Page 1

Community of F O R E S T PA R K


Wonder Works

New Moms

The Way Back Inn

Volunteering works PAGE 4

Steady as she goes PAGE 8

Finding his way PAGE 18


Community of Caring

October 19, 2016


We help you give back. How is up to you.

“This is a great time for the entire community to invest in the Community Foundation.”--John & Linda Tibensky, donors Connect with

Kristin Carlson Vogen or Rhea Yap

Donate to the Fund for Now

708-848-1560 | 1049 Lake Street, Suite 204, Oak Park or visit us at: www

Donate to the Fund for Forever

The Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation has partially underwritten the Season of Giving in support of nonprofit organizations serving Oak Park and River Forest.

Community of Caring


October 19, 2016


Contributing Writer Deb Quantock McCarey Photographer Keith J. McCarey Editorial Design Manager Claire Innes Editorial Designers Jacquinete Baldwin, Javier Govea IT and Digital Developer Mike Risher Advertising Production Manager Philip Soell Advertising Design Manager Andrew Mead Advertising Designers Mark Moroney, Debbie Becker Advertising Director Dawn Ferencak Display Advertising Sales Marc Stopeck, Joe Chomiczewski Media Coordinator Kristen Benford Inside Sales Representative Mary Ellen Nelligan Circulation Manager Jill Wagner Distribution Coordinator Caleb Thusat Chairman Emeritus Robert K. Downs Editor and Publisher Dan Haley Business Manager Joyce Minich ON THE COVER: Austin Coming Together’s Dollie Sherman is a community organizer in the Austin community bent on making life here better. Lyriq, below, after painting rocks |

Kevin J. McCarey


Sharing is caring


e are a community filled with care. In the following pages, you will learn about how certain organizations and the people who run them truly care about those they serve. At Day in Our Village we asked passers-by to write on a big piece of paper their answer to the question, “What do you love about your community?” (See above) We could have asked why do you care about your community and received many of the same answers. Care = Love. Read. Learn. Care. (Love.) Caring for the community,

Kristin Carlson Vogen President & Chief Executive Officer Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation

If you want to help This year we feature the following agencies and groups:

About our contributor

Wonder Works Children’s Museum, page 4

Deb Quantock McCarey is an Illinois Press Association (IPA) award-winning freelance writer who has worked with Wednesday Journal Inc. since 1995, writing features and special sections for all its publications. An avid urban gardener and growing naturalist, she is also a local “green” advocate and community volunteer. As a WJ gardening blogger, Deb is also the host of Deb’s Big Backyard, which runs on and airs on Oak Park public cable, Channel 6.

Austin Coming Together, page 5 West Cook YMCA, page 6 Steckman Studios of Music, page 7 New Moms, page 8


PACTT, page 10 By The Hand, 11 FOPCON, page 12 Sarah’s Inn, page 13 Opportunity Knocks, page 14 OP Township Center for Disability for Seniors, page 17 Way Back In, page 18



Community of Caring | Wonder Works Children’s Museum

October 19, 2016


Volunteering works at Wonder Works By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY


oing totally buggy amidst the sounds of playful parents, with kids, ages 1 to 5, Patrick Milburn, a long-time Wonder Works Children’s Museum nature and science volunteer, is cupping a Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach in the palm of his hand, waiting patiently for his next one-on-one with a young museum patron. Milburn, a 25-year-old man living with a developmental disability says Bugs in Fall is his favorite science and nature program. Beyond this volunteer gig at the museum, Milburn works part-time for pay at FFC (Fitness Formula Clubs), folding towels and cleaning up and at the River Forest Community Center where he also helps keep the building clean. On Fridays, he rides his bike to the museum, and parks right out front, he says. “I do like helping Mr. Eric show the cockroach to the kids,” Milburn says. “I tell them to pet it with one finger on its back. I do not let them hold it in their hands, because if the cockroach falls on the ground, and if they do not know it is on the ground, they could accidently squish it.” So, from 10 a.m. to noon most Fridays, Milburn will be working with bugs, doing transportation education facilitated by a Hot Wheels track or model train set, or showing kids backyard rocks. Eric Gyllenhaal, a museum educator, says his protégé is always looking up at the clock at 11:30 a.m., saying “time flies when you are having fun.” Milburn regularly helps Gyllenhaal set up his themed exploration station, as well as break it down and clean it all up, but “we can always find something fun for Patrick to do”, says Gyllenhaal. These “bug men” put on this program four times a year, with learning activities that combine science or nature play with art. “Patrick can work the microscope and at the same time he can use his other hand to hold the Giant Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, and that really helps me out,” says Gyllenhaal. David Hoambrecker, director of operations at Wonder Works, says the museum has a

Wonder Works Children’s Museum Address: 6645 W. North Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302 General office number: 708.383.4815 Website: Leadership contact name & title: Rachel Rettberg, CEO Statement of purpose: Wonder Works Children’s Museum’s mission is to inspire and instill confidence, curiosity and creativity in young children by delivering them a hands-on play experiences that will ultimately prepare them for life, including school and beyond. How long have you been in existence? In our current space, 13 years. Ways volunteers can help: Volunteers are an integral part of the museum with opportunities to help with general museum maintenance on exhibits, to guided activities, program development, fundraising support, and marketing. To volunteer, call: 708.383.4815 Useful donations other than money: wishlist/1KQQ7U2F0W9RE

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Patrick Milburn assists with the Science and Nature programming at Wonder Works Children’s Museum. Here he is holding a Giant Hissing Madagascar Cockroach. long history of partnering with organizations that serve special needs populations. “It is not so much that we search out working with this population. It is that we are completely open to it,” Hoambrecker said.

“And that’s why we have such a good, long term relationship with those organizations, plus have such great volunteers like Patrick,” Meanwhile, the mealworm is trying to slide out of its dish again… and without

missing a beat, Patrick rescues the worm, saving its day. Another time a cockroach tried to crawl up under his shirt sleeve, which did not bother him, he admits. “At the end of the day, Patrick will often ask me if he can take a cockroach home,” Gyllenhaal says. “We always tell people that these are Rain Forest Cockroaches, so they don’t live in our houses. And they are not going to live long outside of their container. But, I always tell Patrick, that is not really true. They could hold up in his basement pretty well, and I say, I do not know if your mom will like that.”

