Our History


David Graf, a Vocational Arts teacher at Sandwich High School, his wife Juanita, and William Squier Sr., an executive with the James Knights Company of Sandwich, and his wife Virginia began the Open Door Workshop in the basement of the Graf residence in Sandwich. The consumers included Grafs’ daughter Cynthia and Squiers’ son William Jr. plus four other adults with developmental disabilities. The first Director was Mrs. Eileen Fish. She was soon followed by Mrs. Helen Halbesma of Yorkville.

Sandwich Community Sheltered Workshop incorporated on November 26.


Grown to 17 consumers, Open Door moved out of Grafs’ basement into the Otto House, owned by and next door to the Federated Church in Sandwich. A related entity, the Hope Haven Class, was begun in the Congregational Church at the corner of Eddy and 3rd Streets in Sandwich, a class for trainable mentally handicapped children rejected by the schools. It was started by Evangeline Gowdy, Rev. Robert Dell, Sandra Wilson, Lois Larson and others. It ultimately became part of Open Door, and the children participated in programs at 405 S. Wells Street in Sandwich.


A community fund raising effort raised an amount large enough to underwrite the construction of a new workshop building and 405 South Wells in Sandwich, Illinois was completed and occupied in 1967.


Open Door began assembling Dave Graf’s “Holler Dollar” game and trying to market it in order to generate income from within.


Open Door accepted government funding for the first time. Director Helen Halbesma stepped down and was succeeded by Doug Crane.


Hope Haven class closed, with children being accepted into Public school programs or other private institutions. Doug Crane resigned as Director, with Bill Squier and Helen Halbesma filling in.


Thomas Brandy became Executive Director of the Open Door. A brief project emulating the Kennedy Foundation’s “Flame of Hope” and called “Lite of Life” came and went at the Open Door. After that, a Print Shop was started, at first right in the administrative office at 405 S. Wells, Sandwich, Illinois.


Open Door held a Bike-A-Thon as a fund raiser and construction began on the Residence. Additional space for the Print Shop was rented in the old CTS Knights building.


The Open Door Residence at 11 Fayette in Sandwich was occupied. The building had been constructed entirely through local funding, in kind donations and efforts.


An addition expanded the education space and garage at 405 South Wells, doubling the size of the building. Executive Director Tom Brandy resigned and moved on. Marilyn Barman, a professional rehabilitation supervisor on our workshop staff, became our new Executive Director.


The first PORK CHOP AUCTION was spontaneously put together by Stan Thompson after bidding on a champion pig at the Sandwich Fair. Other parents and citizens participated, and Raised over $11,000.


The basic philosophy of Open Door continued to be cultivation of local support, although some government funding was being accepted. A committee was formed to discuss policy on consumer dating and “The Morals Policy” was formed.


The Open Door Center received its first accreditation from CARF (The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.) This is the year the agency and the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, first began using computerized information service.


Fred McDonald was hired as a consultant to assist Open Door to increase its earning power. The board developed Board Policies. This effort and the appearance of an unrelated Group in Kane County calling itself “The Open Door”, led to the change of the name to “Open Door Rehabilitation Center” and to coin the further name of “Open Door Enterprises”. Open Door Enterprises looked, immediately, into the feasibility of Micrographics.


The Open Door sold the Open Door Print Shop to Ray Larsen, who had been advisor for its operations. Ray changed its name, simply, to “The Print Shop.” In a big step forward, part of the Open Door Rehabilitation Center moved into the Davis Building (attached to Hemmingsen’s True Value Hardware) on Route 34 in Plano. It became, at that time, more involved with Kendall County, and developed identification with the northeastern Illinois area, rather than with the Rockford area. It took on staff with greater expertise in seeking contract work.


Open Door Rehabilitation Center had an Occupational Therapy Program, with an Occupational Therapist regularly advising a Staff member, until funding for it ran out.


