VIP Services always striving to expand opportunities

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Ginny Hall | October 4, 2013

VIP Services Inc. is located at 811 E. Geneva St. in Elkhorn. This site once was the location of Value Village. Before that it served as Barton's department store.

This organization is the outgrowth of a concern of the Walworth County Association for Retarded Citizens back in 1970.

See a photo gallery of past Mystery Places HERE.

A committee of Phil Knobel, Bill Truesdale, Gene Johnson, Mary Franzene and Gordon and Vi Lambert was appointed. Their task was to develop a plan for students who graduated from Lakeland School to provide them with meaningful jobs for the rest of their lives.

Gordon Lambert was the first president of the board. There was informal cooperation with Lakeland School. Separate funding systems necessitated this type of cooperation.

In 1972, VIP started in the basement of a factory on the south side of Elkhorn. ARC was the force behind this operation.  Their first projects were making arts and craft items to be sold at the Walworth County Fair.

The passage of the National Rehabilitation Act the next year, which outlawed discrimination against anyone with disabilities, was a plus for the group.

By 1975, VIP was subcontracting work with local industries. It then changed its name to Vocational Industries Inc.

In 1976 it had a new home on Centralia Street. The increased number of subcontracting jobs required more space.

In 1986 Vocational Industries was selected to participate in a pilot program for the rest area maintenance program. It was one of three agencies to be selected in the state.

The next year, with the help of a grant, a catering program was introduced. This was in operation for 12 years until it was no longer viable financially.  In 1989 an 18,000-square-foot addition was put on the Centralia plant to solve some of the overcrowding.

Throughout the 1990s, new programs and subcontracting was added. There was expanded services for clientele with multiple and/or severe handicaps. In 2004 the board changed the name again, to VIP Services Inc. This was to reflect the many different facets of the organization.

In 2005, the current site was purchased, allowing for future growth, providing good parking and accommodating a great diversity of programming.

The former Value Village building needed lots of renovation to facilitate their needs, so a $2.3 million fundraising program was initiated. Renovation began in March 2007, and VIP moved into the building by October of that year.

In 2008 VIP was selected as one of 10 state organizations to partner in a customized community employment program. It was funded by Pathways for Independence.

VIP continues to develop new programs to broaden the abilities of its clients.

Last year they did a pilot program with Big Foot High School.  Four students worked with some of the VIP students to acquaint them with some possibilities following their graduation.

There is some cooperation with Inspiration Ministries — some of its residents work on VIP projects or are in the latter's day programs.

When I took a tour of the facility with Nancy Ward, I was amazed at the variety of programs available to enhance the abilities and learning of VIP?clients. Each one is unique.  Some receive individual assistance; others work in group situations.

One of VIP's programs will use old wine corks and a variety of wreaths. The organization welcomes donations at its facility.

Some of its clients work at subcontracting jobs at the facility. Local companies find their help a real plus. The looks on the faces of the workers showed great concentration and joy in doing the work. It is a win-win situation.

If you ever doubted the need for this organization, just ask to take a tour. I'm sure you will change your mind.

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