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Community of Caring | Austin Coming Together


October 19, 2016


Bringing her Austin neighborhood back By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY


ith a big personality, even broader smile and that Southern charm, Dollie Sherman is the 59-year-old outreach coordinator for Austin Coming Together (A.C.T.). With the assist of other residents, she is helping to bring back the Austin community she loves. Often accompanied by groups of young people, “Ms. Dollie,” who has operated a home-based daycare business in Austin for 25 years now, walks and talks the streets of Austin to help re-build bridges that have been broken by the ongoing issues of living in poverty, she says. “I moved here from Mississippi 38 years ago, got married and raised my family in the Austin community, so I can see how much we have changed. It’s the negativity, the crime, the drugs, the violence,” says Sherman. It was three years ago when she decided to take her stand. Since then, on-the-job for A.C.T., Sherman is the face of and force behind A.C.T.’s new Safe Neighborhood programming, where the 2025 collective impact goal is that all generations will be participating in repairing harm in the Austin community. Sherman works tirelessly to organize groups of neighborhood residents, who as participants of a Restorative Justice peace circle, are empowered to resolve neighborhood issues without police intervention. “Thriving in peace, joy, love and happiness, that is what we all want to do to take back Austin,” she says. “I see all the negativity, but I do see beyond it. I think there has been a breakdown in communication and compassion for others in the community. But, that is why I bring together block leaders, seniors, and youth and say hey, let’s talk.”

Giving peace a chance In 2016 A.C.T. launched its Safe Neighborhoods’ Restorative Justice initiative,

Austin Coming Together Address: 5049 W. Harrison Street, Chicago, IL, 60644 General office number: 773-417-8618 Website: Leadership contact name & title: Darnell Shields, Executive Director Statement of purpose: Austin Coming Together coordinates its 70+ member organizations in order to impact the quality of early learning, neighborhood safety, access to living wage careers, and the the housing market in the Austin community. How long have you been in existence? 6 years Ways volunteers can help: Event assistance To volunteer, call: 773.417.8612 Useful donations other than money: Office supplies, beverages, auction/raffle items, professional services

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Austin Coming Together’s Dollie Sherman is a community organizer in the Austin community bent on making life here better. Lyriq, below, after painting rocks to proactively deal with high rates of interpersonal, institutional, and structural violence, said Darnell Shields A.C.T’s director of operations. Sherman is one of the A.C.T. staff members who hosts the conversations of elders, block leaders and youth who have issues with each other to come together to hash out their personal issues in a safe space, with the guidance of a trained facilitator.

Shields says the idea behind a restorative justice peace circle is to give everyone at the table a voice “to the point where the leaders help the individuals who have been involved in the situation to make amends, and so forth,” adding that A.C.T. will be offering more peace circle facilitator trainings, to scale up and afford more residents an opportunity to attend one. Other groups in the

schools, including organizations such as BUILD, have been in the trenches doing this work, as well. Whenever and wherever she can, community organizer Dollie Sherman is also bent on beautifying what she calls “a bunch of community eyesores,” starting with two dilapidated vacant lots located on her 600 block of Lorel. “This lot is going to be a Block Club Garden. I am going to have benches out here for anyone to come and sit, and a table that will be cemented in here with an umbrella. There will be shrubs and raised beds,” she said. “We are going to grow vegetables and flowers [because] this is not a hood. It is a neighborhood, and when you put the word neighbor in front of hood, it builds the whole meaning of the word up.”

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Community of Caring | West Cook YMCA

October 19, 2016


Living strong with cancer By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY

frequently,” he says. “I like to have other people around me who are also suffering or ince 2011, 77-year-old Oak Parker, groaning…or smiling or laughing, whatGlen Benoy, has been diagnosed with ever. The group thing, I can do that.” two different forms of cancer, which Joining the ‘cancer club’ after treatment transitioned him into Born on a dairy farm in McHenry Couna state of remission twice. ty, Benoy says he spent 23 years living and He credits his returning strength and working for companies in Europe -- first overall physicality to the Greece, then in Germany programming of the West -- on-the-job for his comCook YMCA, and specifipanies worldwide. cally its new evidence-based In 1998, Benoy returned “Livestrong at the YMCA” stateside and settled into program, which debuted in Oak Park and retired. February 2016. His first diagnosis, Now, as one of its inauprostate cancer, came in gural “graduates,” Benoy 2011, and after a regimen said he and the eight other of radiation, he entered a cancer survivors benefitstate of remission. Glen Benoy ted from the free 12-week On St. Patrick’s Day program, which met twice 2015, is when Benoy first a week for 90 minutes. found a tumor on the inIn it, he and his buddy Joe, another man dex finger of his right hand, and later anothwho had undergone radiation treatment for er one in his armpit. “The original Merkel prostate cancer, toughed out the traditional Cell tumor [an especially aggressive and exercise methods in an effort to ease back rare form of skin cancer] was not diagnosed into a fitness routine, while maintaining a until I had it for eight to10 months,” he said. healthy weight in a social setting. “The doctors did not think it was cancer, and “Before cancer, I was never athletic, and I ignored it for months at a time.” I didn’t use to exercise, but since, I have Eventually, the diagnosis led him to the participated in the Y’s programming rather research lab at the Seattle Cancer Care Alli-


“I like to have other people around me who are also suffering or groaning…or smiling or laughing, whatever. The group thing, I can do that.”

Is your Agency part of

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Glen Benoy of Oak Park is a cancer survivor who uses the West Cook YMCA fitness program to stay fit, ance, where a cadre of Merkel Cell Carcinoma specialists and cancer researchers were helping patients manage the disease. Now he is happy to report that he is in a state of remission, clear of cancer again. Many months later, Laura Olszewski, director of the living healthy program at West Cook YMCA is taken with how fit her “guinea pig,” as Benoy calls himself, looks and feels. “Our YMCA Diabetes program, Livestrong at the YMCA and Enhanced Fitness are all evidenced-based programs where people go through testing pre-and post class, and sometimes during the class we want to help people reduce their risk

West Cook YMCA Address: 255 S. Marion St., Oak Park, IL 60302 General office number: 708-383-5200 Website:

Call Dawn Ferencak at (708) 613-3329 for more information

Leadership contact name & title: Phillip Jiménez, President/CEO Statement of Purpose: The West Cook Y has for the past 113 years remained steadfast in our focus to strengthening the foundations of our communities. With a commitment to nurturing the potential of Kids, promoting healthy living

of developing a chronic disease, or with exercise, help them manage one.” Since then, three days a week starting at 7 a.m. Benoy has been at the Y shaking his booty to a bevy of disco tunes, getting fitter, thanks to instructor Felicity Woodson and her Enhanced Fitness exercise class for seniors with chronic conditions. “I am slower than I was before, but, I now know that exercise can be fun. It has for sure increased my walking endurance, and people say I look pretty darn healthy. Has it increased my strength? I don’t know, at home, I do not lift that many things, really. Well, maybe a six pack of beer now and then,” he laughs.

and fostering a sense of social responsibility, the Y ensures that every individual has access to the essentials needed to learn, grown, and thrive.

How long have you been in existence? 1903 (113 years) Ways volunteers can help: The West Cook YMCA invites members of the community to join the Y to give their time, talents, and treasure to the Y and to the Community. We believe that if we work together we can make a difference and bring hope and happiness to others. The West Cook YMCA has opened new volunteer opportunities on-site to increase the effort

to serve others through the programs offered at the Y. Administrative Support Specialist Event Assistant Financial Development Data Specialist School Age Assistant Togetherhood Committee Chairperson Youth Sports Coach

To volunteer, call: Nisma Castaneda, Useful Donations other than cash: None at this time.

