Hephzibah Helps Families Start The School Year Right

Free Supplies at Annual Back-to-School Event

Purchasing all the school supplies needed to begin the school year is a financial burden many families simply cannot afford. But, thanks to the generosity of many individual and corporate donors including Avis Budget, Mattress Firm, HCB Health, The Peninsula Chicago, The Beer Shop and UPS, more than 115 children in Hephzibah’s Family Based Services program are ready to start the school year on the right foot.

The free Back-to-School Shopping Day was held Thursday, August 3, at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park. Volunteers unloaded and organized tables full of supplies and helped as personal shoppers for parents throughout the event. Children in Hephzibah’s Foster Care or Intact Family services, accompanied by their parents/foster parents selected backpacks along with other essentials including notebooks, paper, markers, pens, pencils, folders, art supplies and so much more.

“Our foster and intact families are so grateful for this event,” says Julie Dvorsky, director of Family Based Services. “The transition back to school can be very stressful and challenging for families with limited resources, and this event helps make the transition to school fun and exciting for the kids and it relieves a lot of stress for our families.”

The Back to School event truly makes a huge difference for the many families struggling to make ends meet. At the event, a mother of four young girls shared with staff that her husband had recently lost his job and that they were uncertain how they were going to afford all of the supplies that their daughters needed to be prepared for school this year. With tears in her eyes, she thanked the team for this support, while nearby, her daughters beamed with joy inspecting their new pink backpacks filled with supplies.

Hephzibah is grateful for the many generous corporate and individual donors who provided truckloads of backpacks and supplies to benefit our children and families.

Hephzibah Kids Learn to Swim

Hunter Quigley Coe Be the Boat Fund Supports Lessons

Swimming is one of the most enjoyable rites of summer – if you know how to swim. Thanks to generous funding from the Hunter Quigley Coe Be the Boat Fund of the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, this summer dozens of children served by Hephzibah are learning to swim.

The Be the Boat Fund was established in memory of Hunter Quigley Coe of River Forest, a volunteer of Hephzibah as well as a local lifeguard/swim lesson instructor and big fan of children, to support transformative experiences for children that promote physical and emotional health. For Hephzibah’s group home and foster care children, swim lessons are truly transformative since most have never learned to swim. Funds from the grant were used to purchase swim passes to the Oak Park Park District Pools for all the children in the group home, and swim lessons for up for 40 children from the group home and living in foster care homes.

The children who come to Hephzibah have been severely traumatized and their exposure to and participation in many normal childhood activities like swimming, is limited. Few, if any, of the children have had the carefree, joyous experience of safely playing and swimming with friends.

In the summer months, we regularly take the kids to the pools, and many are terrified to be in the water,” explains Jim Woywod, director of the group home. “With swimming lessons and the support of staff, they are much less fearful. In addition, going to the pool is highly motivating and a reinforcement for positive behavior.”

Many of Hephzibah’s foster care families simply do not have the financial resources to provide for extracurricular activities for their foster children. With funding from the Be the Boat Fund, 21 children from 15 families received scholarships to pay for swim lessons. In addition, support was granted to provide swim suits and beach towels to each of the children taking lessons.  Each family reported that their child/children would not be able to take swimming lessons without the scholarships.

For more information on Be The Boat Fund, please refer to www.betheboat.org

Hephzibah Gears Up for Back to School

Back to School Shopping Party to benefit children in Foster Care

While it may seem like the school year just ended, Hephzibah is already in Back to School mode to ensure that the hundreds of children in our Family Based Services programs have just what they need to start the school year on the right foot. Planning is underway for the August back to school Shopping Party when foster care families, intact families and families in our family support program can “shop” for free for the essential school supplies their children need when classes resume.

Our families have very limited resources and aren’t able to purchase the necessary educational supplies their children need to learn and be fully engaged in the classroom,” says Julie Dvorsky, director, Family Based Services. “The Back to School Shopping Party gives parents the opportunity to make sure their children are prepared and ready to learn.”

