History of the Center of Concern
The “Office of Ombudsman for Park Ridge,” officially opens as a non-profit agency
serving the needs of older residents in suburban Maine Township. Founded by a Park Ridge resident named Dorothea J. Heinrich along with 4 female friends. The agency was formed in response to community survey findings that indicated a lack of support for seniors and their family caregivers. Heinrich formed the agency with a “seed” grant from Suburban Area Agency on Aging and the support of individual donations.
In the first year, the all-volunteer agency served 350 individuals with information and referrals, telephone reassurance and friendly visiting to seniors and homebound residents. The agency’s first Bylaws state that “the purposes of this organization are to serve as an independent, unbiased and effective sounding board for local residents who have problems or concerns; to act as a liaison between such residents and other individuals or local agencies, including city government; to bring pressure to bear upon individuals and/or agencies when necessary to effect suitable action; to help develop public confidence in local agencies and in city government; and, through the foregoing, to make Park Ridge a better place to live.”
First Board Elected:
The First Board Election was held November 10th at Centennial Park in Park Ridge. In the first year of operations, 39 board members were recruited with individual voting rights to support the agency’s important mission.
Legal Counseling Added:
Free legal advice for seniors living in Park Ridge begins. Soon after, legal counseling becomes an official program with pro bono services provided by a local attorney.
Salvation Army Unit:
Agency becomes a Salvation Army Service Unit providing food vouchers, rent and utility assistance to needy households.
Housing Program Added:
Housing counseling and referral program begins, including Home Sharing (matching homeowners seeking extra income with home seekers needing affordable housing.)
More Counseling Services:
A variety of free counseling services is offered thanks to the generosity of area professionals volunteering their time and resources to help clients. Counseling services include Medicare, financial and budgeting, income tax preparation, employment for seniors, community outreach, secretarial services for seniors, blood pressure testing, special meetings and classes. A driver’s refresher course is offered.
Name Changed to Center of Concern:
With the addition of many services since 1978, the agency’s name is legally changed to The Center of Concern.
Joins United Way:
The Center becomes a United Way Affiliate, funded by Park Ridge and Des Plaines United Way until 2012. Eventually, Park Ridge Community Find separates from United Way but continues to support the Center of Concern.
The Center Relocates:
The Center of Concern moves to a larger office space at 1580 N Northwest Highway in Park Ridge, IL.
New Funding Sources:
The Center of Concern receives First Funding Award from Maine Township followed by Support from the Cities of Des Plaines and Park Ridge.
Dee Heinrich retires. Mary Schurder is named the second Director of the Center.
Auxiliary Group Formed:
Fundraising Auxiliary is formed to organize special events in support of the Center.
New Services Added:
New paid staff position for Geriatric and Personal Counselor, Peggy Gray, LCPC, hired to provide professional counseling to clients augmenting pro bono counseling by professional volunteers.
Home Town Award:
Center of Concern receives 1st Place in Governor’s Home Town Award for senior involvement and volunteerism.
The Center of Concern begins receiving Homelessness Prevention funding from Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) to assist households facing eviction.
Transitional Housing Program Added:
Center begins Transitional Housing Program funded by US Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). The project starts with 4 scattered site apartments to help homeless clients secure housing and build life skills to build their financial independence.
First Web Site:
Local Women’s Auxiliary commits their fundraising efforts entirely to support the Center. Christmas Housewalks, Holiday Boutiques, and Bunko parties build greater awareness and financial support for Center of Concern programs.
New Executive Director:
Mary Schurder retires after 18 years as Executive Director and 10 prior years on the Board of Directors. John McNabola begins on July 1st as the Center’s new Executive Director.
The Center of Concern receives Service Award from Maine Township in the fall.
The Center of Concern celebrates its 35th Anniversary as an independent not-for-profit community service agency.
The Center is awarded the Chore Aid program from Age Options which provides light housekeeping, meal preparation and home maintenance to residents of Maine Township.
Arts for the Homebound brings Art and Music Therapy into the homes of Maine Township seniors through a partnership with the Park Ridge Cultural Arts Council and Brickton Arts Center.
The “Lunch With Us” Congregate Meal Program is launched in partnership with longstanding community partners providing adults over 60 with a nutritious meal, socialization and educational activities each Monday through Friday.
2018 MARKS MILESTONE
The Center of Concern celebrates 40 years as one of the area’s leading not-for-profit, agencies. At a time when communities are asked to help more and more, the Center of Concern has embraced innovation and opportunities to deliver programs to serve older adults, family caregivers and residents at risk of homelessness. The Center of Concern will commemorate the occasion with a number of educational and social events throughout the next year, including our first event – Pinwheel Palooza which begins April 1st and concludes with a grand birthday Celebration on October 12th.
The Center of Concern opened in 1978 when a Park Ridge homemaker and early advocate for older adults named Dorothea “Dee” Heinrich gathered four friends to address the needs of seniors by opening a tiny Office of Ombudsman. What began as a ‘listening post’ for the needs of residents was soon renamed the Center of Concern, a central information hub and referral service for those seeking help with the challenges of aging, economic hardships, and isolation.
Today, the Center of Concern is true to its mission of “providing housing solutions, support services and counseling for seniors, disabled and others in need, enabling them to live with dignity and independence”.
Center of Concern Board President, Kathy Rolsing said, “through the efforts of dedicated caseworkers, volunteers and supporters, the Center of Concern offers a myriad of services, connections, and programs to help residents overcome hardships. Many efforts are personal interactions offering friendship, a smile, a calm voice, someone who will listen and, most importantly, help with solutions and answers. These efforts offer our clients a new perspective on life, a new focus and comfort in knowing they are not alone in facing life’s challenges”.
The Center’s Executive Director John McNabola added, “the agency has been a shining light in our community as volunteers and supporters have assisted the agency in addressing the needs of residents seeking help and support. Over 12,000 services are delivered each year and recently awarded government programs reflect confidence in the Center and the many supportive programs we offer”.