West Suburban Program Spotlight


Go to previous years: 2010 | 2009 | 2008



United Way of DuPage/West cook is pleased to announce Pillars as the Agency Spotlight for November/December. Pillars aspires to build healthier communities by making connections and changing lives.

Because of the range of services Pillars provides, including mental health, addictions, domestic and sexual violence services, they are able to provide integrated, comprehensive care to their clients. For each client they serve, there are others who benefit from that service, including the client’s family members, colleagues, and neighbors. Last year more than 11,000 individuals were touched in some manner by the services Pillars provide.

1. How do your programs help clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

Pillars values the partnership with our clients. All of our services are client-centered, based on the value of independence and autonomy on the road to recovery. We have staff trained in a wide variety of evidence-based practices, ensuring that the intervention a client is receiving is right for his or her needs, and one that will have a positive outcome based upon current research.

At our donor recognition event this fall, two of our clients shared their personal story of how Pillars helped to change their lives. A survivor of sexual abuse, Alexandrea came to Pillars depressed, failing in school, and trying to harm herself. Our staff provided counseling and advocacy to both Alexandrea and her mom, helping them to cope with years of trauma.

Alexandrea shared, “Pillars was the only place I felt like I could be myself, where I felt safe and not judged.” She told guests that Pillars helped her to manage her anger and overcome her fears and doubts. Alexandrea started to accept herself and didn’t feel alone anymore. “Because of Pillars, I went from not wanting to do anything and having no dreams or aspirations, to feeling important again and looking forward to starting college next fall.”

At last year’s event, clients Sandra and Michael told their family’s success story. Sandra lives with bipolar disorder and has battled suicidal feelings throughout her life. She learned to manage her mental illness with the help of a Pillars’ therapist.

Her increased awareness helped her to recognize signs of mental illness in her oldest son, Mark. At age five, he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. Like his mother, Mark learned how to manage his condition with help from Pillars. He excelled in school and recently graduated from college with honors.

Years later, brutal bullying brought Sandra’s younger son to Pillars. Michael refused to go to school and told Sandra that he wanted to kill himself. Once again, Sandra immediately turned to Pillars. Michael’s therapist provided him with proven strategies to overcome the bullying and rebuild his confidence. Four years later, Michael is a self-assured teen who enjoys friends, school and theatre, and who shares his story in the local community to help others understand mental illness and mental health issues.

2. How has United Way of the DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

Through United Way’s support, we are truly able to make connections and change lives. In our health and wellness funded initiative this year we are working to integrate physical health and mental health services for our clients. Through our partnerships with local providers including Community Nurse Health Association, we are ensuring that individuals are linked to medical homes and that the medical providers are aware of the behavioral health needs and concerns of their patients as well.

We asked Ann Schreiner, Interm President and Chief Executive Officer at Pillars the following questions. Here’s what she had to say:

3. What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

  • Seeing the creativity, enthusiasm and talent of our staff every day
  • Making connections in the community– raising awareness of our services, reducing barriers to accessing our services such as stigma, providing services where clients are, i.e. in the home and community and not just in the office
  • Partnering with our donors and funders in creating ever more effective, innovative services that keep our communities as healthy and safe as possible.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Ensuring that we have adequate funding to support the important work we do.

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

Pillars relies on community support to achieve our mission. Community members can GIVE by making a donation at www.pillarscommunity.org. They can also sponsor and/or attend an upcoming event, including our Pillars Ball on January 28, the inaugural Miles for Milo 5K on May 13, or a Party for Pillars during weekends in June.

They can ADVOCATE by contacting their legislators and voicing their support for mental health and social services.

We offer a number of short-term and long-term VOLUNTEER opportunities. Individuals and groups can assist in our administrative offices, staff our special events, or provide a meal for women and children in our Constance Morris House domestic violence shelter. After completing required training, volunteers can also work directly with clients in our Sexual Assault and LaGrange Area Transitional Housing (LATH) programs. For more information about volunteer opportunities, individuals can contact Colleen Mallon at 708.995.3512 or cmallon@pillarscommunity.org

6. How do you LIVE UNITED?

I GIVE by supporting Pillars and United Way through personal donations. I also joined Pillars’ Legacy Circle planned giving program this year by naming Pillars as a beneficiary in my will.

