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Village of Progress honors volunteers and consumers at banquet

More than 300 people gathered last week to pay tribute to the men and women whose contributions help a local organization remain successful after more than four decades in operation.

The Village of Progress (VOP) held its 44th annual banquet celebration Nov. 13 at St. Mary's Learning Center, Oregon. 

Professional speaker Tom Wadsworth served as the evening's emcee.

Karen Young was awarded the John Herrmann Personal Achievement Award for her consistent progress and willingness to accept any job assignment. She has been enrolled at the VOP for the past 34 years.

Young's current responsibilities include working in the production area and walking Chana, the VOP dog, daily.

Named after Bob Moehle who served 36 consecutive years as a board member, the Robert Moehle Personal Achievement Award is presented to someone enrolled in the Developmental Training Program who shows persistence in reaching their goals despite obstacles.

This year's recipient was Patrick Bryson, an 11-year member of the village family. 

Bryson remained positive and committed despite setbacks associated with a ruptured hernia and recurring grand mal seizures.

Oregon High School student Johnathan Prose received the Janie Etnyre Volunteer of the Year Award for his selfless commitment to the consumers at the Village of Progress.

Don Etnyre, son of Janie and current village foundation board member, made the presentation.

“His maturity, enthusiasm and generous nature are unusual for someone his age, and our agency and disabled are fortunate to have him as a friend,” he said.

The Fred Smith Competitive Employment Award was presented to Kelli Nicholas for her dependability, positive attitude, and quality of work in the kitchen at Family First, Oregon.

Kathi Heller presented Matt Spurbeck with the Carly Heller Special Olympian of the Year Award, so named after her daughter, a Special Olympics volunteer, who was killed in a car accident in 2002.

Spurbeck competes in all three of VOP's sporting events: basketball, track and field, and bowling.

The VOP Foundation Scholarship Committee awards scholarships to Ogle County high school seniors and full-time college students who either have a disability or are majoring in an area related to the disabled. 

This year the committee chose three recipients.

Sarah Corcoran, an Oregon High School graduate and special education major at Western Illinois University, Macomb, received a $500 scholarship to continue her education.

Rochelle Township High School senior Ariana Esterday also received a $500 scholarship. 

Esterday's educational goals stem from her positive experiences with multiple foster siblings who have disabilities, and include a degree in occupational or physical therapy assisting.

The third $500 scholarship was awarded to Abby Zaccaria, a senior at Rochelle Township High School who will be attending Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, to study English. 

Despite the difficulties associated with having Asperger's syndrome, Zaccaria has been highly successful at RTHS and is excited to enter the honor's program at NIU this fall.

The Rick Hahn Business of the Year Award was presented to the Community Bank of Oregon in recognition of its 26-year relationship which has provided community employment and training opportunities for dozens of VOP consumers.

In addition, the bank has made monetary contributions including donations to the VOP's Christmas Wish List appeal, sponsorships of the foundation's golf outing, and the purchasing of awards for the annual banquet.

Bank representative Laura McKean expressed the organization's appreciation of the Village of Progress saying, “We are truly blessed for all the ways they touch the members of our community.”

Tammy Sigler was awarded the Robert Stahl Friendship Award for her efforts to make everyone feel welcomed and appreciated. Sigler has been the “village greeter” for 15 years.

The Robert Stouffer Special Recognition Award was presented to John Barnhart, whose philosophy is simple: “I truly believe that everyone has importance and potential no matter who they are.”

Barnhart has been involved with the VOP through his position as the Natural Resource Manager for the Oregon Park District. 

He has provided outdoor education through a variety of activities including releasing young pheasants, gathering apples and pressing them for cider, and collecting maple syrup.

To close the awards, VOP Executive Director Craig Carpenter recognized employees Cathy Synder for 10 years of service, and Rod Young for 20 years.

Carpenter was also recognized for his 40 years service to VOP. He is the fourth person to reach that milestone.

The evening also included dinner prepared and served by St. Mary's Parish and entertainment provided by the Denny Diamond Trio.

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