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VOP headquarters renamed for first director

Wow! What an honor!” was an Oregon man’s reaction last week to having his former work place renamed for him.

“My life has been enriched in a special way being around the disabled,” Bob Glaser told the large crowd that gathered Aug. 28 at an open house to honor him and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Village of Progress.

Current VOP Executive Director Brion Brooks announced that the main building, off Pines Road in Oregon, will be renamed.

“In honor of Bob Glaser’s tireless work in creating and shaping the Village, the board of directors voted to rename our Day Services Center the Bob Glaser Training Center,” he said. “Thank you, Bob, for what you’ve done and for what you mean to so many people in this area.”

Glaser was the first executive director of VOP when it was founded in 1969 to serve Ogle County adults with developmental difficulties, and he remained in that post for 38 years until he retired in 2007.

Craig Carpenter, who was hired by Glaser in 1973 and served as executive director from 2007 to 2014, also credited his former boss with giving VOP its solid foundation.

“…Without Bob Glaser I do not think any of us would be here today at this celebration,” Carpenter said. “His impact, his vision, his drive, is directly responsible for the birth, the growth, and the success of this agency. You cannot overstate his importance to the Village of Progress.”

Longtime employees Jerry Virgil and Donna Mattison, both hired in the first year of VOP’s existence, presented the award to Glaser.

Glaser, in turn, praised Virgil and Mattison, as well as other staff members for their commitment and devotion to the disabled at VOP.

“They have an undeniable, unbelievable love for the men and women they are serving,” he said.

He recalled that VOP got its start in a storefront in Mt. Morris that had only one restroom.

The consumers, the men and women served, saw many first over the years, he said, such as their first jobs, first pay checks, and first camp experiences.

The atmosphere was always positive, Glaser said, with laughter often filling the facility.

“This is a fun place with fun people,” he said.

A group of parents and concerned citizens formed the Blackhawk Association for the Mentally Retarded in 1957 to advocate for county residents with developmental disabilities.

The group created VOP 12 years later as a place for children and adults with developmental disabilities to find a sense of purpose, trust, and community.

VOP offers vocational skills, recreational programs, and social activities, to each of the men and women who attend.

Tours of the training center were also part of the open house.