A new opportunity to help people facing obstacles to employment has arrived for the Hannibal area and surrounding counties.

A new opportunity to help people facing obstacles to employment has arrived for the Hannibal area and surrounding counties.

Challenge Unlimited Director of Employment Services Dale Sheets said the nonprofit organization was started by parents in 1959, to help provide productive activities and vocational training for their adult children with disabilities. Lauren Surprenant, Employment Services Placement Specialist, said the program began on June 1, with an office inside the Missouri Career Center building at 203 N. 6th St. Clients are referred to Challenge Unlimited by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. Sheets said the program came about when the organization recognized a strong need to provide services for Northeast Missouri residents facing obstacles to employment.

“A lot of doors have opened up, and the ability to go to work with people who have goals to have jobs just like anyone else and being contributing members of their communities, they’re succeeding at that, is really marvelous,” she said.

Sheets said supported employment — where a Challenge Unlimited staff member helps an employee improve specific skills and maintains contact with managers — and job placement are two ways that Challenge Unlimited can benefit clients, employers and other members of communities spanning eight counties: Lewis, Clark, Knox, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls and Shelby.

Surprenant said she has already been working with a couple clients, and she said it is rewarding to help each person thrive in achieving their goals. Challenge Unlimited also helps clients set up a career path, learn techniques to search for a job, create a resume and practice interviewing skills.

“It’s really fun to see them be able to be the best they can be and to overcome the obstacles to employment that they have,” she said.

She said she works hard to find a job that fits well with each person’s interests. Surprenant said there are a variety of obstacles a person might face, and those barriers are not limited to disabilities.

“That doesn’t define who they are, it’s just something that needs an accommodation,” she said.

She said a team effort helps ensure that each person receives the individual support they need, as Missouri Job Center staffers help out with tasks like giving a client a typing test.

Surprenant said a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11.30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 will formally announce Challenge Unlimited to the public and coincides with opening up a lobby area. She and Sheets agreed that being on the same floor as Missouri Job Center staff members allows for a strong partnership.

“We’re excited to have the Missouri Job Center allow us to be their partner, and to work with our clients from the Missouri Job Center is a real win-win for us and for the clients,” Sheets said.

To find out more about Challenge Unlimited, please contact Surprenant at 573-213-4466 or lsurprenant@cuinc.org , or visit Challenge Unlimited’s website at www.cuinc.org .

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com