Lynne McIntyre (above, on left) VIP Services Ambassador, shares her story with support from her coach, Pat Eames at VIP’s 32nd Annual Recognition Dinner Feb. 9 at Evergreen Golf Club in Elkhorn. Below: Scott Sims cleans windows on a truck at Kunes Country of Elkhorn. Sims, a VIP client, has been an employee at Kunes for nearly a year. (Heather Ruenz photo)

VIP Services Annual Recognition Dinner an evening of inspiration

By Heather Ruenz

Staff Writer

The 32nd Annual Recognition Dinner Program for VIP Services, Inc. featured, among the gamut of emotions, gratitude to surprise to pure and unbridled joy. But one person in particular brought the house down, so to speak.

      Lynne McIntyre, VIP Services Ambassador at the dinner, held Feb. 9 at Evergreen Golf Club, is 37 and lives outside of Burlington with her mom. Her disability is Rasmussen’s encephalitis – a condition that caused her to have seizures, and the loss of the left side of her body.

“When I came to VIP Services 14 years ago, I thought I had reached my goal of going to work and being a productive member of society and getting out of the house everyday … I had arrived,” McIntyre said, reading her speech from an iPad while her coach, Pat Eames, held the microphone for her.

But, as she shared that evening, she has done so much more including participating in many VIP programs, including the VIP Ambassador Program, and has served as president and treasurer of the Kiwanis Action Club, which raises money and donates it to worthy causes in the area.

“When the initial self-determination program was introduced, my eyes really opened up to the world outside my door. I learned I could open that door with my choices and (by) advocating for myself to my support team,” McIntyre said, wiping tears from her eyes.

Those choices and advocating, she explained, included arranging for rides home after VIP’s business hours so she could attend discovery classes and special occasion dances.

“This was a huge accomplishment in my life – it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was to me,” she said with a smile, to which the crowd responded by applauding.

But McIntyre had more to say.

“I’m not done,” she said, followed by a big sigh, and smile, before continuing. “An important choice for me is being a part of my community. I have been able to give back by volunteering at Lakeland Health Care Center for more than 10 years as a bingo caller. Some of the residents won’t even go to bingo unless I am calling that day. They know I’m the best.”

McIntyre said she’s learned that people listen to her when she speaks up about what’s important to her.

“A few years ago this would not have been possible. My family was not excited for me to work in the community – because like my middle name, ‘Rose,’ I am a delicate flower,” she said, laughing throughout that statement.

She said funding sources were a challenge because special transportation, personal aides and finding a job that fit her and her abilities meant the process would be time consuming and expensive, but she forged ahead.

Now, McIntyre said, she has a new goal, that of attaining community employment.

“I’m excited again about my prospects and my future… fourteen years ago I would not have thought this possible, but we all must keep moving ahead and dreaming our dreams,” McIntyre said.

“Don’t settle for now, strive for what’s next and what’s out there for each of us.”


‘He’s always smiling”

Kunes Country Auto Group was honored at the dinner as VIP’s 2016 Employer for their ongoing support of VIP-related events, programs and fundraisers.

On hand to accept the award were Dan, Scotty and Tim Kunes, sons of owners Gregg and Debbie Kunes, and Teddy Lightfield, general manager at Kunes’ dealership in Elkhorn. They invited Scott Sims, a VIP Services client, to join them in accepting the award.

Sims has been an employee of Kunes Country of Elkhorn for nearly a year. He began working there with assistance from a job shadow but has been doing it on his own for several months.

“If we could all be as happy as Scott is, the world would be so much better. He’s a great employee, he really is. If you ask him to do something, he does it and he’s always smiling,” Lightfield said in a follow-up interview.

“What a blessing it is to have VIP Services in this area,” Dan Kunes said. “The recognition dinner was so amazing we even talked about it at our sales meeting the following morning. We feel very fortunate to be part of it and it’s right in line with our motto of helping people build lives.”

Lightfield said the key to Sims’ success at Kunes begins with Sims himself, and Gregg Kunes’ philosophy of how to run a business.

“It starts with the right person and understanding and patience on the part of the employer but the end result is well worth it. To Gregg, the philosophy is simple: it’s a Christian-based business and if you take care of employees, they’ll take care of customers, who will take care of the community, and the community will take care of business. And if they don’t, that’s OK, too, because it’s about doing it the right way,” Lightfield said.

Sims does a variety of jobs at Kunes, including gassing up, cleaning and putting Kunes stickers on vehicles, keeping brochure stands stocked up, and helping at vehicle and boat shows.

“He also fixes random things that are broken. Our Keurig coffee machine was broken so we asked Scott to clean it,” Dan Kunes said. “He had it in about 10 pieces but cleaned it top to bottom and fixed it. That afternoon everyone was drinking coffee again. He did great.”

The company recently created a job title for Sims: Lot Director & Merchandising Manager.

Sims, a man of few words, but a lot of smiles and even some tears as he was being praised during the interview, said he loves coming to work each day and is treated like family.


Special honorees

A-1 Creative Packaging, of Palmyra, was recognized as 2016 Business Partner at the dinner.

“(We’ve) been working with VIP Services for several years,” Adam Wiese, president of A-1, said. “We believe in their mission and they are an excellent partner. Not only are the employees hard workers, but they are also attentive and always meet our deadlines. It is a wonderful partnership that helps our business succeed.”

The 2016 Community Partner was Keefe Real Estate, of Lake Geneva, specifically Keefe Kares, the formal name of the non-profit, in-house organization created to support dozens of charitable and philanthropic organizations within the communities Keefe serves.

“It is our personal, tangible and meaningful way to help improve the quality of life in these communities and the places where we live, where we work and who we are,” Dennis Carnes, CFO of Keefe, said.

“Keefe Kares has recognized VIP as one of the primary organizations it has chosen to support with funds raised from its employees and agents to enable VIP to continue its efforts in the empowering people with disabilities and assist their efforts in providing transportation to veterans and elderly in our communities,” he said.

“We expect to strengthen our annual financial support and also encourage our associates to become more actively involved in volunteer opportunities that are available at VIP Services. We encourage all our associates to take a tour of the VIP facilities, visit with staff, and attend the Annual Recognition event to see the results that are being achieved in our communities,” Carnes said.

Client honorees at the dinner, with one recognized for each month of 2016, were: Carl Steinert, Laura Feitshans, Charlene Fickau, Rosa Spellman, Cheyanne Michael, Lew Zarnstorff, Jonathan Stuesser, Chris Sonheim, Nicole Fernandez, Steve Robinson, Tammy Pankratz and Sky Mall.

Sonheim was chosen as the Overall Individual Achievement Honoree. His coach, Kim Brady, described him as having “one of the best attitudes, a great sense of humor, always being willing to lend a hand and go the extra mile.”

Sonheim’s goals include finding a job in the community and living in his own apartment.




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