Our history stretches back 132 years when a group of young women known as the Sunbeam Circle joined together to support disabled patients in Lakeside Children’s Hospital. In 1986, the name Vocational Guidance Service was adopted but our commitment to serving those in need remained steadfast.
The Sunbeam Circle established the first kindergarten for children with disabilities, welcoming all children irrespective of color, creed or nationality. Over the years, sewing projects to support the children at Lakeside Hospital remained a focal point for the Sunbeam Circle and led to the first Sunbeam Holiday Boutique to raise funds. The Boutique, which still takes place annually is one of Cleveland’s longest-running fundraisers. As services expanded to support individuals of all ages with disabilities, the organization changed its name to the Association for the Crippled and Disabled.
The Association for the Crippled and Disabled officially became the Cleveland Rehabilitation Center and successfully raised enough funding for a new building. The new facility housed all services under one roof, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and group therapy; social services; group and case work; recreation; industrial rehabilitation and various workshops. Following another name change, the Association became the Vocational Guidance Bureau and subsequently became an community vocational counseling agency.
The Vocational Guidance Bureau merged with the Cleveland Rehabilitation Center to form Vocational Guidance and Rehabilitation Services (VGRS). The merger resulted in expanded services and new programs including work evaluation and adjustment, skills training and transportation.
During this period, VGRS was named “Outstanding Rehabilitation Facility in America” by the National Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. The agency’s Sewing Division grew to focus on production sewing training for individuals with disabilities and began manufacturing clothing for sale in Sears Department Stores. We received our 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. VGRS also established Total Temps, the first temporary worker service in the country for individuals with disabilities.The agency name was also shortened to Vocational Guidance Services (VGS).
VGS opened a state-of-the-art Training Center on East 55th Street in Cleveland and a full-service facility in Columbus extending outreach into Franklin County. New programs established during this time included Adult Day Services in collaboration with the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities and an affiliation with Dress for Success Cleveland. VGS celebrated its 125th Anniversary in 2015 and achieved its 17th consecutive accreditation from CARF International. VGS also received a Certification with Honors from ISSA Cleaning Industry Management Standard Green Building Criteria in addition to ISO 9001 Certification.
VGS serves nearly 4,000 individuals each year and provides more than 677,800 hours of work experience and training to individuals with disabilities and other barriers to employment. This equates to more than $7.1 million in wages and benefits paid to Ohio residents, effectively boosting the local economy and serving as a catalyst for job creation in the region.