Unlimited Services, Inc. celebrates 15 years

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From left, Unlimited Services directors Amy Vonderhaar, Angi Lawson, Barry Armstrong, Michelle Armstrong and Johnna Sweers have been with the company since the beginning. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

Unlimited Services of Guttenberg is celebrating 15 years in business with reflection and gratitude. The company started in 2003 with a group of owners who are still together today, continuing to evolve as needs change and striving to create a community where individuals participate and achieve their dreams, hopes and desires. The company has grown from five homes and 25 staff to 12 homes and approximately 100 staff. Unlimited Services is a certified provider under the Medicaid HCBS Waiver Programs and is CARF accredited.

A new strategic plan, developed last spring, will guide the company into the future. “We feel like leaders in the industry with our forward thinking,” said Angi Lawson, Director of Community Relations. “After 15 years, we are enhancing our model with more focus on the individual and person-centered dreams.” 

Unlimited Services is in the midst of what they call the Dream Project. Individuals coming to the company for services are asked questions like, “What do you want for your future? What do you value? What’s important to you, and important for you?” Staff members are being trained to focus on each individual’s unique needs and goals. 

Part of that initiative means finding housing where individuals need it. “We serve 75-80 people. Towns where we have homes change because people’s needs change, and we pride ourselves in being flexible. That’s person-centered – living in the community of their choice,” said Lawson. Unlimited Services currently has four homes in Guttenberg, three in Dyersville with a new one scheduled to open in August, one home in Farley, three in Manchester and one in Edgewood. 

The company continues to focus on being part of the communities they live in. Houses are rented from landlords, volunteers are involved with local projects and organizations, and individuals work  for local businesses. Guttenberg landlords like Dave Brown and Gary Willman have helped Unlimited Services find housing and offices over the years. 

The Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce, the Family Resource Center, and the Guttenberg Care Center are some of many places individuals with Unlimited Services have volunteered in Guttenberg. “We thank our volunteer organizations for supporting us and giving people the opportunity to give back,” said Johnna Sweers, who oversees the company’s supported community living program. 

In Manchester, members of the Unlimited Services Hopes Club have been nominated by the Manchester Good Neighbor Society for a volunteer award. Monday through Friday, 17 day-hab and pre-vocational individuals do everything from folding napkins and cleaning tables to assisting residents to and from meals and activities. “Most importantly, volunteers from Unlimited Services provide companionship. The bonds with residents create friendship, trust and understanding,” stated a representative from the Good Neighbor Society. 

Unlimited Services directors and staff volunteer alongside individuals being served, and do so with gratitude for the all the ways they’ve been supported in their 15 years of business. In their early days, inspiration came from Karen Merrick and funding came from local banks. As the company grew, EideBailly CPA Karen Jess was hired to help with Medicaid and cost reporting, and Ron Sterr of Dubuque Bank & Trust offered insight and support when challenges arose. In 2010, the late Dick Foust of Manchester constructed a brand new building to suit the needs of Unlimited Services’ growing vocational center and redemption center.

“Our employees are the backbone of the company. We have very good staff,” Sweers told The Press. Supervisor Katie Rausch started in 2003. Kelly Meyers, Heather Hansel, and Kimberly Voss also joined the team. In addition to Lawson and Sweers, directors include Michelle Armstrong, Director of Quality Enhancement; Amy Vonderhaar, Director of HR and Accounting; and Barry Armstrong, Director of Vocational Services. 

Armstrong oversees the company’s day-hab program, where individuals gather daily to focus on skill-building through community volunteering programs like the one at the Manchester Good Neighbor Society; the pre-vocational program, which teaches work skills; and the supported employment program, where job coaches work with employed individuals. Within the vocational program there are 57 people – 43 percent of those volunteer in the community and 39 percent are employed at or above minimum wage. 

Some of those employment opportunities are offered by Unlimited Services’ own can redemption center. “The redemption center is now integrated so you have people with and without disabilities working side-by-side,” said Lawson. “Everybody that works there is paid minimum wage or above.” The center processes between 7 and 8 million cans annually for businesses like Fareway and others along a route between Guttenberg, Elkader, Clayton, Garnavillo, and Strawberry Point. Recently, the company processed over 40,000 cans for the Clayton Ridge After Prom Committee fundraiser. 

In addition to their five directors, Unlimited Services has an Advocates Advisory Board including Kari Harbaugh, Judy Puls, Sharon Walters and TJ Moser. 

“Without our awesome staff, we wouldn’t be here. Without the individuals we serve, we wouldn’t be here. We thank them for trusting us and joining our family,” Lawson told The Press. “We look forward to many years to come!”

For more information about Unlimited Services, visit www.unlimitedservices-inc.com.

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