Nonprofit leaders share thoughts on '19

Upcoming anniversary, new strategic plan, new facility among highlights of past year


Last updated 1/8/2020 at 4:27pm | View PDF

At the start of each new year, The Hinsdalean asks the leaders of nonprofit agencies in town to share a recap of the previous year and offer their hope for the next 12 months.

This is the second installment of the series. HCS Family Services, Robert Crown Center and Wellness House were featured in a Jan. 2 article.

Community Memorial Foundation

Leaders at Community Memorial Foundation spent at least part of 2019 looking forward to the year ahead.

The foundation, which has granted more than $77 million to partners since its inception, will celebrate its 25th anniversary this year.

The theme is “Turning Silver into Gold: Building Grantee Resilience,” said Greg DiDomenico, CMF’s president and chief executive officer.

“Our vision for this milestone year is that the focus will not be on the foundation, but the focus will be on our grantee partners and our community,” he said.

In addition to planning for the anniversary, foundation leaders spent 2019 focused on increased partnerships and responsive grant-making.

A new initiative was the Community Health Worker Program, funded in partnership with the Healthy Communities Foundation. Each partner is investing almost $250,000 a year for the three-year pilot to place health workers in community agencies to connect people in need to services that can help them.

“It was really an attempt for us to continue to answer the pressing questions, ‘Where do I go for services? What is available?’ ” DiDomenico said.

The workers are placed in five organizations in West Cook, including Aging Care Connections in La Grange.

Another new initiative, offered in collaboration with the Road Home program at Rush, provides mental health care for veterans and their families. Initial efforts focused on education and outreach, with the Living Room facility in Broadview offering intensive outpatient treatment one day a week.

With additional funding from agencies such as the McCormick Foundation, the clinic will operate two days a week this year.

CMF also funded a new website,, created by The Community House in partnership with The Hinsdalean and other members of the Healthy Aging Task Force.

“I think it’s such a user-friendly website that is accessible to folks to be able to get information they need,” he said.

The foundation also continued its partnership with Amita Medical Center Hinsdale and the Northern Illinois Food Bank to provide mobile food pantries offering healthy food to clients screened for food insecurity.

The 25th anniversary celebration will be launched in just a couple of weeks, DiDomenico said, after which he and his colleagues will devote time to expressing their gratitude to agencies working on the front line to help others.

“The staff and I are doing a thank you tour with community partners throughout the year to thank them for the partnership with us,” he said.

Hinsdale Historical Society

A new strategic plan in 2019 resulted in a new organizational structure for the Hinsdale Historical Society.

“We restructured our board and our committee levels as well as our staffing to meet the needs of what we needed right now as opposed to future goals,” said Anne Swenson, board president, who also served as the Hinsdale History Museum manager 10 years ago.

The role of executive director was replaced by two part-time positions in September. Jenna Krukowski joined the staff as the programs and collection manager and Amanda Bruce-Oliver as the administrative coordinator.

“We revamped our board structure as well, so our committees are more focused and there are less of them,” Swenson said. “We used to have quite a few committees.”

In addition to an executive committee, the board now has four other committees: collections and programming, finance, community/development and governance.

Working on the strategic plan gave the board the opportunity to take a step back and reflect.

“It was really just an exercise for the board to have some great discussions on where we are as an organization and where we want to go,” she said. “We wanted to focus more on not as many new projects, but really doing what we do very well.”

That list includes maintaining the archives at Immanuel Hall, offering educational programs and serving as a community resource.

This year will mark the 15th anniversary of the Hinsdale Cooks! Kitchen Walk, a fundraiser organized by the society’s Women’s Board.

“It’s just growing and we’re so excited,” Swenson said, promising some exciting things in May.

“The Women’s Board has done a phenomenal job. Every year it gains traction. It’s exciting,” she said.

The historical society also welcomed the support of a junior board as the year came to a close.

“It’s very small right now. We’re hoping to grow that over the course of 2020,” Swenson said.