I ADVOCATE by engaging legislators, community advocates and service organizations in our mission, goals and objectives. I spread the word about our services and engage in community education so that our community members, in turn, can educate others. I also always exercise the privilege of voting.

I VOLUNTEER by participating in local organizations’ events in support of developing and enhancing healthier communities.



We are proud to present our newest highlighted program:

West Suburban PADS

United Way of DuPage/West cook is pleased to announce West Suburban PADS as the Agency Spotlight for August/September. West Suburban PADS was founded in 1992 with the creation of their overnight emergency shelter programs, and still provide this safety net today.

1. How do your programs help clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

West Suburban PADS was founded in 1992 with the creation of our overnight emergency shelter program, and we still provide that safety net to hundreds of people in crisis every year. but our solution to homelessness goes far and beyond the sleeping pads and warm meals. The solution is housing – to provide stability and structure. It is support – for basic needs as well as medical, mental health and substance abuse issues. It’s employment – to prepare for a successful, sustained re-entry into the workplace, and prevention – before the crisis occurs. We offer give fully integrated programs that can be tailored to address clients’ needs no matter their circumstances or level of self-sufficiency.

2. How hasUnited Wayof the DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

United Way’s Health & Wellness and Financial Stability funding supports our programming in three areas:

  • emergency and transitional shelter,
  • supportive and health services and
  • supportive housing.

West Suburban PADS is the primary provider of emergency overnight shelter in near-west Cook County. October through May, we shelter and feed 450 individuals at eight rotating sites. Fifteen guests also participate in our summer transitional shelter, which emphasizes supportive services to foster self-sufficiency. Over the past year, West Suburban PADS has significantly strengthened the connection between shelter and supportive services through assertive outreach & engagement strategies, creation of an interim housing program to bridge the gap between shelter and independent housing, expansion of permanent supportive housing opportunities and implementation of aftercare services for those who graduate from our programs but who may need extended, limited supports.

The outreach and engagement efforts in the shelter began with a particular focus on engaging “chronically” homeless guests in a housing plan, beginning with procurement of their state IDs; as a result, we moved 36% of our chronically homeless shelter guests into permanent supportive housing!

Our day-time, year-round Support Center is the epicenter for our clients’ access to a wide array of supportive services, beginning with basic services necessary for daily living, such as showers, clothing, storage lockers, access to computers, voice mail and mail service and extending to one-on-one case management and group life skills training.

Health services are provided via a multi-service, multi-agency collaboration called Project WIN (Wellness Initiative Network) designed to provide outreach to the special needs population and improve their access to health services by offering a comprehensive approach to medical, mental health and addiction issues.

Our transitional housing program provides subsidized housing, intensive case management and a wide range of supportive services to help clients regain their financial independence so they can progress to a stable housing situation. Transitional Housing gives program participants the time, structure and support to maintain housing stability, increase their earning potential, reduce outstanding debt, and strengthen basic life skills.

3. What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

The most interesting aspect of our jobs is seeing, every day, that we really are solving homelessness. In 2010, our impact in three areas proved the point. We decreased – by 36% – the number of chronically homeless persons staying in our emergency shelter. We provided 26,282 nights of supportive housing – a 25% increase over 2009 and more than two times the nights of emergency shelter for the same time period. And we prevented homelessness for 194 individuals in 90 households with one-time financial assistance totaling $134,214 – a 70% increase in financial aid compared with 2009 and a 50% increase in the number of people served.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Funding is the most challenging aspect of my job, in general, and more specifically the barrage of recent funding cuts and freezes, both public and private. Despite the heightened need to stabilize those experiencing homelessness in our communities and the proven impact of our solution, despite our advocacy efforts and steady individual and community support, these unanticipated reductions in income have put at risk our ability to provide housing, prevention and shelter services at the level necessary to satisfy demand.

