of mostaccioli, hot Italian beef, and salad (all served by our hardworking staff!), we enjoyed live music presented by Tom Sexton with special performances by some of our clients. Song and dance filled the room with good cheer and smiling faces.  As the day wound down, we sampled homemade goodies and sweets before finally saying goodbye to our visitors. We are so thankful to be able to enjoy the holidays with our Rimland families and friends! Thank you to all who made this a fabulous day!

Making Evanston more aware and inclusive
Ebenezer AME Church

On August 10, Executive Director Carolyn Keel represented Rimland at an autism awareness discussion at Evanston’s Ebenezer AME Church. The purpose of the event was to provide a wide range of information on the autism community to members of the church as well as to the broader Evanston community. Carolyn presented information about Rimland’s history and our current programs. Not only is it helpful for Evanston residents to know what autism resources are available, but this kind of exchange is also an important opportunity for the city to be inclusive and to become more aware of its own diversity. Rimland has a longstanding partnership with the city of Evanston and events like these help bring us together. Thank you, Carolyn!

Healthcare Resources for Adults with Autism

Did you know that AASPIRE (Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education at Portland State University) has developed an online healthcare toolkit for adults with autism, their supporters, and healthcare providers? The website focuses on primary healthcare and is meant to improve the healthcare of autistic adults.

Chocked full of health and medical information, exercise tips, worksheets, and checklists, the site is a trove of useful resources to autistic adults and their family members, health providers, and supporters. Visit the Healthcare Toolkit website now.

Progress Report
The piano lesson

Rimland is currently working on our next annual report, which will be released soon. But here’s a preview! These shots feature our expert photographer, Elliot Mandel, taking photos that will be part of the upcoming report.

Elliot captures the artists at work

We look forward to creating these publications as an opportunity to reflect on the past, recommit to our values, and share what we have in store for the future. As an organization built on community, we want to use the annual report to connect to parents, guardians, staff, supporters, and all the clients in our Rimland family. Look out for the annual report in the weeks to come.

Expanding arts opportunities
The completed mural

Rimland’s art program has been expanding over the past few months, and the changes are quite noticeable at DT. In addition to daily craft projects, we have begun to expand our wall murals, not only to beautify DT, but to showcase the hard work and talents of the individuals at Rimland.

Work in progress
The penny table

We are also making a penny table—a table where the top is made of over 100 pennies that individuals have put together. Creating the penny table is both a fun exercise and a great way to practice fine motor skills.


We have also installed chalkboards throughout DT, so that individuals can always stay creative and communicate in a visual manner.

Getting to know…Rimland’s Amy Werner

Rimland’s Amy Werner

Amy Werner is familiar to the Rimland community as the organization’s former administrative assistant, who subsequently became administrative coordinator and then operations director. She was recently interviewed by the digital media platform VoyageChicago as part of their “Chicago’s Most Inspiring Stories” project. VoyageChicago reached out to Amy through social media after seeing some of Rimland’s posts. She was really excited to be offered this opportunity to talk about Rimland, not just as an organization, but as a group of people working hard to serve others. Follow the link to learn more about Amy and her journey from new college graduate to valued Rimland team member.

Can you hear us now?

Rimland is currently in the process of updating our phone system. We will be upgrading the hardware for our phones and taking advantage of new technologies to make us more accessible via a web-based system. All Rimland phone numbers will stay the same and there will be no changes to the way we make and receive calls. Phone numbers for our group homes will not change either. Final updates will occur in the end of April, and we are looking forward to a seamless transition to more advanced technology. Please contact our office with any questions.


Staff News: Relias Conference Update

Michael presents to the conference

In October, we reported that Associate Executive Directors Tammie McClendon and Michael Christopher recently attended a Relias (healthcare learning and training organization) conference where they were invited to speak about Rimland’s unique merit-based pay (MPB) structure and how this innovative process helps us to recruit and retain excellent direct service professionals.

We’d like to share more about their experience at the conference, along with details about Rimland’s pay system. Michael and Tammie attended sessions on Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDD), culture, best practices for staff retention and supervision, and more.

