This June we are celebrating 30 years since construction began at our current MRI facility. MRI has come a long way from being two small non-profit organizations to an organization with extensive programing and services. The merge of Progress Resource Center and Macon County Rehabilitation Facilities, Inc. in 1988, combined the resources of both organizations and made it possible to reach and serve a wider range of individuals with disabilities. From the merge came the opportunity and need for a larger facility to provide enough room for all of the combined programs, services and license plate production.
Progress Resource Center got their start in 1957, as an education training school for children with developmental disabilities. At the time, most public schools weren’t equipped to offer educational training for students with developmental disabilities. It was the parents of these underserved students who saw the desperate need for a school that offered an educational curriculum based around the needs of their children. By the mid to late 70s, the center grew to offer an Infant Program and Day Training Program that focused on life-skills training for adults.
The second organization in the merge, Macon County Rehabilitation Facilities, Inc. (MCRF) provided rehab services that was oriented towards job training for adults with disabilities. MCRF got their start in 1969 serving 13 individuals, however, by 1972 they grew to provide services for 140 individuals. Their facility provided various services for adults; including Community Living Program, Work Activity Program, Job Seeking Skills, and the Janitorial Program. Along with job training through the Janitorial program, MCRF established work training through obtaining contracts with local businesses. The Job Seeking Skills and Work Activity Programs were established in 1973; and the following year job contracts with Kahlua and Caterpillar were acquired.
In the early 80s, the job market in Decatur began to tighten which meant MCRF’s contracts, job training, and placement programs were negatively impacted. However, in 1983, MCRF began manufacturing all of Illinois’ license plates after winning the bid for the contract in ’82. The following year, through MCRF’s programs, 143 individuals were placed into jobs. From those placements, 119 jobs were through License Plate production.
The two organization’s paths crossed and their journey began in 1981 during a joint work project called Supported Living Arrangement Program. This program provided the tools and education for individuals with physical limitations to become independent and live on their own. This was the start to their future partnership of building meaningful lives for children and adults with both developmental and physical disabilities across Macon County.
Progress Resource Center’s specific training programs focus on life-skills, and MCRF’s focus on job training meant that individuals with disabilities had to travel and attend two separate organizations in order to receive the benefits from both. They realized they could do more and make more of an impactful difference if they merged into one organization that provided both life-skills and job training programs. The merge in 1988 started the constructional planning of a new 100,000 square ft. building that would be the home of Macon Resources, Inc. The construction of a larger facility allowed for there to be enough space for license plate manufacturing, production, the janitorial program, job training, life-skills training, and children’s services all under one roof.
The ground breaking ceremony took place in April of 1991 and construction began in June. By the end of May 1992, everyone was moved into the new building! The union of the two organizations that established MRI and the creation of a new facility presented vast opportunities for bettering the services and programs for individuals with disabilities. Due to combining education/life-skills and job training programs under one organization, MRI has become the largest provider of services in the region that helps individuals to gain independence and self-worth. Our Community Day Services alone provide over 20 programs, along with Social Skills Support, Speech & Language Therapy, Community Involvement, Employment Services, VISIONS Mental Health Program, and Residential Services. Additionally, MRI houses the location of Illinois License Plate Production, Bench Production & Manufacturing, and Jan-Pro whom services the area’s rest stops.
For our anniversary, we aren’t just celebrating the birthing of a new facility, we are celebrating the opportunities it has given us throughout the years. If it wasn’t for the merging of two organizations that created MRI and created the need for a 100,000 sq. ft. building, then MRI would not have been able to make such an impact on so many lives. These walls represent the building of hundreds and hundreds of lives in the past, present, and future.