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

All members of our community are welcome to join PADS’ network of 1,000 volunteers who help nurture the basic well-being of our guests and encourage their work toward self-sufficiency goals — in both the emergency shelter and ourMaywoodSupportCenter. Volunteers also help with fundraising and special events, contribute professional expertise (e.g. design, photography, legal and medical counsel) and lend a diversity of talents and perspectives to our Board of Directors and Friends of PADS Advisory Committee.

Said one PADS shelter guest: “I stayed in the overnight shelters for almost a month, and the volunteers were just wonderful. They were non-judgmental and took the time to tell me about community resources available to people in my situation. Many volunteers brought their children to help serve dinner. I especially appreciated that. They were ‘de-stigmatizing’ our homelessness.”

6. How do you LIVE UNITED?

We LIVE UNITED by holding firm to the belief that homelessness can be solved. The current economic climate is the most difficult we have faced in our 19-year history, as it brings an increased demand for our services alongside a decrease in funding. However, we have a track record of success in adapting well to change, weathering external uncertainties and maximizing our resources for maximum client benefit.

We’re efficient; 87 cents of every dollar invested in West Suburban PADS is applied directly to client service. We’re collaborative; every one of our five programs brings to the table the expertise and resources of two or more community partners. And we remain true to our core mission and delivery of the promise we make to every one of the 20 communities we serve.

As we prepare to begin our 20th shelter season, we are grateful to United Wayfor helping make this vision a reality. Together, we will open doors, build futures and end homelessness. More information about West Suburban PADS.



United Way of DuPage/West Cook is happy to announce Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region at the June/July Spotlight. Since 1952, families in our community have relied on Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region to provide specialized services for their infants and children with developmental disabilities. Through their dedication and commitment to helping individuals maximize their independence, Easter Seals has become one of the largest pediatric outpatient rehabilitation service providers in the nation serving nearly 3,200 infants, children and young adults with disabilities each year.

Kathy Schrock, Vice President of Clinical Services at Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region, shared how hard working and dedicated her staff are to the Easter Seal’s missions.

1. How do your programs help clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

Our programs help clients improve their lives by helping them to be as independent as possible. Our expert therapists work with children to accomplish things that we may take for granted such as walking on their own, tying their own shoes and saying “I love you.” We approach each child as an individual, and each child’s services are tailored specifically to their needs in order to maximize independence and improve their quality of life. Instead of looking at what a child can NOT do, our therapists look at what a child can do and helps their parents and loved ones do the same. In many cases – because of the holistic approach at our center – our therapists can help these children achieve goals that were considered impossible for them by other medical professionals.

2. How has United Way of DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

The funds received from United Way of DuPage/West Cook have played a significant role in allowing us to provide our premier therapy services to children whose families are uninsured or underinsured. Each year, Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region provides over $800,000 in financial assistance to low-income and uninsured families. We could not do this without the assistance and generosity of United Way. United Way of DuPage/West Cook also supports our Family Support Services. Most of these services are provided free of charge to our families and are what makes Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region so unique from all other pediatric rehabilitation services available in the Chicago area. United Way of DuPage/West Cook has also supported our Lily Garden – one of the few inclusive Child Development Centers in the west suburbs.

3. What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

My job is most interesting because I work with compassionate and committed experts in the field of pediatric developmental disabilities. The environment is creative and always evolving. No one is ever satisfied with maintaining; there is always energy to learn more and find the best outcomes for the children and their families. It is most interesting to be among some of the best therapists who continue to strive to develop better strategies and better programs for children. It is also noteworthy that this work occurs in a positive playful environment that results in significant developmental achievements for the children. Parents are also supported and instructed and as a result become powerful advocates for their children.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The greatest challenges are twofold yet intertwined. First is the ongoing need to defend the importance of therapy for children with special needs. Funding often doesn’t cover the cost of services so justification of effectiveness is continually required. The second is the belief by some in the community that children with developmental disabilities aren’t worthy of resources that could support them to become more capable adults. The fact that the State of Illinois is last in most rankings for community services for individuals with developmental disabilities speaks not only of our legislators but of our community that continues to allow these supports to be reduced or eliminated.

