A look inside: Vassar’s Wolverine Human Services heads into 30th year

Clients at Wolverine Human Services line up for lunch in the cafeteria at Vassar House, a program for girls only. (Photo by John Cook)
Clients at Wolverine Human Services line up for lunch in the cafeteria at Vassar House, a program for girls only. (Photo by John Cook)

Chuck Fabbro is driven to give it his best every day at work because of what happened when he went home for lunch one day, years ago.

Fabbro, principal of education at Wolverine Human Services Inc. in Vassar, said he was making a sandwich and someone knocked on his inside garage door. He thought it was weird.

“I opened it up and there’s this gentleman standing there and he’s like ‘Hey, do you remember me?’ and I’m like ‘Uh, no,’” Fabbro said.

The man had been doing landscape work at a neighbor’s house and recognized Fabbro. “He says ‘You were my advocate in like 1995,’” Fabbro said. “And he’s like ‘I want you to meet my wife.’ So I go down a few houses and he’s like ‘This is the guy I’m always telling you about. This is the guy that changed my life.’”

The man had been one of many success stories to come out of Wolverine Human Services – one of Vassar’s largest employers and facilities of its type in the state of Michigan about to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

And it hasn’t always been easy.

The nonprofit has faced backlash from neighbors at times, and continually had to adjust programming due to ever-changing guidelines and funding from the state.

Still, local officials say it’s important to Vassar, Tuscola County, and the entire region with roughly 200 employees coming from outside of Tuscola County.

“They’re a big business and that’s especially important with the foundry closing and things like that,” said Matthew Bierlein, a Tuscola County commissioner whose district includes Vassar. “And when it comes to their role in the community, they always have a crew that helps plant petunias, I’ve seen them weeding flowers before Vassar RiverFest, and they always seem to be at other events, as well.”

“They’re one of the biggest employers, and definitely one of the biggest water users,” said Brian Chapman, city manager, Vassar. “They’re also a good partner in a lot of community initiatives. They really help out in the areas where I may not have staff to do something or another group may need some assistance.”

Chapman pointed to a job earlier this summer, where several Wolverine residents repainted city signs.

“That’s something where I don’t necessarily have a lot of staff power to be able to do,” Chapman said. “To have a business in the community that is willing to partner with us on some of these maintenance issues that we have, or even bigger community initiatives, is a real positive to us.”

But for many, the question remains: What does Wolverine Human Services actually do in Vassar? (Read more)

(This story originally appeared in the Oct. 29, 2016 print edition of The Tuscola County Advertiser and can be read online in its entirety here.)

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