At the conference

They presented about Rimland’s merit pay system. Michael spoke to RimlandNews about the talk. “We presented on what a merit pay system is and how other places use it,” he explained. “We showed them our structure and our format for it. Our system rewards our staff for the work that they do. They can see a difference in their pay every month as long as they follow the criteria.  They no longer have to wait a year or longer for a work evaluation.”

Some highlights from their presentation include:

  • MPB payment model offers financial incentives for meeting certain performance measures.
  • MBP helps employers to differentiate between the performance of high and low performing employees and reward the performance of the higher performers.
  • MPB Improves competitiveness and staff can take ownership of their work.
  • MBP helps to bring in new employees and retain employees. It puts a real value on the DSP’s worth. DSPs are Rimland’s backbone!

“Currently, I believe we are the only ones that have this system,” Michael continued.  “Other places just give employees raises after their evaluation, if at all. Our way is better, because staff have full responsibility of deciding what their pay will be, not us.“

Michael and Tammie reported that the attendees were very engaged in the session. Several agencies are now considering following Rimland’s lead and switching to a merit pay structure. Michael and Tammie were asked to speak at the conference again next year. Congratulations, Michael and Tammie!

Michael Christopher

LinkedIn and HookedUp

Laptop lifesavers

Rimland would like to thank LinkedIn for their continued support. In mid-October, they donated 54 laptops and accessories to Rimland! They have made similar donations like these in the past—we have been receiving donations from LinkedIn since 2013—and they are such a big help to us. We are constantly in need of laptops, but they are very expensive. By providing laptops, LinkedIn allows us to devote our funds directly to our clients while also providing staff with the technology they need to perform their jobs well. This is a great example of how for-profits and non-profits can work together for the common good.


We appreciate our Direct Support Professionals!

A Portillo’s Feast



On Friday, September 22nd and Saturday, September 23rd, Rimland hosted Direct Support Professional appreciation events. Friday’s event was a catered lunch from Portillo’s, and Saturday’s featured a catered brunch from Panera Bread.



The events included massages offered by a professional massage company, a raffle with a variety of gift card prizes, including $50 gift cards, movie gift cards, restaurant gift cards, Amazon gift cards, and Starbucks gift cards); and a presentation of certificates with a $50 gift card to recognize Direct Support Professionals who have demonstrated a long term commitment to Rimland, our most improved Direct Support Professionals, and our most reliable Direct Support Professionals.


Award recipients included:

Long Term Dedicated Commitment of 7+ years: Sylvia Malone, Sam Bolian, Omolade Tucker, Stephanie Mathis, Yommy Shokunbi, Sekinat Solebo, Terrance Fortenberry and Joseph Adebayo

Most Improved Direct Support Professional: Elena Mendoza, Wanda Smith, and Kay Solomon

Most Reliable Direct Support Professional (willingness to work all locations and shifts with minimal call-offs): Reuben Wabomnor, Sam Bolian, Omolade Tucker, Tete Bahun-Wilson and Sekinat Solebo

Learning the ropes

Margarita at Rimland

Margarita Stoimenova, a college intern with Neumann Family Services in Chicago, contacted Rimland to meet with us, discuss our programs, and gather ideas on how to improve the programming at Neumann for adults with developmental disabilities. This is Margarita’s second summer interning with Neumann. She met with Terrance Wimberly and Carolyn Keel to learn more about how Rimland provides excellent programming. They also toured one of the homes in our Residential Program to observe the innovative ways in which Rimland is supporting adults with autism.

Deepening our Impact

We are proud to share that Rimland was recently selected to present at the Impact Nation conference in Orlando this October. Associate Executive Director Michael Christopher will be presenting on Rimland’s merit pay structure and how it is an innovative approach to recruiting and retaining talented Direct Service Professionals. Impact Nation has never before featured a presentation on this subject matter and is eager to give Rimland the platform to share our expertise.