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

  • GIVE – There are always financial needs in the center so that it is possible to help as many children as possible. Donations can be made to individual programs – such as Assistive Technology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy etc. – or to specialty programs – such as Outreach Programs or SuitABILITY. In-kind gifts such as equipment for therapy, toys for The Lily Garden Child Care Center and prizes for fundraising events are always appreciated.
  • ADVOCATE – Join Easter Seals today in educating and informing public officials about issues that affect individuals with disabilities. Community members can visit the “Advocate” page on our website to view all of the ways they can advocate for our clients and others with special needs.
  • VOLUNTEER – There are many opportunities to volunteer at Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region. Volunteers are an integral part of the Easter Seals community and help enhance the services provided to children and adults with disabilities. Volunteers can choose from many different opportunities such as therapy volunteer, fundraising event volunteer, facility project volunteer, child care volunteer and administrative volunteer.

6. How do you LIVE UNITED?

Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region strives to live and work within the community – not just within the disability community, but the community at large in order to improve the lives of our clients and society as a whole. This is evidenced by our many programs that reach into the community and provide awareness and training; by our collaborations with other organizations, and through our extensive use of volunteers. More information on Easter Seals DuPage and the Fox Valley Region.



United Way of DuPage/West Cook is pleased to announce Aging Care Connections as the March/April/May Spotlight. Celebrating 40 years of excellence, Aging Care Connections (ACC) provides the link to the most comprehensive, expert information, programs and services enabling older adults to remain independent and their families to make the best, most informed decisions regarding needed care in their lives. ACC has served over 8,000 older adults and their families in 22 communities of Lyons, Riverside and South Proviso Townships since 1971.

Linda Hussey, Community Relations Coordinator at Aging Care Connections, shared some of the great programs ACC has to offer as well as her passion for our non-profit communities.

1. How do your programs help clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

At ACC, we improve the lives of our clients and make lasting changes through a variety of different programs and services, such as the following:

  • Comprehensive Care Coordination Unit: This program allows Care Coordinators to provide a comprehensive assessment based on the unique needs of the elder individual and his/her existing resources. Considering multiple factors such as physical, emotional and financial needs, as well as strengths and support systems, the Care Coordinator is able to connect older adults and their families to the appropriate community resources.
  • Case Management: An ongoing plan is created with the older adult to ensure all possible support services are made available to seniors so they can remain independent for as long as possible. Services include chore housekeeping, transportation, home delivered meals, respite care and benefits assistance.
  • Elder Abuse Investigation: Comprehensive casework services and support are available to victims of abuse as they seek alternatives in these difficult situations.
  • Caregiver Support Program: We offer many levels of assistance to those caring for an older adult. Some of these services include answering questions, providing information on resources currently available, offering a respite program, support groups offering advice and emotional support, and offering a Caregiver Resource Center containing books, films and resource material.
  • Aging Resource Center (ARC): A program at Adventist LaGrange Memorial Hospital and three local skilled nursing facilities have the goal of ensuring a smooth transition home from a medical facility. Quality transitions from hospitals have proven to decrease readmissions.
  • Aging Well: The program is composed of hundreds of older adults and more than 130 community-based organizations working together to create an environment in which people can age well through a variety of volunteer-driven programs.

2. How has United Way of DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

As with all social service agencies, funding is critical to sustaining quality services and programs. United Way of DuPage/West Cook has been a long time generous supporter of Aging Care Connections. In addition, United Way has provided volunteers in the past to assist with carrying out programs as well as helping to raise awareness about our cause. We are truly grateful for their investment and partnership.