This past year also saw the relaunch of the Historic Plaque program to recognize homes more than 100 years old, with 15 recipients.

“It was a very strong response from everyone, so we’re really happy with that,” Swenson said. “I know we have a few more in the queue.”

Swenson said being able to share information about the village’s history with those who are interested in learning more is a special role.

“We want to make sure we continue to tell that story to everyone who lives here,” she said.

Hinsdale Humane Society

Moving to the new 16,000-square-foot Tuthill Family Pet Rescue and Resource Center in November 2018 made for an interesting start to 2019 for the Hinsdale Humane Society, said Tom Van Winkle, executive director.

“It really was a new beginning for us,” he said. “It was such a large move in such a short period of time. From an operational standpoint, it was really starting an almost brand-new shelter. We had to learn to do things in this bigger space.”

Top Driver

The challenges led to some wonderful outcomes, however. Adoptions were up 35 percent in 2019 and the number of animals requiring euthanization remained flat.

“I think that was one of the most exciting things to me,” Van Winkle said. “We wanted to get bigger, but we also wanted to get better.”

Some 10 to 15 percent of animals that arrive at the shelter need more than routine medical care, with another 5 percent requiring significant attention.

“We just had a dog that is going home tomorrow that had to have a leg amputated because of an injury,” Van Winkle said.

Unless an X-ray or special equipment is required, the care can be offered in the center’s new clinic.

The larger space has many advantages, but it also carries higher costs for things like electricity and water, Van Winkle said. Supporters in 2019 came through.

“In general we increased our number of donors by 40 percent, so the community has really stepped up and helped us,” he said.

And then there was the generous $1 million donation from Florrie Tuthill, which gave her naming rights to the building.

“That was very, very helpful to us,” Van Winkle said.

Many longtime volunteers accompanied the society to its new location — and even more are needed.

“We’re finding the volunteers can be of greater help in day-to-day caring for the animals,” he said, citing opportunities to serve as adoption counselors or kennel attendants.

In the midst of these growing pains, staff developed a software database platform that will be rolled out to other shelters this year.

“Through that collaboration, we will be able to share information about animals and get animals adopted more quickly, not only from here but also from other shelters,” Van Winkle said. “We’re really, really excited about that.”

The Community House

This past year was one of self-reflection for The Community House’s board of trustees and staff, according to executive director Annie Krug.

“We went through this kind of purpose-driven mission exercise to find the important scaffolding to tell our story,” said Krug, describing the archival search undertaken to trace the agency’s historical evolution.

Krug said leaders wanted to clearly discern the thread that connects the organization’s youth sports, counseling center and art programs, among other offerings.

“What they’re all connected by is a sense of community around them,” she related. “To be able to start talking about ourselves in that way, that was very exciting for me.”

That community grew in 2019 with the implementation of the Before and After the Bell program for District 181 students into all nine of the district’s schools instead of housing it at the Youth Center.

“It’s not only an area of program expansion but a point of synergy where our community meets someone else’s,” she said. “Now we go into the schools and we get this awesome, seamless hand-off from the teachers, who can tell us how the kids are doing.”

The Willowbrook Corner outreach, providing academic tutoring and social support to local underserved youth and families, is serving the largest number of kids in program history.

“We have a phenomenal team at The Community House, and you’re seeing that in the number of kids that are coming to our program. It’s exciting to watch it gain traction,” Krug said

And the LyArts Program continues to thrive under the direction of Jimmy McDermott. Krug said in addition to the many classes offered, the rotating gallery exhibits featuring local artists has proved an enriching feature. She is gratified to see visitors check out the art while there for other activities.

“They stop and they walk through the gallery and learn something about that artist. That’s been really amazing,” she said.

The annual Walk for Walk yielded strong results both as a fundraiser and community building event, she said, and last month’s Holiday Ball struck the perfect tone with its theme of Vibrant Legacy, Brilliant Future.

“It was a tribute to everything we’ve done in the past that brought us to the moment we’re in and celebrate all of those people and moments,” Krug said.


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