Success through collaboration: Hilton Garden, Challenge

By Allison Usavage
Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce

Photo by Allison Usavage /
Elizabeth Ingram works as a housekeeper for Hilton, a position she found through her engagement with Challenge.

The Hilton Garden Inn is a lively downtown building, home to office space, retail space, and a hotel all in one. A landmark for visitors, the hotel is just a stone’s throw from the Commons. Though its clientele is largely based in tourism, the hotel has a serious commitment to investing in our local community – its relationship with Challenge Workforce Solutions is a prime example.

Challenge has been assisting people with disabilities and other barriers obtain employment for nearly 50 years. They work with more than 1,200 clients every year, offering training programs for a variety of fields and employment opportunities like the Challenge-run dishrooms at Ithaca College, Cornell University and Wegmans, but also by finding willing employers like the Hilton Garden Inn that offer their clients unique opportunities.
“What’s fantastic about working with Challenge is that we get their support training an individual,” said Teri Tarshus, general manager at the Hilton Garden Inn. “But then the goal for both of us is to have someone that’s fully trained, capable, and able to do the job that we have here on a long-term basis.”

This year, the Hilton Garden Inn has employed eight Challenge clients, and at least 12 have held positions since the beginning of the collaboration in the fall of 2015.
“The first program was the training program that we set up for housekeeping,” said Mike Barry, business outreach coordinator for Challenge. “That has led to other opportunities in the kitchen. They’ve also worked with our summer youth program … we work with a diverse clientele and the Hilton has ended up working with almost every program we offer because they’ve been so open.”

Challenge has similar relationships with other businesses, but the Hilton’s participation is one of the largest and most diverse relationships, and has led to other opportunities. Teri recently introduced Mike to the management of Hampton Inn, another hotel in the same family.
“They heard of our story and our success with Challenge and asked how to get involved,” said Teri. Because of this introduction, Challenge began a new program with the Hampton Inn at the beginning of July, offering housekeeping opportunities three days a week.

Challenge is always seeking local businesses interested in employment partnerships. Learn more about how to support Challenge and about employer incentives at
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This article is reprinted with permission from the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce and can be found at To learn more about the Chamber, visit