Community of Caring | Steckman Studio of Music


October 19, 2016


Drumming out loud in complicated lives By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY


ith the pull of a pied piper, at the Forest Preserve of Cook County’s “Forest Jam” event in early September, one of Steckman Studio of Music’s Out Loud After School drumming instructors, Andrew Elbert, was circling up a half dozen or so aspiring musicians for his annual “drum petting zoo” experience. With their legs hugging an African djembe drum, and taking their rhythmic cues from Elbert, the 4, 5 and 6-year-olds caught on quickly. “Mmmm, mmmm…tastes like chicken” (the beat), and “Get a haircut and tie your shoes” (the break), is how Elbert motivated 12 open palms to energetically slap the rope-tuned skin covered goblet-shaped drum, a djembe, an instrument Elbert told them was from West Africa. This Out Loud facilitated drum circle was a taste of the 8-week long mentoring program that with African drumming, touches the musical souls of about 30 elementary and middle school age kids who are either referred to it by Oak Park Township Youth Services, or a school counselor. “Probably the number one thing about African drumming and children of all abilities doing it is the instrument’s immediate accessibility, especially the djembe, which is the kind of hand drum I teach,” says Elbert, a Chicago-based musician and composer, who is a contracting artist with Steckman Studio. Right away kids have the ability to bang away, creating sound, and expelling pent up energy, says Elbert, who on behalf of Steckman Studio also conducts African drum classes for cognitively challenged adults, and after-school for the children residing at Hephzibah House, a foster home in Oak Park. “Drumming is very therapeutic in that way, so if they have a bit of anxiety, or anger built up, or have something going on that was bothering them earlier in the day, oftentimes drumming is an excellent way to not forget about your troubles, but leave them alone for a while. It is hard not to feel good when you are done,” Elbert says. Over the run of the Out Loud After School

Steckman Studio of Music Address: 829 South Oak Park Ave. #2 Oak Park, IL 60304 General office number: 708-524-1954 Website: Leadership contact name & title: Dr. Harry M. Steckman, Artistic Director Statement of purpose: Music Education for all to develop literacy skills and promote selfconfidence and self-esteem How long have you been in existence? Nearly 40 years Ways volunteers can help: Volunteer needed for board and business leaders to lead fundraising efforts to reach more students. To volunteer, call: 708-524-1954 Useful donations other than money: Sponsor a scholarship student both academically and musically.

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Andrew Elbert, 33, an instructor with Steckman Studio of Music’s Out Loud After School mentoring program facilitates a drumming circle with young kids at an outdoor event in River Forest. drum ensembles, Harry Steckman, the nonprofit’s founder, says its young performers have played around town, including at Riveredge Hospital in Forest Park, and on the stage

at Scoville Park during “A Day in our Village.” Last year, African drum instructor Kevin Swanson did a series of 8-week-long Out Loud After School sessions at three District 97

schools. “Every study that has been done about learning music talks about how it helps you understand emotions, plus making music makes you smarter,” Swanson smiles. “Girls, boys, it doesn’t matter. Of course not. At one school I had almost all girls. They either love it, or hate it. That’s middle school.” As Steckman Studio of Music celebrates 40 years of offering piano, guitar, violin and drum instruction in Oak Park, Steckman says this reach out is to school age children who do not fit in anywhere else. Contracted artists, such as Elbert and Swanson, are fostering self esteem, and leadership skills while developing discipline through the development of learning an instrument during this mentoring program. “Most of the kids we serve are either experiencing social problems, parental problems, or economic problems. The hope is we can help get them get back on track,” Steckman said.

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Community of Caring | New Moms

October 19, 2016


Steady as she goes By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY


hen India Meadows, now 25, began reassembling her life, interrupted as a teenager, it was two years ago as a single working mom residing with her then-four-year-old at New Moms’ Transformation Center. The multi-use campus in Austin encompasses 40 individual apartments created for homeless young women, ages 18 to 24, and their children. The young families can reside there until age 25. For Meadows, living among peers in a structured environment is helping her regain stability. Previously her life was like a jumble puzzle, easy to look at, but hard to figure out. “When I got pregnant in high school, my mom said, well, you are pregnant. I told you there will be no babies coming into my house. And so she basically, suddenly just put me out,” says Meadows. Meadows says she has no one to blame but herself for her circumstances, and “the company I was keeping kept putting me in a position to lose, and I lost. And now I am moving forward. That’s it.” “After me being a homeless person, suddenly I came from a place where sometimes I

“After me being a homeless person, suddenly I came from a place where sometimes I did not even know if on that day I would even eat. I came from a place where I had to worry about where I was going to go the next day. So, to be honest, New Moms has given me an ability to be stable for at least two years, and that is a real blessing.” India Meadows

did not even know if on that day I would even eat. I came from a place where I had to worry about where I was going to go the next day. So, to be honest, New Moms has given me an ability to be stable for at least two years, and that is a real blessing.” Melanie Garrett, programming director and Meadows’ family support specialist, says this single working mom is not only resourceful, but resilient and has opted in on all of the services from its onsite case management, to parent education classes to family activities

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Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Single working mom India Meadows, 25, left, counts on Melanie Garrett, director of programming and Meadows’ family support specialist at New Moms’ Transformation Center, right, to provide the case management services she needs to get back on her feet. and outings, as well as its 12-week workforce development programming. “Actually, India’s story is not that dissimilar from the other moms who live here,” Garrett said. “Many of them come from an unstable housing circumstance, either living in shelters or with family members. We know that two years is short, but hopefully it is an opportunity to refocus on yourself and your young family, because while staying here, you do have stability, and that can make a difference in a young woman’s future life.”

Helping new moms in Oak Park and beyond On Sept. 1, Laura Zumdahl, president and CEO at New Moms, says its acquisition of Parenthesis Parent Child Center in Oak Park was official. “We were established in 1983. Parenthesis has been providing parental support and education in the Oak Park area for the past 36 years, and now as a program of New Moms, what they do will remain the same, and continue to operate as is in Oak Park.” Down the road, Zumdahl’s aim is to expand a few of their long time programs into the Oak Park area, particularly their workforce development and residential housing initiatives. Meanwhile, with her life now being more stable, Meadows future is back in focus. “I can honestly say that my daughter has probably been around things she shouldn’t have. But, I was trying to do what was right for her,” Meadows says. “I have this little person looking up to me, so I just can’t give up. I have to show her that she can do anything she wants to do. I try and set that example for her, and keep going.”

