VIP Services home goes from 'sleazy' to 'spacious'

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Mike Heine
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
— VIP Services Executive Director Cindy Simonsen didn’t have enough adjectives to describe the new 44,000-square-foot facility for her non-profit company.

She used words such as “awesome,” “safer” and “efficient.”

“It’s fresh and airy and spacious and attractive.”

And how does she describe the old facility on Centralia Street?

“It was really sleazy and icky in there,” she said.

VIP Services, which provides a sheltered workshop and life skills learning for Walworth County residents with disabilities, recently moved into the new place on East Geneva Street.

Employees started moving their belongings Thursday, and Tuesday was the first official workday with clients on the production line, Simonsen said.

VIP provides services to about 350 people with disabilities. About 160 will use the facility on a daily basis with 110 to 130 getting paid for working in the employment training center, she said.

“They develop the skills that they need to go out in the community,” she said.

The one-room assembly area is about 20 percent bigger than at the old building, where additions had made the work area an overcrowded maze of walls and doors.

“Everything was piled on top of each other. If you needed one box, you had to move seven others. There was a constant reshuffling of everything,” Simonsen said. “In our shop area here, it will be much safer. Forklifts won’t be driving around in the areas where people are working.”

The new building also has more training and personal care areas, allowing VIP to open itself to more programming, such as computer training, art and music, Simonsen said.

“We will have space to do the things that we are currently doing as well has have room to do some things we couldn’t do in our other building,” she said.

VIP employees have been preparing the clients for the move for months. Clients attended open houses and took field trips to help get acclimated, said Linda Cheney, director of human resources.

“It lifts your spirits the second you walk in compared to the old, tin building,” Cheney said. “You can see it on the clients’ faces as they walk in the door. They’re just smiling, and they’re just as excited as we are. And we, of course, are ecstatic.”

VIP started a capital campaign more than five years ago to raise money for a new facility.

It bought the old Value Village shopping center and starting last March gutted the interior with about $3.1 million in updates.

The ongoing capital campaign is hoping to raise more than $2.3 million. VIP borrowed about $800,000 for the remaining mortgage, Simonsen said.

Last updated: 2:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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