Six Life Skills clients to be Honorary Chairmen for 2020 KC Phonothon

Thursday, August 27, 2020
Six clients, that have been working at Life Skills Training Center for over forty-years, will be the Honorary Chairmen for the 40th Annual Knights of Columbus Phonothon. Honorary Chairmen pictured above include, Front row, from left: Diane Roggow, Sue Pick, and Denise Eye. Back row, from left: Larry Lilly, Karen Jensen, and Dennis Kessinich.
(Photo contributed)

The Plymouth County Knights of Columbus members are preparing for the 40th Annual Plymouth County KC Phonothon, which raises funds for people with disabilities and specifically Life Skills Training Center in Le Mars, on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. This is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Life Skills.

The 2020 Phonothon is set for Wednesday, September 2. KC members will be calling area residents from 9 a.m to 9 p.m. that day seeking donations. Ninety-percent of the money raised with the Phonothon will go to Life Skills, with the remaining ten-percent going to Special Olympics. This year’s goal will be to raise $54,000 (countywide) and have a challenge goal of $57,000.

For this year in particular, the goals might be a little harder to come by. Life Skills Marketing Development Coordinator Shelly Thomson stated, “Now we understand that in this unsettling environment that we're in right now, fiscally and health-wise, that's going to be a challenge. We are just asking the people to make sure they answer their calls that day and just give what they are capable of and give from their hearts.”

This year marks the fortieth annual event. Thomson explained how the Knights of Columbus started the event, “The Phonothon started back in 1980. Prior to that, the Knights were selling Tootsie Rolls candies on the corners as their fundraiser that they did. Some of the Knights got together and brainstormed the Phonothon. Since we have been doing this for forty years and been having so much success with it, different Knights of Columbus organizations around Iowa are using the same format as our Plymouth County Knights do. So hats off Knights; that was a great idea. It's turned out really well, because in 1980 when we started, we netted $4,200. Last year in 2019, we had a total of $59,535 in pledges; that's quite an increase. So in all of the past 39 years, we have seen $1,599,864 worth of pledges.”

The donations raised during the Phonothon go towards specific programs and equipment for the clients at Life Skills. Thomson described what Life Skills spends the Phonothon pledges on, “It is our goal to spend every cent of those Phonothon pledges on something that directly effects the clients. In past years, we've spent the money on the vans that take the clients to the job sites, the delivery trucks and delivery pickups that take the laundry from area hospitals and nursing homes. Even the smaller simple things like the adjustable tables where the clients fold the laundry, which is 3,000 pounds of laundry a day, to the time clocks that they specifically use, to even their frocks that they wear as they're sorting the laundry to help keep themselves away from the germs and their clothes clean. Over the years, we've spent it on a lot of different things, not always the most glamorous things but their day-to-day necessary things.”

For this special year of the annual event, the Honorary Chairmen will be six clients from Life Skills. Thomson explained, “It's been forty years; that's a lot of years, a lot of Phonothons. So I got to thinking, “I wonder how many of the clients have been here 40 years and if we still have any of them that were here 40 years.” So as we went back and did some digging, we had six of them that have been here over 40 years. Diane Roggow has been here the longest at 47 years; Sue Pick 47 years, Karen Jensen 45 years, Denise Eye 42 years, and Dennis Kessinich and Larry Lilly have both been here 41 years. When the Knights all got together, and I introduced this idea of the six clients being the Honorary Chairmen, they were all in favor of that. Of course when I talked with the six clients, they were really very excited to be doing this as well.”

