Amber S.

Amber and Pete Wolfanger

Whether in work or athletics, Amber S. is known for her dedication and resolve.

Amber came to Challenge in 2012, right after graduating from Lehman Alternative Community School, where she had been an honor roll student. She met with one of our Job Developers, who arranged for her to do a series of work tryouts at different local businesses before setting her up with an interview at her neighborhood supermarket, Trumansburg ShurSave. The interviewer was so impressed by Amber’s professional comportment, as well as her prior experience with sorting and shelving books as a volunteer at the Tompkins County Public Library, that he offered her a stocking job on the spot. Today, over six years later, Amber is still going strong as one of ShurSave’s most committed employees.

“My favorite thing about working here is that I get to shelve the peanut butter and jelly,” says Amber, who is also responsible for keeping the pet food and cleaning supply sections fully stocked, tidy, and visually pleasing to customers. “I also like my coworkers and my boss.”

“She’s a real hard worker,” reports Store Manager Rich Feltner, who has been Amber’s supervisor since day one. “She shows up, gets ready, and gets it done. She also really pays attention to details. One time, we had a shipment of cat food come in with the wrong barcode labels on the cans. She noticed right away—you really have to look closely to tell—and she set them aside in the back. Later on, another employee came in and put them all out on the shelves, and Amber took them right back out!”

“She’s definitely conscientious,” agrees Pete Wolfanger, who has been Amber’s assigned Employment Specialist since 2014. “Since she has been in this job, she has become more and more independent, and we continue to work on self-advocacy—speaking up if something’s wrong, or if she needs to adjust her schedule. This is where you’re hoping to get with vocational services—in the beginning, you may be providing more intensive job coaching to make sure that people are mastering the specific requirements of the job, but then you want to transition into more of a support role, where you are checking in only once or twice a week and helping them to interact and negotiate with managers as needed.”

Outside of work hours, Amber stays busy with an impressive array of activities at home and in the community. She enjoys dancing, gardening, drawing, and baking, but of utmost importance is her longtime involvement in the Special Olympics. She joined Ithaca’s Fireballs Bowling League at age 15 and a decade later assisted in organizing a second league at Atlas Bowl in Trumansburg that has allowed her friends in outlying areas to have better access to the sport. Earlier this year, she was one of a select few athletes from our region to be selected to compete at the USA Games in Seattle.

Perhaps the greatest testament to her personal fortitude and her loyalty to the Special Olympics is her ongoing participation in the Ithaca Polar Plunge. This fundraiser for Special Olympics NY is held at Taughannock Falls State Park each March and encourages supporters to submerge themselves in the wintry waters of Cayuga Lake—thankfully, in the presence of members of the New York State Police Underwater Recovery Team. This past year, Amber had the honor of carrying the Flame of Hope and gamely leading the charge into the frigid waves.

Congratulations, Amber, on living your life to the utmost on and off the clock!