Milestone is a private, not-for-profit corporation governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who are area business leaders and parents of our community’s people with disabilities. This organization has grown to become Winnebago and Boone Counties’ largest provider of residential, developmental, vocational, and social support services for adults and children with mental retardation, autism, epilepsy, and cerebral palsy. Milestone began its commitment in 1971 when a group of concerned parents of adults with developmental disabilities met with area professionals to discuss the lack of living centers for people with disabilities. At this time, the only available choice was an institutional environment far from home and family, and without the love and caring necessary to help people reach their full potential. As their discussions progressed, the problem of finding compassionate residential placement for their children became more acute.
In response, these interested parents, health professionals, educators, and business leaders decided to take action. In March of 1971, under the Illinois Not-for-Profit Act, Milestone, Inc. was founded. By 1973, Milestone had opened Kishwaukee Apartments, the FIRST residential-care program of its kind in Illinois!
Milestone established its Supported Living Arrangement program -- the FIRST community support program in the state to provide guidance and support to adults with developmental disabilities who reside in their own apartments.
In order to serve people with severe physical disabilities in addition to developmental disabilities Milestone opens Elmwood Heights -- a highly specialized residential community created under a special grant from the State of Illinois. Here, Milestone has created a comfortable, home-like atmosphere combining individualized programs with around-the-clock medical supervision. Milestone provides the personalized attention and training necessary to help individuals develop skills in daily living. Elmwood Heights currently provides for 84 of our community’s citizens with disabilities. Through the dedication of the Board members and staff, Milestone was selected as one of 15 agencies from across the country to participate in a Department of Housing and Urban Development Pilot Project. In 1979, Elmwood East Group Home was opened and today serves 12 adults with developmental disabilities. Also, in 1979, at the request of local groups representing adults with physical disabilities, Milestone agreed to seek funding for and then administer a specially-designed apartment building for people who use wheelchairs. Today, the Strathmoor Apartments remain a model for developers who wish to enhance services and living arrangements for persons who use wheelchairs.
Milestone was asked to assist in the development of another program for people with physical disabilities. Under the direction of Milestone, Rockford Access and Mobilization Project (RAMP) was created and initially administered. Today, RAMP is a separate organization, whose Board of Directors is comprised almost exclusively of people with disabilities.
To provide for people at every level of disability and ensure each person the opportunity to achieve his or her highest level of growth and independence, Milestone expanded their Group Home Programs to encompass five additional locations. Searles, Javelin, Applewood, Dierks, and Belvidere offer area adults the advantages of living closer to family and friends, and the opportunity to share in the resources of our community. Each of these residences is home to a small group of adults with similar abilities, skills, and interests. All Milestone group home clients enjoy sharing in many aspects of daily living, from grocery shopping, menu planning, cooking and housekeeping, to welcoming family members and friends into their homes.
The Milestone Training Center was established to assist adults with developmental disabilities in reaching their self-care, social, educational, recreational, and vocational goals. This center currently serves more than 60 people and is recognized by the Department of Labor as a sheltered workshop. All training center activities stress functional skills which assist individuals in achieving community integration, while enhancing their self-esteem.
Milestone’s Board approved the construction of two smaller group homes to replace the Kishwaukee facility. By 1989, the construction was complete on Milestone’s Orchard and Sun Valley Group Homes. Collectively, they serve 16 adults with developmental disabilities who need support and training in the tasks associated with daily living.
Milestone was awarded a Community Integrated Living Arrangement (CILA) pilot project grant. The men and women in this program can choose to live alone or with a friend in apartments Milestone helps them select and maintain. Individual’s work in the community, do their own shopping, pay their own bills, and plan their own activities. Milestone provides the advice, counsel, and support necessary to ensure that each individual’s assimilation into the Greater Rockford Community is successful.
The Dierks Group Home was renovated to accommodate eight adults with developmental and physical disabilities who previously resided in nursing homes or other institutional settings. The men and women who live here enjoy the comfort and convenience of specialized furnishings, physical therapy equipment, whirlpools, and wheelchair-accessible kitchens, baths, and living areas.
Milestone, Inc. opened Milestone Industries in January of 1992. It is a new sheltered workshop and vocational training center providing training and employment to people with developmental disabilities. The facility has 16,500 sq.ft. of production area and is located at 4060 McFarland Road. This program provides our area’s citizens with developmental disabilities the much-needed opportunities of full-time employment, while offering regional businesses quality production services. At Milestone Industries, 70 disabled people are at work in a supervised environment, experiencing the rewards of acquiring new skills and being productive.
Milestone opened the Prospect and Windcloud Group homes for people with disabilities. Milestone Industries was also expanded by an additional 6,000 sq.ft. to create additional space for new clientele and provide additional room for storage.
Three additional group homes were opened in 1994. Our Hanford, Rural and Flintridge homes provide services to five people each.
Our home on Old Golf Road opened and was Milestone’s second venture in serving individuals with severe physical disabilities, as well as developmental disabilities. This home serves four individuals and was especially-designed to provide wheelchair access and other handicapped-accessible amenities. When planning began on this home, it also became evident the number of individuals served at Milestone needed independent apartment living. As a result the Old Golf Road home is comprised of four apartments. Two of these apartments are connected via an open doorway and provide a group living arrangement, while the upper two apartments provide independent living for four additional people with disabilities.
1995 also saw a second addition to our Milestone Industries project. This addition was 18,000 sq.ft. and was developed to accommodate the growing number of individuals served by Milestone. This new 18,000 sq.ft. addition has a two-fold purpose. First, during the daytime hours, it provides vocational and developmental training opportunities to more than 70 people with disabilities. Each evening, the facilities are converted to a charitable gaming hall, which is operated by Milestone and other local not-for-profit organizations as a fund raising venture.