The six clients were asked questions to answer about their time at Life Skills:

1. What was Life Skills like when you first started work?

2. What is your favorite thing about Life Skills?

3. What was your favorite thing to work on at Life Skills?

4. What is your favorite work memory?

5. What is your favorite thing currently to do at Life Skills?

6. Who is your favorite friend at work?

Sue Pick of Oyens stated, “Life Skills was very busy and had a lot of work to do and also some fun activities. My favorite thing about Life Skills is that I get to stay busy and work with all of my friends. My favorite job at life skills is when I used to sort out pop cans and also sort laundry in the washing area. My favorite memory was when I used to use a saw to cut pallet parts. My favorite thing to do currently is be at Day Hab and go on walks. My favorite friends are Mary Wictor and Diane Roggow. I also miss my longtime friend Jeanie Trienen.”

Denise Eye responded, “Life Skills was a great job to work at when I first started and it kept me very busy. My favorite thing about life skills is that I get to work with all of my friends and even meet new people. I liked to work on putting the laves in bundles of the pallets. My favorite work memory was working with staff on learning daily tasks and also building pallets. I like to be at Day Habilitation with my friends and work on recipes and cooking.”

Larry Lilly exclaimed, “I stayed very busy doing a lot of tough work with the boys. My favorite thing about working at Life Skills is seeing the production staff (Jon and Steve) and also getting to see all of my friends. I also liked to “work” on the driers. My favorite thing to work on at Life Skills was hitting the nails into the pallets and sorting the cans. My favorite memory at Life Skills is working with Jean Renken. My favorite thing to currently do is be at Day Habilitation and go on outings. I also like to watch Scooby Doo on TV during the day with my friends. I miss Jim Staab my good friend.”

Karen Jensen declared, “Life Skills Training Center was a very happy place to be. My favorite thing about Life Skills is seeing everyone in the morning and being able to fold different things during the day. I really like to fold frocks with my staff. All of my memories of Life Skills Training Center are good memories. Every day is the best day. My favorite thing to do is folding frocks right away in the morning and also folding small items by myself. Everyone is my favorite person at Life Skills Training Center. Everyone is so nice!”

Dennis Kessinich stated, “When I started to work at Life Skills, we had a lot of work to get done during the day. It was a lot of fun. My favorite thing about Life Skills is being around my friends and meeting new people. My favorite work was to work on the palettes and also sorting in the back. My favorite memory at work was my time with Sue Brown. My favorite job at Life Skills was Sorting in the back with my friends. I miss my time with Howard Grau. I also like Ashlee Birmes. She is my favorite trainer.”

And finally, Diane Roggow responded, “I did a lot of different jobs at Life Skills but my favorite was folding with my friends. My favorite part of Life Skills is coloring and doing crafts in Day Habilitation. My favorite job at Life Skills was folding small folds and also participating in ADC. My favorite memory of Life Skills is when I used to play bingo with Betty Galles and Wendell Sitzmann. My favorite thing to do currently is color, have my nails painted, and enjoy the weather at Day Habilitation. My favorite friends are everyone at Day Hab, including Ellie and Lisa. I also miss my friends Wendell and Betty.”

Thomson stated, “Over the years Life Skills has seen hundreds of clients come through our doors. We try to help each one of them achieve their goals to the greatest level of independence. We opened the doors in 1973 and started out at what's now the Plymouth County Museum in Le Mars and made pallets there and also sorted pop cans. So we've run the full gamit of different things that we have been doing. It was kind of interesting to see how the clients enjoyed different jobs throughout the years.”

The Remsen Knights of Columbus will be calling from the VFW Hall on September 2. Tim Russell is the phone chairman in charge of the Remsen area, and Dennis Slota will be the cashier.

Usually holding a Chamber Coffee during the morning of the Phonothon, Thomson stated, “They will not be having a Chamber Coffee this year, but if you would like to stop in and drop off your donations, the door will be open. They will try to keep some social distancing going on in there. You can drop off your donation at either American Bank or Iowa State Bank in Remsen also.”

Otherwise if you do not hear from the Knights, Thomson declared, “If you do not receive a call from the Knights, and you would like to donate, their number at the VFW is 786-2075. If you can't get a hold of them, you can call me directly at Life Skills at 546-9554 ext. 105.”