Vocational Guidance Services (VGS) traces its roots back to 1890 when a group of young girls who became known as the Sunbeam Circle began selling their hand-sewn products to benefit the bed-bound children at Lakeside Hospital in Cleveland. And the rest of the history is in the making with many significant milestones, including:
1900: The Sunbeam Circle established the first kindergarten for children with disabilities, welcoming all crippled children irrespective of color, creed or nationality.
1910: Through the efforts of the Cleveland Municipal School District, Sunbeam started the Willson School for Crippled Children (later named the Sunbeam School for Crippled Children) which was accessible to children with crutches or in wheelchairs. The school remains operational today under the management of the Cleveland Municipal School District.
Ongoing: Throughout the years, sewing remained a focal point for the Sunbeam Circle, which not only operated a sewing school for girls, but also organized events where the sewn goods were sold for fundraising purposes. The Sunbeam Holiday Boutique, as it is now called, remains one of Cleveland’s longest-running fundraisers. The Sunbeam Shop still today remains the sales outlet for products made by individuals with disabilities.
1918: The organization changed its name to the Association for the Crippled and Disabled to reflect its broader array of services targeting all aspects of the lives of individuals of all ages with disabilities, including job training.
1939: The Association for the Crippled and Disabled officially became the Cleveland Rehabilitation Center which successfully raised enough money for a new industrial building to house all services under one roof, including physical, occupational, speech and group therapy; social service; group and case work; recreation; industrial rehabilitation and various workshops.
1949: The Vocational Guidance Bureau became an autonomous community vocational counseling agency.
1956: The Vocational Guidance Bureau merged with the Cleveland Rehabilitation Center to form Vocational Guidance and Rehabilitation Services (VGRS) and work began to rehabilitate the agency’s present headquarters building on East 55th Street in Cleveland.
1964: VGRS now serves individuals with large array of disabilities through all the relevant agencies (63 in total) and continues to expand its array of services to include work evaluation and adjustment, skills training and transportation.
1980: VGRS was named “Outstanding Rehabilitation Facility in America” by the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. The agency’s Sewing Division, now focused exclusively on production sewing training and work activities for persons with disabilities, began manufacturing clothing for sale in Sears Department Stores.
1985: The agency established Total Temps, the first temporary worker service in the country for individuals with disabilities and continues to grow its service area by opening its Cleveland West location the same year.
1986: The agency shortened its name and became Vocational Guidance Services (VGS).
1988: The Elyria Center was acquired and services expanded into Lorain County.
1991: VGS received its first federal government sewing contract for U.S. Army women’s dress slacks launching a legacy of being the exclusive provider of female dress slacks for both officers and enlisted personnel in the U.S. Army.
1993: VGS’ growth continued as the agency established a facility in Painesville to serve individuals from Ashtabula, Geauga, and Lake Counties.
2003: VGS opened its state-of-the-art Training Center on East 55th Street in Cleveland, further expanding its programs and services as well as its capacity to serve.
2004: The agency added its first Basic Life Skills program in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. That same year, VGS officially affiliated with Dress for Success Cleveland, a highly successful venture for both organizations that remains in place today.
2006: VGS opened a full-service facility in Columbus, extending its outreach into Franklin County for a total coverage area of 26 Ohio counties.
2015: VGS celebrated its125th Anniversary and achieved its world-record 17thconsecutive accreditation from CARF International.
2016: VGS received its Certification with Honors to the ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard Green Building Criteria.
2017: VGS receives ISO Certification
Today: VGS serves more than 3,500 individuals each year and provides more than 778,000 hours of work experience, training, and employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities or other barriers to employment. This equates to more than $7.7 million in wages and benefits paid to Ohio residents.