FULTON, NY – Oswego Industries is a private nonprofit that has served the developmentally and intellectually disabled population of Oswego County since its official beginning in 1968.
Partnered with sister agency, ARC of Oswego County, together the two have established “a story of struggle, constant change, growth and courage in response to needs,” according to a historical overview of the agencies written by the late Elizabeth “Betty” Vaught Baasch, the founding executive director.
Betty Vaught, characterized by her colleagues as a fearless, compassionate, lovely person and friend, retired from Oswego Industries in 1999 after 31 years of dedicated work to establishing Oswego Industries and passed away in December of 2015.
It was for these many years of hard work and leadership that the Oswego Industries building located at 7 Morrill Place in Fulton was dedicated in the name of Elizabeth A. “Betty” Baasch (Vaught) at a ceremony held Tuesday (August 30) afternoon.
“It’s an honor for me to stand here today as executive director and recognize the work of Mrs. Betty Vaught, the person responsible for the existence of this building. She was fearless, feisty when needed, and a friend to everyone,” current executive director of OI, Laurie Davis said to the crowd.
The ceremony brought touching words of remembrance from colleagues and loved ones and unveiled a plaque dedicating the building in honor of Vaught.
“This truly wouldn’t exist without Betty’s influence. She was the driving force behind everything that sits here today. Though she was small in stature, she certainly wasn’t small in spirit,” Davis said.
Bruce Phelps, a member of the Board of Directors spoke of his many years working with Vaught and all the commitment and perseverance she put into creating a place for any handicap person to thrive.
He recalled a story in which Vaught brought a busload of staff to a county legislature meeting to advocate for the needs of Oswego Industries and the many benefits it holds for the disabled population.
After Vaught spoke to the legislature, “anyone who had opposed, changed their minds,” Phelps said, and the additional funding being sought for Oswego Industries was passed.
This was one of many stories Phelps could recall of instances where Vaught worked as a tireless advocate for her vision in the creation of Oswego Industries. He continued to touch on the purchase of a former thermometer factory located at 7 Morrill Place in Fulton, a business decision that was headed by Vaught.
Phelps said Vaught was sure of the decision all along, while he and many other board members were fearful. However, Vaught proved right in the long run as the building withstood the test of time and the success grew to include three major additions to the building in 1978, 1984, and 1991.
“The new facility opened up opportunities for expanded work and development of new services,” Vaught wrote in her historical overview, opportunities that continued to expand as the building grew from 18,000 square feet to its current size of 80,000 square feet.
Today, the building is home to the many services including pre-vocational and vocational habilitation services, Medicaid service coordination, day habilitation without walls, business services, and career employment services that Oswego Industries provides to hundreds of people with disabilities.
To have this building dedicated in her name, is “one of the finest honors that could be bestowed upon her,” said Vaught’s husband, Klaus Baasch.
“She would be deeply humbled, yet highly honored,” he continued. “She was a deeply committed and dedicated professional. A visionary and a leader with the dream of helping mankind, disabled people in particular. She was a humanitarian in nature who literally touched thousands of lives always with an infectious smile, a cup half full, and a can do attitude.”
Executive director Davis read aloud the plaque that is newly hung at the building’s entrance as it was unveiled to the crowd.
The plaque was a shining testament to Vaught’s successful career and meaningful life and even referenced the Adrian Levy award she received from the New York State Rehabilitative Association for her “ability to see changes as opportunity and turn potential into success for people with disabilities.”
With this unveiling, the building was officially reintroduced as the “Vaught Center for Development and Integration.”
“Her life was a story of success, one that we can remember fondly. I’m so grateful for all of you, for honoring my late wife and I find comfort in knowing that her legacy will live on,” Baasch said to the crowd.