KC Phonothon: Kuchel shows growth at Life Skills

Thursday, August 30, 2018
Life Skills Production Aide Steve Kneip (left) and Haylee Kuchel (right) celebrate their great teamwork with a double high-five, after folding some bedding at Like Skills Training Center in Le Mars.
(Photo contributed)

Life Skills Training Center is a facility which serves Plymouth County by employing and training people with disabilities for jobs at Life Skills and in the community.

The Plymouth County Knights of Columbus members are preparing for the 38th Annual Plymouth County KC Phonothon, which raises funds for people with disabilities and specifically Life Skills Training Center, on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Life Skills.

Haylee Kuchel, who has strong roots in Remsen, is one of many clients that benefits greatly from Life Skills. She is the daughter of Dawn Kuchel of Remsen.

Kuchel started working with Life Skills in January 2013. She was still in school at the time so in the mornings, she would attend school at Remsen-Union and then come to Life Skills to work in the afternoons. Life Skills Marketing Development Director Shelly Thomson stated, “She was one of the last students to do this half day program due to government changes. We have to set things up quite differently now.”

Thomson explained Haylee’s growth of skills through her time with Life Skills, “When Haylee started at Life Skills, she would fold the baby blankets, baby sleepers, all the baby stuff. She loved the baby stuff. We have seen Haylee grow throughout the years. When she graduated in 2015, she came to work here for six hours a day, every day. Now, she has graduated into folding anything from towels to all sorts of bedding. She folds the bigger things with a partner and her favorite partner to fold with here is our Production Aide Steve Kneip. She still does shredding as well, so if anybody has any shredding, give Dawn a call.”

Kuchel currently lives in one of the Hope Haven Houses in Le Mars, and she still is very close to her family. Thomson explained, “Her mom comes to see her once a week here at Life Skills. Dawn picks her up, and they go shopping. Haylee’s favorite shopping place is Wal*Mart here in Le Mars. Then they get to go and bring Taco John’s back. Her favorite is chicken grilled burritos. We talk about the chicken grilled burritos all the time.”

Kuchel has two brothers. Camden Kuchel is married to Kim Schroeder, and they live in Remsen. Carter Kuchel goes to school at USD. While Haylee was at home, Dawn also took in a couple high school students, Canaan Cox and Jeremy Sanchez. Thomson stated, “Haylee learned how to hold her own, being the only girl with all these guys.”

The 2018 Phonothon is set for Wednesday, September 5. KC members will be calling area residents from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. that day seeking donations. The Remsen Knights of Columbus will be calling from the VFW Hall. The Knights will also be holding a Chamber Coffee from 8-11 a.m. at the VFW Hall that same morning. Thomson stated, “If you would like to make a donation or if somebody hasn’t called you or you would like to beat them to the call, their number at the VFW is 786-2075.”

Ninety percent of the money raised with the Phonothon will go to Life Skills, with the remaining 10 percent going to Special Olympics. Thomson exclaimed, “We have numerous clients here that attend Special Olympics so really, at the end of the day, it all stays here in Plymouth County.”

The Honorary Co-Chairmen this year for the event will be Evon “Gus” Puetz and his son, Bob. Gus was part of the original group that set up the Phonothon, and Bob still carries on the tradition.

This year’s funds raised from the Phonothon will be used to obtain new equipment to help with day-to-day operations at Life Skills. Thomson explained, “The money that we will be receiving here through this Phonothon is going to help 65 clients achieve their work goal. We are going to use the money to replace our straight truck that picks up our laundry. Our straight truck now has 215,000 miles on it. It’s due to retire. This truck goes out every morning at about 4:30 a.m. and starts picking up the laundry and bringing the laundry home. Between that, we also have one pickup truck that goes out. They are going to be bringing in 4,000 pounds for us to launder and also going to be delivering 4,000 pounds of laundry that they brought in the day before. So when the laundry comes in here there is a 24 hour turnover on them at all times.”

Thomson expressed her gratitude for the people of Plymouth County, “From year to year to year, it’s so humbling to see how generous the people here in Plymouth County are. No matter if it’s a good year or a bad year, they always dig deep into their pockets. They are really instrumental in the success of this organization because without this Phonothon, there would be a lot of different programs that would not be happening here for our clients.”

Thomson stated, “The people of Le Mars and the county have seen a lot of changes for us here at Life Skills. We moved our Adult Day Habilitation Center to the old Pharmacy right across the street from the Le Mars Daily Sentinel. That was a Federal Mandated change that we had to make and we are seeing those clients that are in that program blossoming. That facility being downtown has really been nice for them. They can walk around and do their own things.”

One of the major programs of Life Skills is the laundry facility. Thomson said, “The whole organization really revolves around the laundry. Not only does the laundry help bring in income but it also gives them the skills. How to do a job properly. The skills how to operate in a business environment from what you get to wear to work to punching a time card to actually bringing in your own lunch and taking care of all your own things, and how to work with peers in an environment. It also gives them a lot of pride in their jobs to do. Pay Day is also a big deal. After receiving their pay, you are going to see them at the grocery stores and Wal*Mart because all of that money they are going to spend stays right here in Plymouth County.”

Plymouth County is very lucky to have a facility like Life Skills. Thomson said, “If Life Skills wasn’t here in Ply. Co., Haylee would not be able to go back and forth with her family and see her brother and sister-in-law all the time in Remsen. Like so many of the clients, they would just be too far away from their families.”

This year’s goal for the Phonothon will be to raise $54,000 (countywide). Last year Remsen had a pledge amounting in $8,800. Thomson state, “And that was a great year. Thank you very much Remsen.”