Illinois Valley Industries marks more than 50 years of supporting special needs adults

Illinois Valley Industries Clients during the 53rd Anniversary Open House on Oct. 19.

Illinois Valley Industries didn’t get to celebrate its 50th anniversary a couple of years ago thanks to COVID-19, but its employees and clients made up for lost time by celebrating its 53rd anniversary Oct. 19.

More than 150 people attended the open house at 1033 Third Ave. in Morris, where guests got to tour the main community day services location and interact with clients, family members and staff while learning what programs are offered.

Illinois Valley Industries is an organization that provides support and services to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that started in 1968 in the basement of First Baptist Church, before incorporating in 1970 and moving into its current building at 1033 3rd Ave., Morris.

Executive Director Stephanie Kessler said she was excited to have people in the building for an open house because it’s the first she’s gotten to do in around 20 years. She said it’s important for the community to see the type of work that gets done there.

“We’re trying to help people lead full lives and understand what that looks like,” Kessler said. “We’re trying to help people be as independent as they want to be.”

Kessler said Illinois Valley Industries has day programs and a residential program, which provides a living space for people with developmental disabilities. It also has a community employment program that has landed jobs for its clients around Morris.

“Community access is a big part of what we’re doing,” Kessler said. “We’re helping people explore what they’re interested in and learn to be more independent whether it’s in their homes, in the community or just in their personal lives. We’re providing the assistance to master new skills and keep skills.”

Morris has been welcoming in all aspects of Illinois Valley Industries’ mission, Kessler said. Local businesses like Jewel, Floral Designs, the YMCA and more have provided jobs to Illinois Valley Industries clients, which helps them get out in public.

Kessler said this helps them build soft skills that are important for employers.

“You’re making connections with people in the community, too,” Kessler said. “You’re not just socializing with us. You’re interacting with people in the Illinois Valley, and interacting with the community as a whole and building relationships to make your life richer.”

This socialization is good for both mental health and physical health, because having a circle in the community helps prevent isolation.

Illinois Valley Industries has the capabilities to complete packaging and assembly for local businesses on-site at its main location in Morris. Those interested in working with Illinois Valley Industries, or those wishing to apply for its services, should contact 815-942-6133 or email Kessler at ivistephanie@sbcglobal.net.