40th Aniversary

Center of Concern Celebrates 40th Anniversary!

2018 MARKS MILESTONE

1978-2018

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”.

Anniversary Activites and Events

Stan Jenczyk

Our April 24, 2018 spotlight: Stan Jenczyk of Niles.

Stan has been a valued volunteer at the Center of Concern for over 30 years. He was lucky enough to have started when our founder, Dorothy Heinrich, was Executive Director of the Center of Concern. Many isolated and homebound older adults had the privilege of his friendly visiting and companionship over the years, one lasting for almost 17 years. He is still providing friendly visits to older adults in the community, and they couldn’t be happier to spend time with him.

Stan’s religious convictions and many blessings brought him to want to give back and help others. He acknowledges that loneliness can very hard to endure, and having someone to talk to helps. Stan feels that “the journey I call life is full of sorrow and joy”. Being adopted at a young age has given him a unique perspective on life and has shaped him into the wonderful person he is today.

Stan’s favorite things about volunteering are the stories of the people he visits and being able to share his. There is always a lot of laughter and says “it has been one of the greatest gifts”. Stan looks forward to his visits just as much as we know his clients look forward to seeing him.

Beverly Conrad

Beverly Conrad has been a dedicated volunteer at the Center of Concern for almost 24 years. She is no stranger to serving her community and recognized the need for the Center of Concern. Her good friend recommended her applying and she never turned back. Beverly has been an immense help working the front desk and scheduling appointments but her main tasks these days is providing telephone reassurance calls to isolated seniors.

If you like people, Ms. Conrad claims it comes easily but she is too modest to admit that she is a special person. She is caring and compassionate which is exactly what our clients need. Beverly does a great job of encouraging and making the people she speaks with feel better. Her favorite line to use when she senses hopelessness is “God doesn’t want you now because he knows you have a bad back and he doesn’t want you to wait in line”. Not everyone knows what to say to cheer people up but she does a great job of being a friend and a cheerleader to the elders she calls. The people she builds relationships are her favorite part of volunteering because they are funny and interesting. She loves to hear about new chapters in their lives.

Beverly was the Center of Concern 2015 Dee Heinrich Award recipient.

Joanne Toenings

Joanne Toenings has volunteered at the Center of Concern for four years, primarily as a Receptionist two half days every week, as well as helping at all of our special events. As a receptionist, she answers, compassionately listens, and directs phone calls; makes Telephone Reassurance calls; and greets clients and visitors at our front desk with kindness, grace, and professionalism. She has helped at all of our fundraisers, doing anything and everything we ask of her. Joanne is an active member of our community and also serves as an unofficial ‘ambassador’ of the Center. Wherever she goes, Joanne tells people about her work at our agency and the many services we provide to residents struggling with challenges relating to aging, homelessness, and accessing resources to remain in their own homes. Without question, Joanne is an exemplary volunteer who continues to show her dedication and commitment to the Center of Concern. We have been abundantly blessed to have her as a volunteer.

Hannah Fisher

We wanted to highlight not only our long-time volunteers but we also wanted to acknowledge a new volunteer – Miss Hannah Fisher.

Hannah lives in Chicago and works and volunteers in our community. Not only does she work full time but is also studying Communications and Entrepreneurship. Hannah has volunteered majority of her life organizing food drives and going on mission trips with her church. She wanted to give back and donate her time out of the goodness of her heart. Hannah has gone out of her way to offer her skills and services to the Center of Concern.

The Center of Concern has been fortunate to have her as a Friendly Visitor for an older adult and is also working a special donation drive for our housing program of formerly homeless persons. In addition, Hannah is a member of our 40th Anniversary Event Committee as we plan for our big Anniversary celebration on October 12, 2018.

Hannah’s bubbly personality and kind spirit are bringing so much love and joy to her Friendly Visitor client. Hannah’s friendly visitor said, “Hannah brightens the room when she arrives”. Her experience and dedication make her a special new member of the Center of Concern volunteer team.

Hannah has made a very large impact in a short period of time.

