A CAREER-CHANGING INTERNSHIP: SENIOR CLIENT SERVICES MANAGER ALLIE TOLSON

Apr 30, 2024 | News

Allie was introduced to KANDU Industries through Blackhawk Technical College where she majored in human services.  Allie’s professor recommended KANDU as an internship opportunity that would expand her skills. That was three years ago, and she’s been a part of KANDU ever since.

“I never thought I would work in an industry that serves people with disabilities,” said Allie. “I went to school for early education, but as I was getting closer to finishing the courses, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do long-term. So, I switched my major to human services and realized I had to complete an internship to graduate. Luckily, my professor recommended KANDU, and the rest is history,” explained Allie.

At the start of Allie’s internship, she took time to meet KANDU clients, get acquainted with best practices, and understand the daily operation of the organization. Allie soon developed the skills to work with clients directly and transitioned to a full-time client services coordinator position at KANDU upon graduation.

“There are certain staff members who just seem to fit right in from day one, and Allie is a prime example. Her demeanor with clients and her willingness to learn new skills made it clear from the beginning that Allie was going to be a great addition to our team,” said Julie Smith, KANDU’s client services director.

As a client services coordinator, Allie was assigned a group of clients to whom she provided direct support focusing on improvement in work, social, and physical skills with a strong focus on building independence. She created individual service plans for each client in her caseload, fostering open communication with client care teams to identify strategies to achieve their goals and reach their full potential.

Since then, Allie has accepted additional promotions and now serves as KANDU’s senior client services manager, where she continues to work with clients and oversee staff. Allie also manages KANDU’s adult family home, KANDU Quarters, which provides a home to live in and staff to ensure a long term, safe, warm, and comfortable living experience for up to four adults with intellectual and/or physical disabilities.

“KANDU prides itself on promoting from within and cultivating the natural talents of our team members. We try to identify the strengths of our staff and create opportunities for continuing education so employees can grow within our organization. Allie’s trajectory from intern to senior internal client services manager speaks to her abilities as well as her willingness to embrace new challenges and take on leadership roles,” said Lynne Sumpter, KANDU human resources manager.

“The clients are my favorite part of working at KANDU. Even if I’m having a bad day before I walk through our front doors, as soon as I enter, I’m greeted with smiles and positivity. Walking into work and saying hello to clients is easily one of the best parts of my day, every day,” said Allie.

Allie takes pride in the deep connections she has forged with clients and is often a go-to resource for KANDU clients in need. “I love it that clients know they can come and talk to me when they need help,” said Allie. “I may not always be the person who can fix the problem, but the staff here is so collaborative that we always find a way to guide our clients in the right direction. There’s a real sense of fulfillment that comes with helping another human being.”

Given the nature of her work, Allie assists many clients in making progress in social, work, and physical areas daily.  Allie can recall one recent instance of having a breakthrough with a client. “When I first met this client, she was very guarded. Communication was difficult because she would get upset easily and then completely shut down,” explained Allie. KANDU staff tried several tactics to build bridges with the client, eventually finding a communication style that is comfortable for everyone. “She’s communicating more frequently now. Verbal communication can still be difficult, but we’ve discovered that this client prefers to write notes back and forth.” Staff built rapport and trust with this client, giving her the space and support to expand her coping skills and improve communication. “There’s a drastic difference from when we first met this client, and it’s a testament to the power of patience, persistence, and person-centered care,” said Allie.

Supporting individuals with disabilities takes a special blend of skills including reliability, adaptability, and empathy—a role that calls to people with a genuine desire to make a difference in the world. “From the outside, working at KANDU may look like just a job, but it’s so much more than that. Each staff member at KANDU is forming unique bonds with our clients. That’s something I didn’t know when I first started, and I didn’t expect to form such deep connections,” said Allie. Staff members build relationships with each client to learn their background, communication style, and personality, and vice versa.

“Our clients rely on us when many of them don’t have other people in their lives that they can rely on. We listen to what they have to say and validate their needs. Working at KANDU is not just about a job, it’s about creating relationships and support networks for people who depend on us for so much more than work assistance,” said Allie.

KANDU staff members are a consistent presence in the lives of clients, offering companionship, understanding, and a sense of belonging.

When asked about her proudest achievement at KANDU, Allie’s humble nature shone through her answer: “I don’t think I’ve met my proudest moment yet. Truthfully, I feel like there is so much more I can accomplish. For me, it’s gratifying to know our clients receive the highest level of care each day. But I’m the kind of person that thinks there is always room to grow and expand and improve.”


“We are grateful for our partnership with Blackhawk Technical College’s internship program,” said Kathy Hansen, KANDU’s executive director.  “The collaborative work they are doing with businesses to prepare students to enter the workforce and find where their true passion lies is far reaching and Allie is an example of how KANDU, our clients, and Allie herself benefit.”

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