3. What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

Serving as the Community Relations Coordinator at Aging Care Connections allows me the opportunity to interface with seniors, their families and a diverse group of senior service providers. I am able to witness firsthand how communities working together can meet and exceed the needs of those less fortunate in the towns, villages and cities we serve.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

As with any not-for-profit today, the economy has had devastating effects on funding necessary to sustain current programs. Even more frustrating is the lack of funding has limited the opportunities for new and innovative programs and services as our aging population evolves and the needs become more comprehensive.

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

  • GIVE: We conduct four mail solicitations throughout the year to increase awareness and solicit financial support. We also distribute a quarterly newsletter which includes information about donating to us. Furthermore, we hold two annual fundraising events, one in the fall and one in the spring. This year community supporters are also holding small cultivation events at their homes and places of business to raise awareness and funds for Aging Care Connections during our 40th Anniversary year.
  • ADVOCATE: We partner with many senior organizations and individuals in the community that advocate for senior services and funding. Members of the community can get involve with advocacy by contacting Aging Care Connections. This may include calling local legislators about legislation affecting the care of older adults or to put together a round-table discussion group in order to better educate and inform the community about the issues faced in the community.
  • VOLUNTEER: Volunteers are the heart and soul of Aging Care Connections. We could not do all that we do without volunteers. Our volunteers come from varied backgrounds and each brings a unique and wonderful set of talents to our organization. When you enter the doors of Aging Care Connections or call us on the phone, you are greeted by volunteers. Those volunteers then make sure callers and visitors are directed to the correct staff person and receive the help they are seeking. We also utilize volunteers in our Benefits Department to help seniors navigate the maze of benefits for which they may be eligible. Volunteers help us with data entry which must be completed in a timely fashion to facilitate our being reimbursed for services provided through state mandated programs. Volunteers assist us in completing client satisfaction surveys so that we can gauge where we are excelling and where we may need to improve our services. They serve on committees that plan and host two annual fundraisers each year. Finally, we have volunteer community action teams in the towns we serve that are working at the grass-roots level to make sure their towns are elder-friendly. Members of the community interested in any of the aforementioned volunteer opportunities should go to our website for more information – we would love to have you join our team of volunteers!

6. How do you LIVE UNITED?

We LIVE UNITED each and every day by partnering with community organizations, like United Way, to provide the critical services and programs to older adults and their families in our diverse communities so that they may become stronger, independent and live healthier lives. In addition, through the United Way annual employee campaign (which raised more than $2,000 last year), we bring awareness to our staff about the necessity of working in partnership with United Way so that we are able to continue providing critical services in our communities. More information on Aging Care Connection.



United Way of DuPage/West Cook is pleased to announce the Oak Park & River Forest (OPRF) Day Nursery as the January/February Program Spotlight. Preparing to celebrate their 100th anniversary, the OPRF Day Nursery has been a childcare provider to Oak Park and surrounding communities since 1912. Their mission is to provide quality, full-time, nurturing childcare and preschool education by professional and caring staff in a safe environment for families in the community.Offering year-round childcare assistance, this agency provides services for children ages 2 ½ through 5 years old and has a tuition sliding scale so they may offer quality childcare to families with a variety of income levels. The agency uses the Creative Curriculum, a play-based curriculum with an emphasis on building the foundation for early literacy.

Catherine Hart, Executive Director at OPRF Day Nursery, shared further details about the driving force behind her work and how United Way has been so helpful in her organization’s success.

1. How do your clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

Our quality program allows parents to work or attend school, secure in the knowledge that their children are well cared for. Nutritious meals are prepared onsite by a staff cook, who holds a current Food Sanitation Certificate, and served family style to encourage social interaction and table manners. Children take up to three field trips during the school year to places such as a local farm, a children’s museum, etc. We also offer Parent Meetings monthly, which seek to enrich individual families, but also to create a community feeling among our families. These Parent Meetings include family activity nights, lectures on parenting issues, family outings, and much more.

2. How has United Way of DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

The support we receive from United Way is a key element in our funding, and this in our ability to provide the services we provide. Specifically, support from United Way subsidizes the sliding fee scales and their children will benefit from early learning opportunities. We proudly display our United Way agency logo on all of our printed materials and our website.

