Angie Brunhart, VIP Services’ day programs director, smiles as Daniel O’Keefe, who was later announced as the overall 2017 Individual Achievement Winner, celebrates when he’s recognized as the honoree for February 2017. (Heather Ruenz photos)

VIP Services honors clients, community partners

By Heather Ruenz

Staff writer

The bitter cold didn’t stop nearly 200 people from gathering at Evergreen Golf Club on Feb. 1. There was a celebration to be had, that of VIP Services’ 33rd annual recognition dinner.

The event is an opportunity for the organization to recognize the courage and determination of its clients and express appreciation to a few of the many businesses and organizations that support VIP and its mission.

Ken and Ginger Nelson, VIP ambassador coaches, ask Alex Whitmore (on right), VIP ambassador, questions related to his job outside VIP and living on his own.

One of the highlights of the evening was when Alex Whitmore, the client chosen as the ambassador, took the stage with his coaches, Ken and Ginger Nelson.

Sitting at a table, the Nelsons asked Whitmore a series of questions. His responses gave insight into goals he met last year, including earning back a portion of his guardianship.

“He met his goal of getting half his guardianship back,” Ginger Nelson said, asking Whitmore to share how that happened.

“I took a guardianship class at Kalahari and learned you can get all or half of it back. My last guardian was a real pickle,” he said.

Ken Nelson asked Whitmore to talk about his job.

“I’m now washing dishes in the kitchen at Frank’s Piggly Wiggly,” Whitmore said.

He said he’s working four days a week and living on his own in a trailer on a farm, where he does his own laundry at the Laundromat thanks to his landlord, who takes him there and to the grocery store each week.

Speaking of the grocery store, Whitmore also discussed some of the life skills he’s learned.

“I’m using the microwave to cook and working my way up to the stove,” he said, adding he has more goals to meet.

“VIP put up with me for 22 years, and hopefully in the future I can give back,” he said.


Rob Likes (from the left), VIP Services’ account sales manager, and Bob West, VIP client, present the Business Partner of the Year certificate to Chaney Instrument Company representatives Jan Tomaszewski and Dan Borchardt.

Community honorees

Chaney Instrument Company was recognized as the 2017 Business Partner.

“They’ve had a relationship with VIP for over 30 years,” said Rob Likes, VIP Services’ account sales manager. “There was a time people thought our one job with Chaney was the only one we would do.”

Likes said he walked the floor at VIP earlier that day and counted nearly 25 jobs being done.

“We highly value the relationship we have with Chaney,” he said.

Continental Corporation was honored as 2017 Employer of the Year for its commitment to recruit and hire people with disabilities, including numerous clients of VIP Services.

“Companies like Continental Corporation that provide integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities help individuals gain greater vocational independence, as well as lead a more self-determined life,” the program states.

Southern Lakes Newspapers, a group of weekly newspapers in Walworth County and western Kenosha and Racine counties, was named VIP’s 2017 Community Partner.

“Sharing the personal triumphs of people in our communities is an important part of what Southern Lakes Newspapers does. They provide a platform that allows the voices of VIP Services and its clients to be heard, their smiles and tears to be seen and their stories to be shared,” the program states.


Nancy Daily, VIP Services’ job development specialist, presents Maggie Schrantz with the Individual Achievement Award for July 2017.

Clients recognized

A staff member or coach shared an overview of each of those clients, who then were introduced by their accomplishments in 2017. A few examples included:

  • Novak learning to independently navigate new environments, which increased her mobility and led to her volunteering at Lakeland Animal Shelter;
  • Moore moving into an apartment after the death of his parents and learning to live independently;
  • Schrantz learning that volunteering in the community is a way to meet people and move toward a “full life.” She volunteers at Lakeland Health Care Center, assisting with bingo, and at the shelter caring for animals.
  • Bushey making a connection that led to him volunteering at Golden Years of Walworth;
  • Stuesser securing employment in an integrated setting and working at Continental Corporation since March 2017.

O’Keefe was chosen as the overall Individual Achievement honoree for 2017. He has made significant progress in safely managing transitions in VIP’s building and with people.

“He continues to engage and interact more each day with the world around him,” the program states.

VIP’s Individual Achievement honorees for 2017 gather for a group photo, from the left: (front row) Lisa Townsend, Stacy Novak, Dale Margraf, Maggie Schrantz, Tim Kiepert and Stephen Weisbrod; (back row) Jon Stuesser, Matt Fibiger, Alex Whitmore, Donald Moore, Scott Bushey and Daniel O’Keefe (with his mom, Katie Granzwow.)


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