Member stories

Winnie Godfrey: How to Move Forward

Winnie Godfrey is a longtime member of the Village who says, “I joined for community and to be with people who share my passion for art … and maybe, someday, who knows? … I might need some help.” Well, someday came when Winnie broke her knee and tibia. “I was at a total loss about what to do and how to move forward. After a few days I called the Village to ask questions about caregivers, transportation, and mobility.” The Village supplied her with vetted resources for medical supplies, home health, physical therapy, and more. She could not walk for 8 to 12 weeks and the loan of a collapsible transfer wheelchair from a fellow member, plus a referral to a special taxi service made getting to doctors and other appointments easy and comfortable. She found a trusted caregiver previously employed and recommended by other Village members. “All along, the Village has help me with connections to people who are knowledgeable and capable like the thorough, patient volunteer who helped me do a PowerPoint presentation for an exhibit of my art. And then, in the sudden crisis of a broken leg, the advice and information allowed me to stay independent and thrive in my own home and environment.” Photo by Diana S. Phillips

Beth Hickey: Knitting New Connections

One of Beth Hickey’s favorite Village activities is Knitting with Friends–a group that has become a community within the larger Village community. They gather once a week for two hours to knit, help each other and chat, and over the years have gotten to know each other well. Beth says, “We talk about ourselves, about our families, current events, movies, plays, you get the idea.” One of the group members, Susan, loves to cook and every week brings something homemade as a treat for everyone. Susan also is a docent for the Architecture Foundation of Chicago. She was hoping to become certified for a tour and wanted an audience, so several of the Knitting Group attended the hour and a half tour. Yes, she was certified and they all learned a lot. Beth relates that, “Even though we have not met the family members we hear about, over time we feel we know them. When a family member becomes ill as was the case with one of our husbands, we wanted to be of help to him and his wife. Susan took food to their home, Laurie, a nurse, gave comfort and knowledgeable help and for several years the rest of us listened and offered encouragement. When he succumbed to his illness, it was only natural that those of us who could, attend his memorial service together.” One day, one of us said, “I look forward to Wednesdays because I love the knitting group.”  Beth says, “Me too, Ada, me too.”   Photo by Diana S. Philips

Don Bell: Finding Fulfillment, Friendship, and Purpose

In 2016, Don Bell moved to the North side of Chicago, and through the Reduced Fee Membership program became the 400th member of the Village.   He was truly a man whose life was in transition. He had just lost his mother after 18 years of being her primary caregiver; he had moved away from two adult sons and six grandchildren. He had just turned 65 and as a gay man, was looking forward to being part of the first generation of out LGBT seniors. He says, “In the Village I found just what I needed. I found contemporaries working at living active and purposeful lives. I found powerful women in positions of leadership and men who were not the least bit diminished by it. I found new approaches to re-imagining my aging experience through Life 3.0, and I found commitment to diversity through the LGBT Task Force. It didn’t matter that I was African-American. It didn’t matter that I was from the South side. It didn’t matter that I had limited financial resources. I found welcome.”   Don says, “I am thoroughly committed to what we’re trying to do collectively as The Village Chicago. We are people building a caring and connected community across the barriers of race, class, gender, age, ability, and sexual orientation.  And here I have found not only welcome, but fulfillment, friendship, and purpose.”  

Joe Levinson: The Village Is a Loneliness Buster

member_story_galleryv2 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.”

Dorothy French: What Her Daughter Did

member_story_gallery2v2After 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.

John Holton: Sharing His Expertise

member_story_gallery3v2Village 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.”

Peggy Walker: Recognizing Special Needs

member_story_gallery5v2When 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.”

Bob Spoerri: A Village Built to Last

member_story_gallery4v2When 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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