BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
The eighth anniversary gala of The Village Chicago held at Galleria Marchetti recently raised over $110,000 and attracted Village members and fans of this organization, which lives out its charge to “navigate the new longevity.” The evening’s magic was no illusion: all 357 guests were forced to suspend their disbelief when the magicians on stage were able to name the cards the audience drew from the deck—and were instructed to tear up immediately after!
Even more than jaw-dropping magic tricks, the evening’s true source of enchantment was the vibrancy of those determined to live longer and contribute more to their communities. Thanks to Benefit Chairs Carol Rosofsky and Estelle Spector, their committee, and Village President Kathleen Kolodgy, the gala was a hands-on, not sleight-of-hand, success. With 450 members, aged 50 to 100, The Village Chicago is the largest partner in the nationwide Village movement, aimed at using members’ talents and skills to not only enhance the quality of life of other individuals but to ensure they “remain integral, vibrant, and contributing members of our communities.”
Founder and Executive Director, Dianne Campbell, has made the organization a incubator of new ideas, services, and fascinating programs.
“We have a healthcare advocacy initiative led by Ruth Ann Watkins, which is tackling ways The Village can help its members navigate the healthcare system. We provide a variety of services, many of which are done by volunteers, and a task force is trying to figure out how better to meet the demand for transportation, our number one request.
“We have recruited 31 drivers who take members to doctor’s appointments and do other vital errands, and many more who offer shared rides to our varied programs, and we are exploring new partnerships to expand capacity.
“We have initiated conversations asking, ‘Who will be your allies as you age?’ to support primarily single people. We have a Life 3.0 initiative to help people figure out their ‘what nexts’ as they look ahead to their next 15-29 years.”
A spirited paddle raise led by Tom Kuczmarski raised significant funds for The Village Chicago’s Member-Plus program. Dianne identifies its purpose:
“We want everyone ‘at the table,’ regardless of income, as we are one community. From 2009, when we opened, we have offered reduced-fee memberships. Currently, 21 percent of our households participate through our Member-Plus program and The Village community is enriched as a result.”
Village board member Bruce Hunt spoke on behalf of the program:
“Eight years ago, when the Village had just opened its doors, the very first person to be a part of Member-Plus was a woman in her nineties who had heard about the new Village and came over on her walker to check us out.
“She said she didn’t think she needed anything, but Dianne said: ‘Well, we need you.’ So she joined and told Dianne what she had always wanted for her hot top-floor apartment, along with a volunteer to install it, was a ceiling fan.
“Shortly after that, The Village had its first year-end fundraising appeal, and her check for $100 was the very first in to me. And just like that, The Village’s give help/get help chain was forged and continues to this day.
“And consider the member who has woven The Village so completely into her days that it has come to define her life. She attends lots of Village programs and gatherings and gets to them, and to medical appointments, with rides from volunteer drivers.
“Recently, when she was sick for quite a long time, the Village community was there for her, calling to say hello, sending cards, and even making sure her beloved dog was walked every day until she once again could do it herself.”
The Benefit Committee helping to support this important work included Gretchen Althen, Laurel Baer, Dianne Campbell, Linda Eisenberg, Nancy Felton-Elkins, Debby Forman Eichten, Angie Levenstein, Sheila Mehigan, Charlotte Newberger, Diana Phillips, Linda Randall, Biba Roesch, Ruth Ann Watkins, Leatrice Berman Sandler, and Courtney Wilson. Lois and Richard Stuckey, Jack Hartray, and Pam and Mel Washburn were underwriting sponsors.
The Host Committee was comprised of Mary Ann Schwartz and Richard Brewer, Patricia Clickener, Philip and Marsha Dowd, Joan Goldstein, Kathie and Bob Kolodgy, Tom and Susan Kuczmarski, Alan and Janet Lougee, Mather LifeWays, Dick Sullvan, Donna and Dirk Vos, Jan and Tony Walters, Tom and Ruth Ann Watkins, Dianne and Tom Campbell, ACO Commercial, Madelyn MacMahon, Charlotte and Michael Newberger, Pam and Doug Walter, James and Katherine Zartman, Chuck and Nancy Cooper, John Craib-Cox, Deborah and Estia Eichten, Marjorie and Harvey Freed, Bob and Dorothy Hernquist, Hollis Hines, Home Instead Senior Care, Jayne Hultman, Joe and Kerstin Lane, Marc and Angie Levenstein, Ann and Ray Rusnak, Stephen Sandler and Leatrice Berman Sandler, Lois and Stephen Stack, Linda Randall and William Schley, the Hon. Michelle Smith and Leigh Weber, Liz Ware and Wally Shah, and the Rush University Medical Center.
Throughout the summer, The Village offers varied member programs and will again partner with the Chicago Innovation Awards on December 11 to offer an “Innovation for the Ages” panel, this time in conjunction with the Economic Club of Chicago. It will be held at the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
“The event is a celebration of ageless innovators who have successfully launched a new product, service, business, or nonprofit after the age of 60. The event will shine a spotlight on 60-plus-year-old innovators who have reinvented themselves and defied the stereotypical path to retirement. Their focus is on un-retirement and making unique contributions to society.”
Here’s to many more anniversaries—and plenty more magic—to come!
For more information, visit thevillagechicago.org.
Photo credit: Sean Su, CloudSpotter