The Village of Progress took a night out on Oct. 18 to celebrate community service and generosity, personal accomplishment, and recognize a few special individuals at their yearly event.
VOP consumers, volunteers, board members, families, and appreciative citizens gathered inside St. Mary’s Learning Center for the 48th Village of Progress annual banquet.
Each year at the banquet, VOP gives out eight individual awards, each highlighting different yet important criteria, including personal improvement, persistence in overcoming obstacles, selfless volunteer service, consistent employment and quality work, a love for athletic programs, being exceedingly friendly and encouraging to others, and both individuals and businesses who have served the village.
The award structure allows a variety of different individuals to be recognized for different strengths, like Stacy Mitchell, of Chana, winner of the John Herrmann Personal Achievement Award. She was recognized for her enthusiastic spirit and constant efforts to overcome challenges.
“Despite Stacy’s daily challenges, she persistently makes the effort to succeed and try new opportunities available to her,” said Tom Wadsworth, emcee for the banquet. “These efforts are an inspiration to all of us.”
Stacy’s face was pure joy as she received her award, but these awards mean just as much - if not more - for friends and family members.
“[The Village of Progress] emboldens virtue in her, and it’s a special part of her life every day,” said Brett Carlson, Mitchell’s stepfather. “It’s special to her parents as well.”
For others, like Rob Zimmerman, of Oregon, recognition comes not from being a consumer who’s grown up within VOP, but as someone whose services helped it to flourish.
Zimmerman received the Robert Stouffer Special Recognition Award for his hard work and expertise in restaurant design, which made him the perfect candidate for building the Village Bakery, Oregon.
Zimmerman, humbled, didn’t wish to say much about winning the award, but did offer one statement to sum up his feelings: “It was only the right thing to do, to help them.”
Along with recognition awards, VOP gives out scholarships every year to Ogle County high school seniors or full-time college students who either are majoring in areas that serve people with disabilities, or have disabilities themselves.
Scholarships worth $500 were awarded to Melinda Egli and Addison Kitzmiller, both of Oregon, and a $1,000 scholarship to Anakin Weston, of Rochelle.
“I’m so glad we can put on the event each year,” said Brion Brooks, Village of Progress Executive Director. “It really means a lot to those enjoying it, but it also means a lot to us to be able to celebrate everyone involved.”
The banquet provides a beef dinner, cooked and served by the men and women of St. Mary’s Parish, for anywhere between 200 and 250 guests on average, and also brings out some community praise with awards for select stand-outs.