After several years of caring for his late wife Suzanne on his own, Joe realized he needed help and found it at home health agency Wellspring. He also found an empathetic counselor who persuaded Joe it was essential that he get out, and be with people and suggested that Joe join the Village. Joe started attending events and has become a regular at the men’s discussion group and the Scrabble sessions. “The Village became an important part of my life.” When Joe’s wife died, his Village friends supported him, attending the funeral and the shiva, “They held my hand and wished me well.” He is finding it difficult to adjust to his new situation … “I can go out at night – it feels odd.” … but is helped by phone calls like this: “Come on, Joe get ready. A bunch of us are going out to dinner.”
After living for years in Florida, Dorothy French moved to Chicago to be near her daughter’s family. She loves to play bridge, but there aren’t enough bridge players in the supportive living facility where she lives. “She needed to get to know more people and find more ways to socialize,” says her daughter, Gertrude Lyons. Then Village member Karen Terry told Gertrude about The Village Chicago. “The key thing was that they had a bridge group.” Gertrude urged her mother to join the Village and she did. Now Dorothy plays cards with the Village’s bridge group every Monday. Bridge keeps her mind active and provides a regular opportunity to socialize with new friends. Because the bridge group meets in the comfort of various members’ homes, it also adds beauty and variety to Dorothy’s daily experience – a gift for both mother and daughter.
Village board member John Holton first learned about the Village when he was Director of the Illinois Department on Aging “The Village represents the possibility that people can come together fearlessly to ask what we can do to support one another.” John has spent his career as a teacher, researcher and administrator concerned with the challenges of aging. As we age, old friends move away or grow apart. “The Village,” John says, “is creating new relationships. It keeps us learning anew, seeing possibilities, seeking growth.” Not only is John a Village board member, he also meets with a committee of members who are generating a new strategic plan to guide the Village for the next three years. And he joined Village staff in meeting with a delegation from Spain who wanted to learn about the Village movement. “It all comes back to building and strengthening and reinventing our community.”
When Peggy Walker’s son decided to transition eight years ago, Peggy’s first and greatest fear was for his safety. But for a number of years Eli had pursued an academic as well as a personal interest in transgender issues. He was sensitive to what the experience would be like for his mother and they were able to successfully navigate the change together. Through friendships and the profound experience with her son, Peggy has a heightened awareness of the environment surrounding LGBTQA adults, and so when the Village needed someone to head up an LGBTQA Task Force, she readily accepted. The Task Force is exploring ways in which the Village can support the unique needs of aging LGBTQA adults. They are currently developing joint programs with Howard Brown Health and the Gerber Hart Library Peggy says, “Inclusiveness and recognition of communities with special needs are part of the Village’s DNA.”
When Bob Spoerri joined The Village Chicago, he had just taken on a challenging new position, managing a start-up company. Bob had been involved in entrepreneurial ventures all of his working life, and, like his new business, the Village was a pioneering venture that he wanted to help build. He served as the Village’s Treasurer for its first six years, and saw it become one of the most successful Villages in the nation. Bob is still working, having famously flunked retirement three times while his wife Emily is an active Village member, both a volunteer driver and a participant in the weekly bridge group. Bob says, “My commitment to helping establish the Village was a way to invest in the community so that it can be there for others now and will be there for me when I finally do retire.”
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