New Moms Address: 5317 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, IL 60651 / Oak Park Programs (Parenthesis’ Programs): 405 S. Euclid, Oak Park, IL 60302 General office number:773.252.3253 Website: Leadership contact name & title: Laura Zumdahl, President & CEO Statement of purpose: New Moms provides comprehensive services to surround young moms and their children with all they need to transform their lives. In Chicago we offer transitional housing for young moms and children experiencing homelessness, as well as early childhood services and job training. In Oak Park and the surrounding suburbs we offer home visiting and parent education and support for families. How long have you been in existence? New Moms was founded in 1983 (33 years) Ways volunteers can help: Volunteers assist with a variety of roles including child care, special events, fundraising, etc. To volunteer, call: Emily Mikhail at 772.252.3253 x135 Useful donations other than money: New kid’s toys and clothing; personal care items for young moms; diapers and formula

Community of Caring


October 19, 2016

Proud To Serve Senator

Don Harmon President Pro Tempore 6941-B W. NorthSenator Ave., Oak Park, IL 60302 Senator Proud to Serve Senator (708) 848-2002 Don Harmon Don Don Harmon President Pro Tempore President ProPro Tempore President Tempore 6933 W. North Ave. 6933 W. W. North Ave. 6933 North Ave. Oak Park, IL OakOak Park, IL 60302 60302 Park, IL 60302 (708) 848-2002 (708) 848-2002 (708) 848-2002 329 Capitol Building 329329 Capitol Building Capitol Building Springfield, IL Springfield, IL 62706 62706 Springfield, IL 62706 (217) 782-8176 (217) 782-8176 (217) 782-8176

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Representative Representative Representative Representative

Camille Lilly Camille Lilly Camille Lilly Camille Lilly 5755 W.Division Division St.St. 5755 W. St. 5755 W. Division Chicago, 60651 Chicago, ILIL60651 Chicago, IL 60651 (773) 473-7300 (773) 473-7300 (773) 473-7300 282-S Stratton 282-S Stratton 282-S Stratton Office Building Office Building Office Building Springfield, 62706 Springfield, ILIL62706 Springfield, IL 62706 (217) 782-6400 (217) 782-6400 (217) 782-6400 |





Friday, December 2

University Band Christmas Concert, 8:00 p.m.

Concordia University Chicago invites you along with family and friends to begin your Christmas celebration with us. Enjoy holiday music, refreshments and fellowship.

Saturday, December 3 Service of Lessons & Carols 4:00 p.m. Reception between concerts Service of Lessons & Carols 7:00 p.m.

All events located in Chapel of Our Lord. Video broadcast of Lessons and Carols Sunday, Dec. 4, 6:40 p.m.

Sunday, December 4 Service of Lessons & Carols 4:00 p.m. Reception to follow

7400 Augusta St. River Forest, IL 60305

Season of Giving 2016.indd 1

(708) 771-8300

10/13/2016 3:20:05 PM




October 19, 2016

Community of Caring | PACTT


Work in progress



ive days a week, Nicole “Nikki” Tyson, 43, punches in to start her preopening shift at Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago. At 10 a.m., Tyson, an adult who is living with autism, is focused on making the restaurant customer-ready. First, she starts the coffee brewing, then fills big restaurant tubs with ice. Next, she replenishes the salt and pepper shakers and pitches in to remove the chairs from the tables. “No one can do Nikki’s job better than Nikki does it, because setting up the servers’ wait stations plays right into her skills and strengths,” says David C. Thomas, the Vocational Director at PACTT (Parents Allied with Children and Teachers for Tomorrow) Learning Center. Twelve-plus years ago it was his programming that prepared Tyson to earn a steady paycheck doing a job in the community. For a person living with autism, working at Rock Bottom Brewery is a perfect fit. “Nikki likes order, and at Rock Bottom Brewery she gets everything perfect, the way it is supposed to be, with deep concentration and purpose,” says Terry Herbstritt, the nonprofit’s director of development and communication. Annually, he says PACTT Learning Center serves about 50 families through its various programming for children and adults living with autism. “At PACTT we saw Nikki’s condition of autism not as a problem, but a possibility for growth and for her to do the best that she could in her situation,” Thomas says. “Now, all she needs is a ride to work. Her job coach basically just stands nearby to keep her safe, because Nicole can do her job.” Living with autism For Lois and Spencer Tyson of Oak Park, the road in raising a child with autism has been long, bumpy and full of surprises, especially when they began realizing that their daughter does understand a lot more than she can express. “Nikki can communicate, but we can’t hold a conversation with her, so I suppose that Nikki would be on the lower functioning end of the autism scale, but in many ways, we are sometimes amazed at how clever and absolutely skilled Nikki is,” Lois said. “We try to understand how frustrating, how frightening it must be when you have this in you, but for some reason you cannot communicate a feeling.” Seeking out special trainings, as well as seminars on how to raise an autistic child, learning to mindfully insert themselves into the center of national and local parent support groups, has enabled Lois and Spencer Tyson to grow in their parenting skills, and

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

PACTT vocational program participant Nicole “Nikki” Tyson of Oak Park preparing the wait stations for her part-time job at Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago.

“At PACTT we saw Nikki’s condition of autism not as a problem, but a possibility for growth and for her to do the best that she could in her situation. Now, all she needs is a ride to work. Her job coach basically just stands nearby to keep her safe, because Nicole can do her job.” David C. Thomas their youngest daughter to thrive. “PACCT found this job for Nikki, and they are always looking for volunteer or job situations where they can integrate the strengths of our kids into the community,” says Lois. Meanwhile, when Spencer takes walks with Nikki, he says the conversation is still mostly one way…until he makes a game of it, and they start counting geese at Columbus Park lagoon in Austin. “If it is a large group, I can get her to say ‘lots of geese.’ If it is a small group, she will count them, saying 1, 2, 3, 4, 5” he says. “As parents, we are always baffled by what goes on with Nikki. But, we can come here for sup-

PACTT Learning Center Address: 712 Belleforte Oak Park, IL 60302 General office number: 773-338-9102 Website: Leadership contact name & title: Terry Herbstritt – Development Director Statement of purpose: Our mission is to assist individuals with severe autism in becoming as independent as possible with the ability to integrate effectively into their homes and community.

How long have you been in existence? 23 years Ways volunteers can help: Helping out with special events or spring cleaning projects at PACTT group homes

To volunteer: Lee Raspante – 773-338-9102 ext. 2525 or Useful donations other than money: new furniture, ipads, merchandise, tickets or vacation packages for auction at Work of Heart Dinner

Community of Caring | By the Hand


Taking kids by the hand



hen Sherrie Nelson, 26, revs up her 25 second graders in her By The Hand Club (BTHC) after school program classroom, it’s with the enthusiasm of a high school cheerleader working the crowd, prior to the start of the big game. “Whose house is this,” she shouts. “This is God’s house,” shout back the kids who are only a snapshot of the goal-oriented programming that started in 2001with 16 children from Cabrini-Green, and now encompasses 1,180 kids, first grade through college, from the neighborhoods of Cabrini-Green, Altgeld-Murray, Austin and Englewood. For Nelson, being the BTHC 2nd grade team leader is a good fit. In 2003, at age 13, she resembled them, a quiet child ready to jump in and emotionally and academically thrive in a safe space, tucked away from the streets after school. “Me and my family moved to Cabrini in 1999, so I was 9 and my Mom kept us in the house all the time because of the things that were going on in the neighborhood,” says Nelson, who credits this programming for dramatically improving her reading and writing skills. Initially, it was through BTHC’s Sidewalk Sunday School outreach programming that Nelson joined in the city wide faith-based initiative that was founded by Donnita Travis, its executive director. “Here, on these two corners in the Austin community, in two buildings [415 and 416 Laramie] we are serving about 500 kids from five (Chicago public) schools,” Travis says. To participate in BTHC, she says the kids have to be “enrolled in one of those five schools, and we rely on principals from those neighborhood schools to identify and refer kids who are in critical need of intervention,” says Travis. “We are working closely with schools, principals and parents to make sure that students who are most likely to drop out of school, don’t.” Instead, the aim is for BTHC kids to graduate from high school, then go on to college and start a career.