The board began to discuss either building or buying increased factory and rehabilitation space. The agency began recycling aluminium cans, bought a conveyor belt, received funding to assist several low functioning residents in area nursing homes who needed day programming, and began placing some consumers out in community work sites with supervision.


Jerry Long of Creative Point Industries asked Open Door to assemble plastic storage units for compact discs. The decision was made that the Vocational Division should grow large enough to fund all needed programs. In addition to other contracts, Impact Industries awarded a contract to color code a fly-wheel.


Open Door Rehabilitation Center (Open Door Enterprises) Board reviewed a feasibility study for a proposed Plastic Molding Department. Hearing this, Plano Molding Company donated a molding machine that May, and the Vocational Program moved into the building at 208 Beaver Street in Yorkville. Kendall County Homemakers Program became part of The Open Door.


The Beaver Street Facility was officially dedicated on October 9, 1988 and Open Door celebrated 25 years of Service to the surrounding community.


The agency was awarded a CILA (Community Integrated Living Arrangement) grant from the Department of Mental Health. A plastic injection molding operation was undertaken as both Vocational training site and a source of income.


Cooperation with local schools increased as the emphasis there is to transition students from school community work sites rather then sheltered workshops whenever possible. Open Door was awarded its own In Home Respite Program.


Marilyn Barman left as Executive Director and was replaced briefly by Dennis Lube, then Dr. Robert Coleman as Acting Director while he continued as President of the Board. The plastic injection molding enterprise was proving unsuccessful and many ideas were considered for a new director.


The Board decided to close the molding operation in Yorkville and move the vocational programs back to Sandwich, to a location on 217 South West Street. In October, Dave Baker was named Executive Director. Respite and Homemaker programs were discontinued.


A reorganization of personnel and programs was undertaken to improve coordination and delivery of services. Open Door received another three year CARF accreditation.


Open Door opened a female CILA group home, named Green.


Open Door linked a network computer system throughout the agency to better manage data.


Open Door purchased a house and opened a second female CILA group home, named Cedar. Open Door also received a 3-year CARF accreditation.


Open Door purchased another house for a CILA group home, named Maple.


After purchasing 2 houses, Open Door proceeded to open 2 more CILA group homes. In October the first home, Pine group home, was opened and the second home, Willow group home, was opened in December. Open Door received a 3-year CARF accreditation. A small transportation route was begun into Kendall County to allow day program consumers access to programs. Two lots were purchased to build Green II.


In June, the project to build Green II, a CILA group home, was completed, this location was later renamed the Rose Group Home.


Open Door received a 3-year CARF accreditation.


The garage area of the Willow group home was enclosed in order to house two individuals in need of emergency placement. Open Door also purchased two lots to build two new CILA group homes for the CLF consumers.


New construction was begun on a two new CILA group homes.


In September, the project to build two new group homes was completed and the CLF was downsized.The two new group homes were named Ash and Oak. Remodeling was started on the former CLF to become the new building for the DT program. Open Door received a 3-year CARF accreditation. A lot was purchased to build a new CILA group home to replace the Cedar group home.


In August, the project to build Cedar II, a CILA group home was completed. In October, the remodeling of the former CLF was completed and the DT program began occupying the building. In December remodeling of the former DT building began to convert it into Administrative Offices. The Cedar home was converted into the “Hub” to house CILA 24-hour and CILA Intermittent program staff offices.


“The Hub” was converted into rental housing for one independent CILA Intermittent client. In July, a home and property was purchased at 404 S. Main St. for additional parking space. In December, Open Door purchased the building that houses the Open Door West workshop.


Open Door received a 3-year CARF accreditation. In July, the local fire department conducted “training” while burning down the home located at 404 S. Main St. allowing more room for a gravel parking lot. The garage was left in tact and utilized to house smaller Open Door vans and a car. In August, a severe storm uprooted a large portion of trees in the yard at 11 Fayette St. In September, a new walk-in cooler was completed at 11 Fayette St. In November, trees were planted to replace those taken by the August storm.