Village of Progress near 50th anniversary


OREGON – Fifty years of continuous nonprofit service is much more difficult than one might imagine.

The journal, Nonprofit Quarterly, reported that the average life expectancy of a nonprofit is only six to nine years. Indeed, only about 16% of all nonprofits ever make it to the age of fifty.

But the Village of Progress has done more than survive to fifty; it has thrived.

The Village will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary with an open house on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 28 from 1-2:30 p.m. There will be a special unveiling at 1:30 p.m. to honor past director Bob Glaser. Please mark your calendar and plan to attend.

In 1968 it was Robert Brooks, one of the Village of Progress’ founding board members, who launched the successful 708 initiative in Ogle County to help fund services for people with developmental disabilities and mental illness. It is no coincidence, then, that the Village of Progress was founded at that time to stand in the forefront of providing those services.

Over the years the Village has grown in the scope and nature of the services offered. In its infancy, the Village provided day care to children with developmental disabilities – something that neither Illinois nor the federal government provided. (Special education wasn’t created until passage of the Education for the Handicapped Act in 1975).

The Village broke new ground in Illinois again in the 1970s when it built its current training center. It’s believed that the Village was the first nonprofit in Illinois to construct a building specifically dedicated as a training center for those with disabilities.

Over the years the Village reached out beyond its four walls. In 1975, they launched the Village Cleaning Service as a way of providing competitive, integrated employment to those with disabilities. The Yellow Bird also launched that year, a cooperative effort with the local seniors group. The project acted as both a storefront for Village-produced goods and a location for seniors to meet and socialize. In 1980 the Yellow Bird transitioned into the Rock River Center, which remains a vibrant part of the community.

Since its inception the Village has always looked first toward entrepreneurial activities whenever possible. That mindset has continued into the present with the opening of the Village Bakery in 2017.

The Village of Progress Foundation, created in 1990, has been a strong partner in helping to advance the Village’s mission. In 2014 the Foundation launched the Attendance Grant Program. These grants are awarded annually to individuals who are on the Illinois waiting list for disabilities-related services but have not yet received them because of state underfunding.

At present, the Village of Progress serves the needs of over 90 men and women in Ogle County. Its board of directors, like its staff, are diverse, talented, and dedicated to the Village’s mission. From just about any standard, the Village of Progress’ 50 years of work in the county can be considered a major achievement.