Like Nelson, Toi Dickson, whose four sons, age 15, 12, 9 and 8, are in the BTHC program, has a back story that begins at Cabrini Green’s Building No. 714, “The Whites,” and gets worse when the single parent household was residing in its row houses. In an effort to protect her children, Dickson says she and her siblings were never allowed to leave the home, or their mother’s side. In 1997, Dickson’s mother relocated them to Austin, where she enrolled her daughter in the community’s arts enrichment program-

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October 19, 2016


By The Hand Address: 415 North Laramie, Chicago, IL 60644 Phone: 312.305.2622 Website: Leadership contact name: Donnita Travis, Executive Director Statement of purpose: By The Hand is a Chicago-based, after-school program that emphasizes academic excellence while nurturing the whole child—mind, body and soul. How long have you been in existence? Since 2001, 15 years. Ways volunteers can help: Tutoring, serving meals, teaching enrichments, serving at special events and participating in service projects To volunteer, call: Latoya Pinson, 312.636.2709 Useful donations other than money: Back packs, school supplies, coats, hats, gloves, scarves, socks, Christmas gifts

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

By the Hand Club’s 2nd Grade Team Leader, Sherrie Nelson prepares her class for their faith-based, after school experience at the nonprofit’s site at 416 Laramie in Chicago. After school, kids in the By the Hand Club’s regularly work in the program’s computer lab to improve their test scores in reading and writing.

ming, especially vocal training. “Now, singing is how I find peace,” says Dickson, the BTHC choir director and a sixth grade team leader. When Dickson herself became a mother, she instinctively began channeling that over-protective approach, and her boys did

not like it. In 2013, when Travis brought BTHC to Austin, Dickson made sure her boys were recommended for the child and parent-centered afterschool programming. “You can’t stop the shooting. You can’t stop the rape. The murder. And, the peer pressure is real. You can’t stop any of that. But, you can figure out how to send your children to the By The Hand Club,” says Dickson. “Coming here after school has given my sons an outlet where they can run and play in a place where they feel safe to just live and be free.”

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October 19, 2016

Community of Caring | Opportunity Knocks


Knocking out pickles is OK



n Tuesdays, artisan pickle assembly line workers Sonya Taylor, 25, and Patrick O’Rourke, 27, on average piece together and seal up about 48 jars of Knock Out Pickles, and on a really productive shift, even more. Under the supervision of Joe Hart, culinary director at Opportunity Knocks (O.K), neither of these young adults living with a developmental disability mind the repetitiveness of their part-time job…or in Taylor’s case, being up-to-her-elbows in these farm-to-jar cucumbers -- washing, slicing and spicing them, for starters. “Sonya and Patrick are strictly here to work,” says Hart at the end of a recent shift. “And, they work the whole time. It is hard to stay focused and stay on their feet for 3 hours. But Sonya and Patrick tough it out.” Hart says that Taylor is in charge of washing all the cucumbers, slicing them and inserting them into the jars, whereas Patrick is responsible for setting up all the jars to be filled with all the pickling ingredients. Taylor also measures the peppercorns and dill seed, as all three varieties contain peppercorns, dill seed and garlic. But the type of vinegar and extra dash of red pepper flakes are based on the variety of the refrigerator pickles being produced. Phil Carmody, O.K.’s president and chief administrator, says it was Hart who came up with the “big idea” for this in-house social enterprise. He test-kitchened the recipes at home, then piloted the vocational aspects of marketing, production, sales and distribution of the artisan pickle brands with the “War-

riors” enrolled in O.K.’s “Life Shop” and “After Opps” programming. Currently, buckets of Knock Out Pickles are being sold in bulk to Kinderhook Tap and Old School Tavern and Grill, and off the shelf at Sugar Beet Co-op, Carnivore and Alpine Sub Shop. “The purpose of any enterprise at Opportunity Knocks is to create jobs and revenue that will help support all of our other programs,” Carmody said on a midSeptember tour of the group’s new urban farm. “And now Knock Out Pickles is turning a profit for us.” Last spring, farm director Joe O’Meara was hired to till and cultivate a 1/4 acre of “farm land,” with the help of the O.K. Warriors. ReUse Depot in Maywood donated their side yard to house the farm, and the repurposed materials to build the garden boxes, O’Meara said. “We do have several accessible raised beds and wider walkways to accommodate wheelchairs, so not all of the yard is used for farming,” he said, adding they also grow other cool and warm season veggies, as well as most of the pickling ingredients. In peak season this summer, O’Meara said he saw yields of 75 to 80 pounds a week, with the cucumbers being harvested by the program participants of Opportunity Knocks because “the Warriors have been part of every step of this process,” he said. Still, says Hart, the smell of pickle production can be sour, but it is the sweet smell of success for him, the nonprofit itself, and his two hard-working employees. “I was very excited when I got the job. I get a pay check every other week, and I like to go out to dinner with my friends,” Sonja says. “But I don’t eat pickles when I go out to eat. I don’t like them much.”

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Sonya Taylor, 25, holds a part-time job jarring three varieties of Knock Out Pickles at Opportunity Knocks.

Opportunity Knocks Address: 8020 Madison St., River Forest, IL 60305 Phone: 708.771.6159 x 204 Website: Leadership contact name: Phil Carmody, President Statement of purpose: Opportunity Knocks is dedicated to providing services and resources for teens and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities so that they may pursue their recreational, educational and vocational interests.

Weichert Realtors Nickel Group is a proud supporter of Opportunity Knocks and the incredible work that they do. 708.848.5550 101 N. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60301

How long have you been in existence? Programs in operation since 2010 Ways volunteers can help: We are constantly looking for volunteers to support our programs, as well as our events. Please visit the Get Involved page on our website to learn more. To volunteer, call or email: Sam Kehoe, Volunteer Coordinator; phone: 708.341.5537; email: Useful donations other than money: Time and talent.