Gig and Peg Brzezinski

Our July 13, 40th Anniversary Volunteer spotlight: Gig and Peg Brzezinski have been volunteers at the Center of Concern since 2016. They have been giving back and helping others throughout their marriage. Through their church, they were introduced to the Center of Concern and were inspired by others to give more back.

Their big hearts are just one reason they are so special to all of us at the Center of Concern. They both possess the kindness that can be seen in their volunteer service.

Peggy is a natural when it comes to helping organize senior’s lives as a friendly visitor. She goes out of her way to make seniors she visit feel real compassion and love. Peg not only visits seniors for conversation and companionship but she also gives of her time as a Catholic Eucharistic Minister at Our Lady of Hope in Rosemont.

Gig is always looking to help. Gig has given back as a handyman for homebound seniors and as a friendly visitor. He has always been a fixer and wanted to give back in a different way. Working with seniors and being a companion was something new to Gig but you would never have noticed – he’s a natural.

Neither of them hesitates when it comes to lending an ear and being there when needed. They both enjoy the socialization during their visits and can see the appreciation in their senior’s faces. When asked why she volunteers, Peg said, “their appreciation makes it all worthwhile”. Gig and Peg are both an inspiration and we can’t thank them enough for their time and energy to our communities seniors.

Hardik Prajapati

As a student government leader at Oakton Community College, Hardik Prajapati learned about the Center of Concern through his advisor and a past board member. The first event he participated in was the golf outing, and he has since become a valued member of the Board of Directors. In addition to his busy career in the software development field, Hardik gives his time, hard work and energy to the Center of Concern. His experience, wonderful personality, and strong work ethic have made him a valued team player and an important volunteer.

Hardik has served as a loyal and vital member of the Board for the last three years and has been the secretary for the past two years. Among other things, he also helps with photography at events and helps post them on the Center of Concern social media. He says he “loves helping out”, which is evident by his positive attitude at agency events. Hardik says, the people he has met and worked with at the Center have been most enjoyable.

Hardik is a tremendous force of energy and consistently shows his kindness and dedication by his presence; from Blarney Bash, community parades, to his Board activity, his dedication are inspirational. For Hardik, “the Center of Concern’s mission is key, “as I am able to witness the positive difference we are making in the community”, said Hardik.

Katie Otto

Katie Otto has been a volunteer since 2014. After graduating from Concordia University and moving to Park Ridge, she started an internship at a local church that encouraged her to volunteer at the Center of Concern. Fast forward a few years and she is now the Director of Christian Education at St Andrews Lutheran Church and one of our many treasured volunteers we have at the Center of Concern.

Katie has been a Friendly Visitor to Pat. Helping with her grocery shopping and providing conversation and companionship. Their once a week visit has blossomed into a true friendship. One of her favorite parts about volunteering at the Center of Concern is the personal connection that was made with Pat and how the experience has opened her eyes to a community need she otherwise wouldn’t have known.

The unique service we provide is acknowledged by Katie and she truly sees the value in her volunteer time. She couldn’t have said it better when she stated, “it is an overlooked need we don’t normally think about.”

The Center of Concern can only hope she knows how much we appreciate her, not to mention, how much she means to her friend, Pat.

Peter Pesche

Peter Pesche has been a pleasure to have as a volunteer at the Center of Concern. He has dabbled in numerous service opportunities with us over the past year and we cannot thank him enough for his dedication. His willingness to help and his work ethic make him stand out. He has done work with isolated seniors such as grocery shopping, providing transportation and doing window washing and light yard work our annual at Community Service Day. He worked extra hours to make sure all of his clients were served even if it meant doing it all by himself. He has participated in the Fourth of July parade showing support and helping build awareness. In addition, he went to our recent Volunteer Training just confirming his dedication and commitment to the Center of Concern.

He was looking for something to do that would make him feel good and we were lucky enough to have been recommended to him. When Peter started volunteering, he did so to make a difference in his community. He doesn’t always see the immediate impact he is making and believes it is the thought that counts. We see the impact he has made in many lives.

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