VSI Honors Those Who Support People with Disabilities

Dennis and Patty Summers of Excelsior Springs (left) received the Robert F. and Claire Sevier Parent/Guardian of the Year Award during the recent Vocational Services, Inc., Community Awards and Open House. LezLee Birdsong, VSI’s competitive integrated employment manager, made the presentation.
Vocational Services, Inc., honored people across Missouri for their support of individuals with disabilities at the Community Awards and Open House in Liberty on Thursday, June 13.

VSI, which operates three workshops and other services in Clay and Platte counties, honored 12 individuals and organizations for their efforts to improve employment and quality of life for people with disabilities. Honorees included a Northland couple, local businesses and others affiliated with national corporations.

The event was held at VSI’s Liberty administration building and included tours of the adjacent workshop for over 120 people. A highlight was the awards ceremony hosted by Executive Director Kimbal Mothershead.

The complete list of awards and recipients:

The VSI Production Employee of the Year Award was presented to Shawn Cauthon. Shawn was chosen from among 12 employees of the month for his hard work and reliability, plus his constant kindness and care for others.

VSI Supported Employment Consumer of the Year Award was given to Eric Williams. Eric worked at VSI’s North Kansas City and Liberty locations for 10 years before pursuing competitive employment. He soon secured a job at Joanne’s Fabric in Kansas City, North, where he quickly learned his job and expanded his skills. He’s since obtained a second job at Whataburger in Kansas City, North.

Dennis and Patty Summers received the VSI Guardian of the Year Award for their tireless advocacy and support of their son. They have been a partner with VSI since 2003 when their son came to work for VSI. Within just over a year, he was employed at a grocery store in their hometown where 20 years later he continues to work.

The VSI Customer of the Year honor was awarded to industrial supply company W. W. Grainger. The company’s location in Kansas City has worked with VSI for several years, and their staff has been an outstanding partner for VSI.

The Vendor of the Year was awarded to Security Bank for their day-to-day services supporting VSI operations. The financial institution is always quick to respond and consistently go above expectations by providing solutions like a new employee direct deposit program.

The Developmental Resource Board of Clay County received the Benefactor’s Award for their continuous hard work and dedication to ensure funding for services to individuals with developmental disabilities.

The VSI Clay County Employer of the Year Award went to the Price Chopper Store at 4820 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City. The company and its staff were praised for their warm, family-oriented working environment that is a natural fit for people with disabilities who are employed there.

The Platte County Employer of the Year honors Hy-Vee Store at 18301 N. St. Clair Avenue, Kansas City, near St. Luke’s  Hospital on Barry Road. Their commitment to providing long-term, successful work experiences for employees with disabilities has been exceptional.

Former president of the Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers Rob Libera received the Working for the Public Good Award. Libera was recognized for his leadership during Covid and numerous challenges to workshops throughout Missouri, while also managing one of the largest workshops in Missouri near St. Louis.

Tanner Mothershead earned the VSI Director’s Award for his efforts to brighten the non-profit’s environment through everything from advanced digital graphics to fresh coats of paint. He also became an important member of VSI’s production aids and jig team, producing creative solutions that allow workers with disabilities to complete work they would otherwise find challenging or even impossible.

The Board Member of the Year Award recognized Paula Torkelson, one of VSI’s dedicated volunteers who support the organization’s mission. A registered nurse, Torkelson has served on the board since 1997, including multiple terms as board president and chair of the Program Services Committee.

The Margaret Hylton Employee of the Year honor is named in honor of a longtime staff member who often seemed to be several places at once, working far beyond expectations in areas throughout the organization. This year’s recipient, Dawn Harkins, was honored for her daily demonstration of the values and philosophy of VSI.

Since 1967, VSI has been a leader in providing a diverse range of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. In addition to its three workshops in Liberty and North Kansas City, VSI offers Competitive Integrated Employment for workers who want to work for businesses in the community. Other programs help people with disabilities who might otherwise not qualify for Extended Employment workshop opportunities. For more information, visit vsiserve.org.

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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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