Community of Caring | Sarah’s Inn

October 19, 2016


Facing domestic violence head on


esly Ramirez, 41, is a proud Latina working mom with permanent resident status, thanks to Sarah’s Inn and her introduction to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Under VAWA, special provisions have been enacted for battered immigrants that allow them to gain legal status in the US without having to rely on an abusive spouse to petition for them. As a living snapshot of a troubling statistic: Prior to and during her marriage, Ramirez says she was isolated, verbally abused and battered: Slapped, hit, punched and in the face, spat on. “One in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime,” says Carol Gall, executive director of Sarah’s Inn, adding that one in five teen girls will experience teen dating violence. “That is a shocking number to hear and register. That is why our prevention work is so important and vital,” says Gall. In light of Sarah’s Inn’s 35th anniversary, and October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we recently sat with Ramirez to learn, through advocate Caitlin Ramsey, who has been her Spanish-to-English translator since 2013, her survivor story. “I met the father of my children, who is 8 years older than me, and after going out for a while, we decided to live together. That’s when I got pregnant with my first son (now 21). I thought it was strange that he never wanted to bring me around his family.” She soon learned why: He was simultaneously secretly married to another woman, who bore him a child as well. He separated Carol Gall from that woman when Ramieriz’s son was two-years-old. “After that, he decided to take me around his family. One time at his sister’s, I found a memento of the other wedding. A lot of problems started around that. To defend himself, he would say, ‘I chose you, so you always have to be grateful for that.’ This is when he started to hit me.” Even so, in 2002, Lesly became pregnant with her second son (now 13), and that year, at age 27, she married her abuser. At the time, they moved into his sister’s basement. “When his sister would see me with the marks, she would just laugh, because she was going through domestic violence with her own husband, and apparently it brought her pleasure to know that her own brother was doing the same thing to me. [After he made me get an abortion] he started repenting for his behavior a lot, [saying] ‘everything was going to change.’ But nothing changed.” Her kids were exposed to and traumatized by the domestic violence in their home. “My children’s father would go into the only bathroom, and stay in there with the door closed for an hour when the children had to go to the bathroom. Once, by the time he opened the door, my second son had gone pee outside of the door from waiting. [After standing up for her son] his father punched me in the face, and I fell through the accordion door, into the bathroom stall and hit my head. My oldest son saw all this and called the police.” Lesly requested that the police make her spouse exit the house. He did, but was back the next morning, as if nothing had happened, drinking heavily day and night…and secretly

“One in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. That is why our prevention work is so important and vital.”

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Lesly Ramirez, shown here with 2 of her 3 children, is rebuilding their broken lives thanks to the counseling and services of Sarah’s Inn in Oak Park. selling drugs and philandering. At that time, she became pregnant with her third child, a girl (now 8). When her husband was caught, then incarcerated he found a loophole to secretly stalk his wife while he was in a low security prison with bus privileges for felons to job interviews, in preparation for starting a new life. This unlawful act provoked Lesly to pursue a court order of protection, with the assist of an advocate from Sarah’s Inn. Soon a sea of services began rushing in, enabling all of them to attend group and individual counseling, while Lesly worked with an advocate to get on Public Aid and find pathways to completing her GED. She matriculated through the highest level of English as a second language coursework,

and is now finding resources to earn a college degree. “[Before], if he hit me, I had asked for it. If he spit in my face, it was because I deserved it, because I had provoked him. During a family therapy session my oldest son turned to me and said, ‘Why did you stay with him when he hurt you so badly. Why, oh, why did you stay with him so long?’ And I told him, I did it for you to have something I never had, to have both of your parents together. And then, my oldest son told me ‘who told you that we wanted to have him around?’ Now, he is gone, yes, and with my advocate at Sarah’s Inn, we looked for an attorney who would help me for free, and to finally divorce myself from him. Officially. Now, me and my children have a healthy and peaceful life. We may not be rich,

Sarah’s Inn Address: P.O. Box 1159, Oak Park, IL 60304 *For safety of our clients and staff we do not publicize our physical address Phone: 24-Hour Crisis Line: (708) 386-4225 Website: Leadership contact name: Carol Gall, Executive Director Statement of purpose: Since 1981, Sarah’s Inn has worked to improve the lives of those impacted by domestic violence and to break the cycle of violence for future generations. As a comprehensive domestic violence agency, Sarah’s Inn approaches domestic violence as a societal issue that demands a holistic response. We are committed to programming

that responds appropriately to the needs of those families already impacted by violence, as well as working proactively to prevent violence for future generations.

How long have you been in existence? Celebrating 35 Years Ways volunteers can help: Volunteers are an essential part of daily operations at Sarah's Inn and make important contributions toward ending domestic violence in the communities we serve. Opportunities include becoming a Crisis Line Volunteer Advocate, a Community Outreach & Education Volunteer, doing a volunteer group project, hosting a drive, and many more! To volunteer, call: Imelda Guerra, Volunteer & Events Coordinator, (708) 386-3305 x.1005

Useful donations other than money: Gift cards in denominations of $15-$25 (from stores that carry groceries, toiletries, household items, school supplies; such as Target & Walmart); Unopened full sized personal care & toiletry items (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant, feminine care products, etc.); Full sized dental hygiene items (tooth paste, tooth brushes, floss, mouthwash, etc.); Cleaning supplies (liquid laundry detergent, dish soap, multi purpose cleaner, bleach wipes, disinfectant spray, etc.). We are currently collecting donations for our upcoming Holiday Gift Project - visit our website and/ or Amazon Wish List for more ideas: https:// BFXKS25B0OW8/ref=cm_sw_su_w


Community of Caring | Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory

October 19, 2016



Sowing seeds for these diverse learners By DEB QUANTOCK McCAREY

uring a recent Diverse Learner Tour at the Oak Park Conservatory, Jamie Childs of Oak Park eagerly scratched and sniffed the green skin of a softball size fruit growing on its Ponderosa Lemon Tree. As the hanging show-and-tell fruit passed hand-to-hand through the small group of developmentally disabled adults from UCP Seguin Services “Choice” program, Andrea Green, a volunteer tour guide for the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory, shared more about it. After they all went nose-to-fruit, Green told the conservatory visitors that the scent resembles that of the mosquito repellent, citronella: sweet, but not over-powering and pleasant. To create interactive sensory experiences for groups such as this one, Green teamed with consultant Julyne Seger to invent and debut the free educational experience last spring. Since then, the tour’s popularity has been growing, she says. “This is not horticultural therapy. But, our Diverse Learner Tour is geared to people who have learning disabilities or social limitations or other limitations that make it difficult for


them to respond as other adults would as they take a tour,” Green said, prior to stepping off to lead the hour-long interactive and sensorydriven learning experience through the four very different “ecosystems” of the Oak Park Conservatory, 615 Garfield St. As they queued through the Mediterranean room and in to the Rain Forest, Childs says she stopped to o gawk at the squawking, whistling, and talking king tropical birds, especially the he avian Skipper. “Some of the birds rds talk, some whistle and one is quiet. I liked the birds,” says Childs, Nearby, her classmate, Oak Parker Luis “LJ” Rodrigus, was reaching out to hold ld and smell the weighty hty, brown seed of the conservatory’s South American Cacao Tree, the stuff uff from which chocolate in all its forms starts. “I like learning about the countries where the plants live,” he said post tour, rattling off several of them. “In South America they

