VSI Honors Supporters Statewide at Community Awards Event

VSI staff members were among those honored at the 2023 Community Awards Night and Open House. Other honorees included county and state leaders, employees, parents and guardians.

Vocational Services, Inc., honored people across Missouri for their support of individuals with disabilities at the Community Awards Open House in Liberty Thursday, Oct. 19.

VSI, which operates three workshops and other services in Clay and Platte counties, honored 14 individuals for their efforts to improve employment and quality of life for people with disabilities. Honorees ranged from Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe who launched a state wide collaborative effort, to a Clay County restaurant that employs people with developmental disabilities.

The event was held at the organization’s Liberty administration building and included tours of the adjacent workshop for approximately 100 people. A highlight was the awards ceremony, which included video recognition of several who were unable to attend the event as well as those at the event.

The complete list of awards and recipients:

Board Member of the Year Pete Gardner: As SVP/Trust Manager at Security Bank of Kansas City, Gardner brought a wealth of knowledge to the board, particularly in financial planning and management. He does all of this while being a busy parent and an active member of his church. Like all VSI board members, his volunteer services help bring high quality programs to residents of the Northland.

Jo McMenomy received the Staff Employee of the Year award. Those involved in the presentation were (from left) Nicole Griffel, McMenomy, General Manager Chris Best and Executive Director Kimbal Mothershead. Griffel represented the family of the late Margaret Hylton in whose honor the award is dedicated.

Legislator of the Year Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe: In 2022, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe signed a Memorandum of Collaboration between the Buy Missouri Program, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers and the Missouri Association of Manufactures. Noting the value of workshops, he described the benefit this way: “This collaboration will benefit Missouri’s workforce development efforts, while promoting Missouri manufacturing, products and services.”

Production Employee of the Year Rachel George joined VSI in 2011 and has consistently earned a reputation as hard working and motivated. A resident of Excelsior Springs, she serves as a role model for others, bringing kindness, humor and an infectious smile.

Staff Employee of the Year Jo McMenomy is a prime example of the dedication VSI staff bring to their work. She is committed to providing the best support possible to assist VSI production employees in meeting their goals and experience success. She demonstrates a willingness to work where she is needed and has worked in all three locations during her tenure at VSI.

Customer of the Year Supply Logic is a great example of a growing company that uses VSI to help them expand. This company provides world-class marketing supply chain solutions with an innovative edge and are a leader in their industry. They enthusiastically pursue solutions to optimize the marketing supply chain for innovative brands and have been great partners with VSI.

VSI Supported Employment Consumer of the Year Billy Cunningham has been part of the VSI team since 2006. In 2014, he was hired by Walmart Neighborhood Market where he has worked in maintenance and as a master cart pusher. He is known for providing a smile to customers and coworkers.  

Working for the Public Good Kit Brewer and Lynne Schlosser: Brewer is the legislative chair and Schlosser the legislative consultant for the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers. Working with VSI, other workshops and employment programs across the state for many years, they have shown outstanding commitment and dedication. Both are strong advocates for individuals with disabilities, working tirelessly on the state and federal level to ensure legislatures understand the impact their decisions have on the lives of people with disabilities.

Clay County Employer of the Year Corner Café has created a warm, family working environment that is a natural fit for Northland residents with disabilities. Their willingness to partner with VSI has created invaluable opportunities for job shadowing and hands-on experiences. They also cooperated in the production of videos to help other workers and their families better understand competitive employment services.

VSI Executive Director addressed the nearly 100 people at the 2023 Community Awards Night.

Robert F. & Claire Sevier Parent/Guardian Award recipient Peter Brake provided guardianship and care for his sister, longtime VSI employee Mary Brake. He took the time to be very involved to make certain that her needs were met both inside and outside of VSI and consistently worked hard to see that she was happy.

Directors Award winner Sonja Bennett is passionate about advocating for people with disabilities and being a voice for quality programs and services. As the Administrative Director for the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of Clay County since 2016, she oversees the operations, finances and interaction with the provider agencies helping Clay County residents with disabilities.

Benefactor of the Year Jenny Yinger of Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation was honored for her hard work and dedication to ensure funds for services are available for individuals seeking competitive employment. She serves as the state organization’s Northland District Supervisor and has been dedicated to this field for more than 20 years. Through the years Jenny has taken time out to provide required WIOA trainings and attend school fairs. In the last year, she set up networking opportunities to increase connections for people with disabilities.

Volunteer of the Year Landen Summers almost singlehandedly made VSI’s first Employee Appreciation Picnics successful. Three picnics were held at each VSI workshops and included grilled hot dogs, outdoor games, and activities. He collected all the games and equipment, including corn hole boards, ladder golf and other supplies. Then, on the day of each picnic, he grilled hot dogs and set up the games and equipment.

Vendor of the Year Bill Mathews has provided help with all types of maintenance projects at VSI. He has developed a great working relationship with employees and staff during his long history with VSI.

VSI has been a leader since 1967 in providing a diverse range of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In addition to its three workshops, VSI offers Competitive Integrated Employment for workers who want the challenge of working for businesses in the community. Work and Personal Services helps people with disabilities who might otherwise not qualify for Extended Employment workshop opportunities.

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Vocational Services Inc. is proud to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), a not-for-profit, and nationally recognized accreditation authority. VSI is accredited in Organizational Employment and Community Integrated Employment Services.
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