Hard to say goodbye…

So long

Caseworker Sarah Vitek has worked with Rimland at a fellow agency, CAU, for a long time and will be retiring soon. Below is a quote from one of Rimland’s Associate Executive Directors commenting on her dedicated service to Rimland’s clients:

“Sarah was an amazing support to our clients and will be missed greatly by them and the agency. Sarah has done both sides of the big picture: working one on one with clients to case management for CAU. From stories she has shared with me, she has worked directly with clients at an agency on a daily basis for many years working hands-on, from helping clients reach their daily goals to going into the communities with clients to taking individuals on field trips and everything in between for many years before she became employed at CAU. Because of her experience, background, and personality Sarah was, and always will be, a wonderful, kind-hearted mentor, advocate, and support for individuals with disabilities. She will be missed dearly by all of us here at Rimland.”

Butcher, baker…candlestick maker!

We are in the developing stages of a new client candle-making venture. Clients recently began learning about horticulture in the classroom, and they planted organic herbs as the first stage of the project. Once these herbs grow, clients will pick them and incorporate them into candles they are making. Clients will then go on outings to the store to purchase candle-making materials (mason jars, organic soy wax, and wicks). They will work with direct service professionals to warm up the wax and pour it into the mason jars – along with the herbs and wick – to create their very own organic candles. They will then decorate the candles and sell their products at local farmers markets. We are very excited about this project. Stay tuned for more information about the launch of the project and how you can contribute to clients’ success!

A job well done!

Rimland would like to recognize the staff members at our Brown and Custer house.

At recent annual Individual Service Plan meetings, parents and guardians of the individuals in the home expressed their gratitude.  They said that the staff members are professional, friendly, and knowledgeable.

Thank you for all the work that you do on behalf of the individuals we support!

Happy Anniversary to the Employee Health & Wellness Program

Let’s Move!

This February marks the two-year anniversary of the Employee Health and Wellness program. As an employee benefit, Rimland covers the cost of an LA Fitness gym membership. At LA Fitness locations throughout Chicagoland, Rimland employees have access to the gym, weights, yoga, spinning classes, basketball courts, pools, saunas, and more. Staff who use their memberships consistently for 3 months earn a Fitbit Flex, a fashionable wristband that tracks fitness activities, including steps, distance, calories burned, etc. The program has been very motivational for staff to go the gym consistently, to work out, and to work hard. Our LA Fitness contacts, Andrew and Karen, have been very supportive and welcoming to Rimland. Congratulations to all our participants.

Rimland completes quality management survey


On October 19-20, 2016, Rimland completed a portion of our annual Bureau of Quality Management (BQM) survey. This annual survey is conducted under the Department of Human Services (DHS) in two parts. Part one pertains to medication management for individuals we support and part two pertains to the individual’s environment, their services, and their personal outcomes. This survey is in addition to our annual Developmental Training and three-year CILA survey conducted by DHS, which we also recently concluded successfully. However, unlike these program surveys that you may have heard or recently read about, BQM does not award outcome percentages or a level of compliance. Instead, BQM uses a unique, person-centered and support-driven tool to guide the agency’s outcome or “level of compliance,” if you will. In short, at the conclusion of the survey, BQM announces whether the agency was fully compliant or if a Plan of Correction is needed to be in compliance, which shall be reviewed by the DHS Quality Review Department.

With that said, on October 19-20, DHS Bureau of Quality Management arrived (unannounced) to conduct the portion of the survey pertaining to the individual’s environment, their services, and personal outcomes. During this survey, we received great feedback and knowledge of what is to come in the future from BQM and how it will benefit those we support. At the conclusion of the survey, Rimland received the wonderful news that we are in full compliance!


Survey says…100%


On September 20-21, 2016, Rimland completed the annual Department of Human Services (DHS) Developmental Training (DT) on-site accreditation survey. At the end of each survey, a percentage and level is awarded to the agency. This year, the outcome for our DT program was 100% compliance and we were awarded Level One. The DHS surveyor complimented Rimland’s team for being dedicated and passionate advocates for the individuals we support. The surveyor also commented on how many opportunities we provide for our clients, both in their programming and in the community, and he commended Rimland for always being a leader in services for those with autism. As we look to the future, as always, we will keep our standards high for continued greatness in the service of those we support.