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Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Jamie Childs, a participant of UCP Seguin Services’ “Choice” programming in Oak Park checks out a Ponderosa lemon during a recent FOPCON (Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory) Diverse Learner Tour at the Oak Park Conservatory. have the Cacao Tree. Cactus have thorns and grow in the desert. Yes, please, I would like to come back again.” Green says the aim of the inclusive tour programming is to “cover the same horticultural material topics that the tours do that are geared for children and adults.” Because the content is simplified, and the tour itself is sensory-driven it opens up a new world of learning for folks who learn differently. An advantage for Laura Lopez, a life skills program leader at UCP Seguin, is that her day program participants are walking distance from the Oak Park Conservatory and they regularly take advantage of that, visiting on their own, or in groups for an or-

ganized tour. Today she says were two aides and seven of her “special” consumers. “Maybe they will see something on this tour that they can plant at their own homes, or our Levinson Center,” says Jim Haptonstahl, Seguin’s executive vice president. “But, in general, it gives them a chance to get out where they belong. Integrated into the community.” For Childs, the love of learning about plants is growing. “The black-eyed Susans and the coneflowers in the Discovery Garden, yeah, my mom has those,” she said. “The cactus is my favorite plant, because I have an aunt in Phoenix and the lemons, when I scratched the skin, well they smelled really, really good.”

Oak Park Conservatory Support Local History this Season of Giving - visit to learn more.

Free for current Members $30.00 Entry$30.00 Fee –Entry FreeFee for–current HSFP HSFP Members

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$30.00 Entry Fee – Free for current HSFP Members

Program immediately follows official business of the

Address: 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, IL 60304

were founded in 1986

Phone: 708-725-2460

Ways volunteers can help: Lead tours, develop new tours, help in the showrooms and behind the scenes, staff the Exploration Station and the Gift Shop, prepare and deliver Exploration Kits to local kindergartens, staff Toddler Exploration Time (TET), become a garden host, serve on the Board of Directors or on a committee.

Website: Leadership contact name: Executive Director Beth Cheng, President Ellen Kuner Statement of purpose: The mission of the Friends of the Oak Park Conservatory is to promote community interest in the Conservatory, to offer educational and recreational opportunities and to support projects that benefit the Conservatory. How long have you been in existence? We

To volunteer, call: 708-725-2460, ext. 2 or Useful donations other than money: Serve on the Board of Directors or on a committee.

Community of Caring



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October 19, 2016



Community of Caring

October 19, 2016

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12:16 PM




Sarah’s Inn has come a long way as an organization since it was founded 35 years ago. Today, Sarah’s Inn stands strong working to battle domestic violence on all fronts. We intervene to provide bilingual services to adults & children affected by relationship violence. We prevent future violence by teaching youth how to cultivate healthy relationships. We educate community members & professionals to intervene appropriately to domestic violence.

Together we are changing lives & shaping communities. Together we are strong.

Together we are Sarah’s Inn. Learn more about Sarah’s Inn & get involved: Website: Facebook & Instagram: @sarahsinnoakpark Office Phone: 708-386-3305 24-Hour Crisis Line: 708-386-4225



Friday, December 2

University Band Christmas Concert, 8:00 p.m.

Concordia University Chicago invites you along with family and friends to begin your Christmas celebration with us. Enjoy holiday music, refreshments and fellowship.

Saturday, December 3 Service of Lessons & Carols 4:00 p.m. Reception between concerts Service of Lessons & Carols 7:00 p.m.

All events located in Chapel of Our Lord. Video broadcast of Lessons and Carols Sunday, Dec. 4, 6:40 p.m.

Sunday, December 4 Service of Lessons & Carols 4:00 p.m. Reception to follow

7400 Augusta St. River Forest, IL 60305

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Community of Caring | Oak Park Township Senior Services

October 19, 2016


Happy in their own home


t age 79, Leroy Pugh jokes that his life is good, but could be better if “he had a job, and wasn’t a client of rheumatoid arthritis.” Up to his mid 70’s, Pugh says he had his mobility, was able to get around and manage the affairs of himself and his wife, a 69-year-old who is now relegated to using a walker to get around. “Before, I cooked. I ironed. I scrubbed the floors. I drove, and could run down the stairs, even backwards…as opposed to almost having to crawl up and down the flight of stairs now,” he says. This personal state of hardship is what he shared with Rachel Bazan, an Oak Park Township Senior Services case manager. “My stability is not as good as I would like it to be but I would say that the range of services I receive from Senior Services have been very instrumental in bringing me and my wonderful wife, with whom I have spent 40 wonderful years, to where we are now,” he said. “And, oh wow… I would tell anyone and everyone that there is a service for seniors that is open to helping anyone who has a need.”

The end of this beginning It was when the Oak Park seniors had overlapping hospital stays that the hospital social worker referred them to township Senior Services. “The Pughs needed a meal brought in to them until they recovered, and that is how we first got involved,” Bazan said. Since then, they have continued to qualify to receive the daily delivery of a hot lunch and the added service of in-home assistance with the Chore Program. Thanks to Bazan, around their necks they wear an Emergency Response lanyard, which Pugh says he has used twice so far. “Every morning, the Pughs receive their Homemaker Services,” Bazan says. “It is a statewide program offered through the Department of Aging. Homemaker Services and Emergency Response are both income and asset based services, so it is for seniors who are low income and do not have many assets.” Shawn Lewis, adult protective services and case management supervisor at the township’s Senior Services, says starting at age 60, people who reside in Oak Park and River Forest seeking out their help can receive those services, a bevy

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Case manager Rachel Bazan, a care coordinator with Oak Park Township’s Senior Services, shares a laugh with her client, Oak Parker Leroy Pugh, a 79-year-old senior who is happily living at home with rheumatoid arthritis, thanks to a range of services he is receiving now. of others, and even one-on-one case management help to navigate Medicare, prescription drug plans and other details of independent living. “So that is really our goal, to work on a clients behalf to keep them autonomous in this community as long as possible,” Lewis says. Some services are available to everyone for free, whereas other programs have qualifying income or asset guidelines, Lewis points out. “We do provide a lot more services,” Bazan says. “For example, we have congregate dine-in that provides independence and promotes socialization among seniors and a curb-to-curb transportation program, as well.” For Pugh, it is also about the TLC he gets now and again from Senior

“Oh wow...I would tell anyone and everyone that there is a service for seniors that is open to helping anyone who has a need.” Leroy Pugh Services, out of the blue. “What we appreciate even more than the services, is the occasional call we receive to find out how we are doing,” Pugh says. “It makes me feel human, like I belong and am somebody special. And that means a lot to me, too.”

