(Published April 17, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)
After years of preparation and planning, renovation work is beginning on the new home of VIP Services in Elkhorn.
VIP Services is a nonprofit organization offering a continuum of vocational and community living options to help individuals with disabilities obtain and maintain independence in the least restrictive lifestyle.
The site, once occupied by Value Village and subsequently by Clintsman International, is located across from Elkhorn High School in the Elkhorn Business Centre.
"The building has not been used for several years and its planned use shows a great investment in the community," Elkhorn Mayor John Giese said.
"The 350 citizens served by VIP Services are among the county's best hidden assets and they will benefit greatly from the new facility," he said.
We have worked hard with our architect to create a new environment that will greatly enhance our ability to provide services to meet the diverse needs of our clients," says VIP Services Board President Don Vandello.
Vandello and other members of the Board of Directors were joined by architect Dan Kehoe of Kehoe-Henry & Associates, Elkhorn Mayor John Giese, County Administrator Dave Bretl, Lori Johnson of Chase, Peter Scherrer and Jim Scherrer of Scherrer Construction, Inc. and key project volunteers at the site on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 to observe the ceremonial initiation of the renovation process.
Among those present were VIP Services board member Sandy Berndt and her sister Sue Lambert, who is a VIP Services client.
Their father, Gordon Lambert, was the agency's initial president and turned over the first shovel of dirt at the 1975 symbolic groundbreaking for the agency's current building.
For the past eighteen months, VIP Services has been conducting a capital campaign to raise funds for the renovation.
With the Building a Bridge to the Future campaign now having reached 65 percent of its $2.3 million goal, and with the assistance of the city of Elkhorn, the agency has secured a construction loan with J.P. Morgan Chase to initiate the renovation.
Board members, staff and key campaign volunteers will be continuing their hard work over the months ahead to ensure that the ultimate $2.3 goal is reached.
"We have been genuinely amazed by the outpouring of generosity on the part of individuals, companies and organizations throughout the county and we are committed to make sure that their dollars will continue to be spent wisely in the completion of this project and the pursuit of our mission to empower people with disabilities," said VIP Services Executive Director Cindy Simonsen.
Once completed, the 44,000 square foot facility will relieve the significant overcrowding which has plagued the organization in recent years.
The renovated building will include an efficiently designed and greatly improved production center with 56 percent more overall space, allowing the organization to attract new work and to provide a much broader variety of work skills training for clients, as well helping to sustain higher levels of operational income.
The new design will also feature a greatly expanded day services center area for clients with multiple disabilities and challenges, a specially designed life skills training area featuring a full kitchen and ancillary living space, a small computer training lab and a multi-purpose room that will provide space for a range of educational and recreational opportunities for clients and other community residents with disabilities.
The building sits on an 11-acre lot allowing for any future enhancements of the services that the agency provides to clients.
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