3. What’s the most interesting aspect of your job?

As an administrator I have always loved having the opportunity to help children develop at their own pace. I enjoy seeing the teaching staff help children learn numbers, the alphabet, be introduced to the Spanish language, and enhance their literacy skills. Young children learn to socialize with peers and adults at this age, which leads to success in their interactions as they grow. I love being a special part of their development.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Like most non-profit agencies in these difficult financial times, funding is our most challenging issue. We want to provide high quality care for the community, keep our teachers well trained and supported, and maintain our historic place in our landmark building. This all calls for a lot of funding and that is our biggest challenge!

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

We could use more board members. Our Board of Directors is always seeking talented and creative persons to assist with fundraising, human resource issues, and public relations. If you have the time, interest, and skills to help a worthwhile childcare provider, please contact us to serve on our Board. We welcome volunteers of all ages: we are part of the UCAN Senior Grandparent program, have summer high school helpers, and community members who offer additional learning experiences for our students. If you would like to volunteer, please give us a call.

6. How do you LIVED UNITED? The OPRF Day Nursery LIVES UNITED by being a proud and grateful recipient of United Way agency funding, and being an important resource for the community. Thank you, United Way! For more information on the Oak Park & River Forest Day Nursery please visit http://www.oprfdaynursery.org/


Thrive Counseling Center

Thrive Counseling Center has served the mental health and social service needs of Oak Park, Chicago and the near west suburbs for over 112 years. Thrive serves over 2,000 clients each year including over 800 youth. Thrive also partners with area organizations to strengthen agency services and reach those in need. Dan Kill, President and CEO of Thrive Counseling Center, further explains the organization’s services and community support below.

1. How do your programs help clients improve their lives and make lasting changes?

Thrive is a comprehensive mental health center. They offer counseling, recovery services, and specialized individual care. Out multi-cultural and highly educated staff empowers clients to attain their own mental and emotional well-being.

Some services include:

  • One-on-one, family, couples, and group counseling
  • Older adult in-home and office-based counseling
  • Psychiatric and medication management services

2. How has United Way of DuPage/West Cook helped your agency fulfill its mission?

Thrive’s mission is to build healthy minds, families, and communities. Hard economic times often result in decreased funding and an increased need for mental health and specialized social services. Funding from United Way of DuPage/West Cook helps make Thrive’s adult, family, and youth behavioral healthcare services available to the community. They also provide phenomenal exposure for our agency services. This exposure broadens our reach and allows us to serve more people in need.

3. What is the most interesting aspect of your job?

It is always interesting to observe or hear about Thrive clients making positive changes as a result of our services. Clients often feel empowered to not only make a difference in their own lives, but also in the lives of others. It is both interesting and gratifying to see the chain reaction of our services within the community.

4. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Continuous funding sources and volunteer resources are challenging items for Thrive to maintain.

5. What can members of our community looking to GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER do for your agency?

Thrive welcomes community support! Thrive has various volunteer opening throughout the year. They partner with a volunteer-run resale shop called “The Economy Shop” from September-May. Proceeds from the shop benefit Thrive Counseling Center and other area non-profits. In addition, Thrive is currently looking for new volunteers to serve on their board of directors. For a list of volunteer opportunities offered throughout the year visit our website.

6. How do you LIVE UNITED?

Thrive greatly appreciate all the support United Way of DuPage/West Cook provides to our agency and other organizations across the region. Our staff participates in the annual giving campaign each year as a means of giving back to United way. Thrive’s CEO, Dan Kill, has given to United Way for the past 36 consecutive years and has for many years provided presentations about United Way’s giving campaign to other community organizations. These presentations promoted United Way’s mission and discussed how United way continue to help agencies like Thrive achieve our own mission. The staff at Thrive are committed to volunteer community service through their participation on many community organization committees and boards.

For more information on Thrive Counseling Center visit http://www.thrivecc.org/


Go to previous years: 2010 | 2009 | 2008