This was one of the most exciting years in Milestone’s existence. Milestone has long planned converting Elmwood Heights, which is a large complex consisting of seven different buildings, into a facility which serves medically-involved individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Through negotiations with the Department of Mental Health, Milestone received the funding to begin the conversion of this complex. 32 individuals with disabilities who resided at Elmwood Heights were relocated into eight four-person group homes. These group homes are located on Riverside, Stornway, Creekside, Village, 7th Avenue, Weymouth, Javelin, and Fleetwood in Rockford. Once these individuals moved from Elmwood Heights, renovation of three of the seven buildings within this complex began in order to accommodate multiply-involved individuals with physical, developmental, and medical disabilities. This was all achieved by December 30, 1996 and Milestone’s planned conversion of Elmwood Heights to a medically-oriented facility began.
This year saw a continuation of our conversion at Elmwood Heights with the opening of the Black Oak Trail Group Home. At the same time, four additional openings were created at Elmwood Heights to accommodate the growing list of people with physical and medical issues as well as developmental disabilities who are seeking the services we can provide at our Elmwood Heights location. In addition, construction began on our Shiloh Group Home and plans were underway for the development of a new home on Donna Drive, which will bring housing opportunities for an additional eight people with disabilities.
Both the new group homes that began construction in 1997, opened in April and June of 1998. Donna Drive and Shiloh provide housing opportunities for 12 people with disabilities. Donna Drive offers apartment settings with twenty-four hour support for people who are working toward living independently in the community.
Our Seventh Avenue group home had a name change due to the City of Rockford renaming the street. It is now called Wind Point. Two new group homes were built in order to relocate individuals living in larger homes to smaller homes. Individuals living at our fifteen-person Sun Valley group home moved to our new homes, Sawgrass and Crested Butte, in May of 1999. Four individuals from Sun Valley moved to Sawgrass and three moved to Crested Butte. There are two other people residing at Crested Butte, one from the Wind Point group home and one is new to the Milestone family. Sun Valley now has eight individuals residing there. Milestone received a grant from the Department of Human Services to begin the process of opening a dental clinic specifically designed to serve people with disabilities. This clinic will provide much-needed access to dental care for the individuals served by Milestone, as well as those served by other agencies located in a thirteen-county area. It opened in December 1999 and is the only free-standing dental clinic serving persons with disabilities in the United States.
Milestone purchased the former Rockford Title building in downtown Rockford to serve as the new location for our downtown CILA office. This program will also serve as the new Milestone Community Center. The programs and services at the Center will be available to the individuals Milestone serves as well as other citizens with developmental disabilities from other social service agencies and the surrounding community. The individuals participate in programs and activities that will assist them in learning more about the recreational and volunteer opportunities in the area.
Milestone successfully merged with RocVale Children’s Home, another local not-for-profit agency serving children ages 6 through 21. The merger enabled Milestone to expand its services, but more importantly, for the children and staff at RocVale, provided a sound financial basis and administrative structure for this struggling organization. Milestone also opened two new group homes serving an additional ten individuals with disabilities.
Milestone began a 1.5 million dollar renovation of the RocVale Children’s Home. This renovation enabled us to provide a quality living environment for the 50 children residing at RocVale. Milestone also opened an additional group home serving five individuals.
This year saw the completion of the RocVale renovation and the Milestone Dental Clinic enrolled their 1300th patient.
Milestone began the construction of three new group homes serving five individuals each. These group homes replaced the Javelin I and Riverside properties. They will offer a more home-like community setting for the 15 individuals served. Milestone also received a grant for $265,000 from the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation to expand the Milestone Dental Clinic.
Three new group homes opened and the expansion of our dental clinic was completed. An additional dentist was hired and Milestone Dental Clinic began serving five additional counties in northeastern Illinois. The emphasis is to provide dental services to children with disabilities. “Adopt-a-camper” is launched, raising funds to allow both children and adults to attend summer camp.
Milestone converts to a “Lift-free” environment, enhancing safety for its employees.
Milestone opens its new Eggleston Group Home which features an “open” floor plan. The agency also expands its Maintenance area, including the addition of a certified mechanic to better control its fleet costs.
Milestone, Inc. celebrates its 35th anniversary with a gala event attended by individuals and supporters alike. Milestone also opens Southbridge group home, replacing Country Club, and remodels Hanford Group home. Milestone Industries is remodeled, with additional classrooms and a kitchen/life skills area added for the benefit of individuals.
Milestone staff expands its sensory programs at Milestone Training Center and Elmwood Heights. The Milestone Dental Clinic surpasses 4,000 patients served from 18 counties throughout northern Illinois.
Milestone opens an 8 unit apartment on South Mulford Road for individuals served in the independent living program. Funding for the apartment was provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Funding is also secured for a second independent living 8-unit apartment to be located on Commonwealth Drive in Loves Park.
RocVale Children’s Home converts from a Children’s Care Institution to Children’s Group Homes.
Milestone Industries fills over 7,100 holiday card orders, an all-time record. The Industries workshop is bustling with new activities and jobs for individuals.
Milestone employs two Board certified Behavioral Analysts to focus on behavioral improvement for individuals served. Few agencies in the state offer such services.
“Adopt-a-camper” generates enough support to send 73 individuals to Camp Albrecht (Iowa) for a week, another 21 individuals to Camp Winnebago and additional funds for day camp participation for RocVale children.
The sensory programs continue to be expanded to new area’s including RocVale and the Milestone Dental Clinic.
James P. Hamilton, retired founder, President and CEO, is named Director Emeritus of Milestone, Inc. Hamilton is also honored by his alma mater, Southern Illinois University as a distinguished alum.