Oak Park Township Senior Services Address: 130 S. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60302 Phone: 708-383-8060 Website: Leadership contact name: Desiree Scully-Simpkins, Director of Senior Services Statement of purpose: The mission of Oak Park Township Senior Services is to enhance the quality of life for seniors in our community by providing a broad array of supportive services that promote the values of independence, self-esteem and dignity. Our services are offered to any senior (60 and over) that resides in Oak Park or River Forest.

How long have you been in existence? Oak Park Township has been in existence since 1902. The development of Oak Park Township Senior Services was established in 1971.

Ways volunteers can help: Delivery of home delivered meals for homebound seniors that reside in Oak Park and River Forest. Volunteers for the Illinois Volunteer Money Management program. To assist seniors manage their money with the goal of aging in place. To volunteer, call: Home Delivered Meal Program-Celeste Duignan, Nutrition Program Manager Illinois Volunteer Money Management Program-Steven Smith, Money Management Coordinator, (708) 383-8060 Useful donations other than money: Oak Park Township has a medical equipment loan program. Donations of medical equipment such as wheel chairs, walkers and canes that can be loaned out to those in need in the community. Please contact our main Oak Park Township Office: (708) 383-8005


Community of Caring | Way Back Inn

October 19, 2016




Finding his way back in

obert W. Burgan of Des Plaines is 25 years old, a musician, a poet… and a young man in recovery for opioid addiction at The Way Back Inn. The agency’s sites, The Way Back Inn for men and Grateful House for women, have recovery programs for adults who are suffering from alcohol, drug and gambling dependence in Oak Park, Maywood, Forest Park, Melrose Park and Chicago. Burgan’s dependence on prescription painkillers began after he incurred a wrestling injury in high school. “My problem with substance abuse is typically opioids, painkillers and pharmaceuticals,” said Burgan, just prior to taking the stage at an open mic organized by the local social service consortium, A.R.T. (Addiction Recovery Team) during National Recovery Month in September. “It really got out of control when I started doing an opiate called Kratom.” “Every morning I would wake up with a whole list of problems. The first one was that I needed to get this substance to feel better,” said Burgan, who is also living with depression. “Once I got the substance, I would think, OK, I solved my first problem, I will deal with the rest of them tomorrow.” “Back then I made a pact with myself: No matter what, you are not going to withdrawal,” he said. “The drug turned me into a monster because I did whatever I had to do to get money to buy drugs.” Burgan’s long relationship with drug addiction got worse when over a six month period the drugs took over and he hit rock bottom, not only losing his job, but the trust and support of his family and friends. “I stole from people. I lied to people. My mind was messed up, and I needed to change,” he said. “It was only related to the addiction. The only reason for the thievery was the addiction. But I was always sabotaging myself.” After admitting himself into a hospital detox program, upon completion he was homeless…until he found The Way Back Inn to begin rebuilding his broken life in its residential recovery program. In 2016, Anita Pindiur, executive director of The Way Back Inn, says her agency has been in the trenches of the opioid epidemic, as about 50 to 60 percent of the 100 or so people they annually serve in their residential and outpatient programming are between the ages of 18 and 25 years old. “It’s really, really sad,” she said. “This starts really young, and by the time we see these individuals, they have already been abusing the substance for four or five years, sometimes starting as young as 15, and in those high school years, what we are seeing in our population is that they are not dabbling in marijuana, or stealing liquor from mom and dad’s liquor cabinet. They are moving directly into opioid and heroin addiction.”

Way Back Inn

Photo by Kevin J. McCarey

Spoken Word artist, Robert W. Burgan, 25, represented The Way Back Inn at an A.R.T. (Addiction Recovery Team) sponsored Open Mic event at the Oak Park Public Library in mid-September. On September 18, Burgan was 84 days clean…and counting on having a full recovery. “Opioids do not kill pain. They kill your personal life, and the person you are,” he said. “Now, making music is my positive approach to healing my pain, not masking it, or self medicating it, but healing it.” Writers note: The Way Back Inn is looking for beta testers to try out a new iPhone Recovery App. To help, link to

“The drug turned me into a monster because I did whatever I had to do to get money to buy drugs … I stole from people. I lied to people. The only reason for the thievery was the addiction. But I was sabotaging myself.” Robert Burgan

Address: 412 Wesley Oak Park, IL 60302 (cooperate address 104 Oak st. Maywood, IL 60153) Phone: 708-345-8422 ext 1 for general questions Website: Leadership contact name: Anita Pindiur Executive Director for general questions or intake Phil Schneeberger Outreach and Admissions Statement of purpose: The mission of the Way Back Inn is to rebuild lives damaged by addiction in a personalized healing environment. How long have you been in existence? The Oak Park location since 1958 known as the Grateful House, the Way Back Inn since 1973, the two merged in 2002 Ways volunteers can help: special events such as our picnics and annual dinners we need help in mailing invitations, getting donations, and running the events. We need volunteers to provide special activities or skills to the clients such as interviewing skills, cooking classes, or engagement in the community. To volunteer, call: 708345-8422 ext 29 ask for Christine Laughlin Useful donations other than money: Clients are always in need of shoes, work clothing, and jackets in the winter. During our main fundraising event we have a silent auction, any times that can be auctioned off are appreciated.

Community of Caring


October 19, 2016

Success Knows


UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago is a charitable not-for-profit agency serving individuals with disabilities in metropolitan Chicago, including Oak Park and River Forest, and beyond. We believe that all people, regardless of ability, deserve to achieve their potential, advance their independence and act as full members of the community.

“ life without limits for people with disabilities ” VISIT

So we stop at nothing to provide life skills training, assistive technology, meaningful employment and a place to call home for people with disabilities, as well as specialized foster care for children.




The Scottish Home | Providing Care 100+ Years Unique Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing


“Redefining Memory Care”



For more than 100 years, the Scottish Home has emphasized warm community, close bonds between residents and staff, and strong links to family and friends. The Caledonian House is the Scottish Home’s bold, innovative response to the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.


Each of the Caledonian House’s two floors will be home to 10 residents, all with private bedrooms and full bathrooms, all opening on to a great room where activities take place by the fireside and an inviting dining area is filled with the aromas of home cooking from the on-site kitchen.


Caregivers are cross-trained in personal care, nutrition, meaningful engagement, and housekeeping. Constant caregiver-resident interaction builds familiarity, trust, and well-being and encourages residents to remain active, engaged, and fulfilled.


• Assisted living with the atmosphere of a family residence • No long corridors or nurses stations • Only model of its kind in Chicagoland • Set in five park-like acres twenty minutes west of downtown Chicago • Sponsored by the oldest 501(c)(3) not-for-profit in Illinois

2800 Des Plaines Avenue | North Riverside, Illinois 60546 « (708) 447-5092 • • Like us on



October 19, 2016

Community of Caring


For 20 years Community Bank of Oak Park River Forest has supported the nonprofit community and the causes they serve, whether it’s social services, the arts or education. Community Bank has a strong connection to each organization, which is a mutual passion for serving the community.

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