Through the generosity of individual donors, and community and corporate groups including Mattress Firm, HCB Health, The Beer Shop and UPS, the children can start the school year with the supplies they need including notebooks, markers, folders, pencils, rulers and more. Between now and August 2, Hephzibah is accepting donations for the Back to School party for foster kids. Hard-to-find items that are listed on many schools’ supply lists are especially needed. Donations should be marked for “Foster Kids Back to School Party” and delivered to Hephzibah Home, 946 North Boulevard. Oak Park.

Items needed include:

Glue sticks

Graph paper (notebooks or loose leaf)



Index cards

Antibacterial wipes

Post-it notes


Red pens

Kids’ scissors

Colorful, fun backpacks

Dry-erase markers

Ear buds

Markers in sets of 8

Colored pencil sets

Composition books (not spiral notebooks)

Kids Head to Camp HepSIBah

Sibling Camp can make a lifelong difference!

While summer camp is a traditional rite of passage for many children, most of the children who come to Hephzibah’s group home or who are living in foster care have never experienced summer camp and activities like cookouts, campfires and canoeing. That is why we created Camp HepSIBah – an annual summer camp experience for the dozens of children in our care who have been separated from their biological siblings.

Sibling Camp

Camp HepSIBah has been going strong since 2003, and this year up to 75 children will enjoy of host of activities such as canoeing, archery, rock climbing, cookouts along with  gathering around the campfire for songs and s’mores. Most importantly though, the four days gives the children the opportunity for separated siblings to reconnect and form deep emotional bonds that will support and sustain them throughout their lives.

For children who have lost so much in their short lives, these strengthened sibling relationships are crucial to a healthy sense of who they are and where they came from. The experiences that they share with their brothers and sisters at Sibling Camp can make a lifelong difference in the way they view themselves, give them a much-needed sense of belonging, and provide a strong foundation for future family bonds.

Hephzibah needs your help to ensure that each child arrives at camp with the proper gear. Following is a list of items needed for each child:

• New or gently used beach towels
• New bathing suits for boys and girls (sizes child medium through adult small)
• Single/twin sheet sets
• New or very gently used pillows

Donated items should be marked “Sibling Camp” and delivered to Hephzibah Home, 946 North Boulevard, Oak Park, by Monday, July 24. Thank you!

Hephzibah Children’s Association Names Merry Beth Sheets as New Executive Director

The Board of Directors of Hephzibah Children’s Association has named Merry Beth Sheets as the agency’s new executive director effective July 1, 2017. She succeeds Mary Anne Brown, who announced her retirement effective June 30, 2017.

“Merry Beth Sheets’ experience, compassion and savvy will ensure Hephzibah continues to thrive,” said Tom Yates, president of Hephzibah’s Board of Directors. “Ms. Sheets is a leader who has dedicated her career to helping children and others in need. Under her leadership, Hephzibah will continue to provide the very best care for children and families for many years to come.”

Sheets was most recently the executive director of Chicago Services for Rosecrance, Inc., a large provider of substance abuse and behavioral health services in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. In this position, she led the start-up of a 30-bed, recovery home and outpatient treatment center located in Lakeview. Previously, she served as vice president of clinical services and quality assurance at Pillars, a non-profit provider of mental health and social services in the western suburbs. At Pillars, Sheets oversaw clinical services provided through the agency’s six treatment centers, and was responsible for a budget exceeding $8 million. Prior to Pillars, Sheets managed behavioral health services for Presence Health. Throughout her career, Sheets has worked with children, adolescents, adults and families in a variety of social service settings, as well as individuals with severe developmental disabilities. She has managed a variety of programs, including specialized foster care, group homes, respite/crisis center, outpatient clinics, residential and housing programs, and prevention programs.

“Hephzibah is recognized throughout the state of Illinois for the strength and depth of its programs, and for its experienced, dedicated staff of child welfare professionals, and it is my great honor to be a part of this remarkable team,” Sheets said. “This is a turbulent and uncertain time and while demand for our services is growing, we must address continued funding threats and budget challenges. I am excited to be in the position to harness the collective creativity, ingenuity and passion of the Hephzibah staff, auxiliaries and volunteers to continue to fulfill our mission of helping children thrive and families flourish for the decades to come.”

Sheets holds bachelor’s degree in juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, and a master’s degree in behavior analysis and therapy from Southern Illinois University. She is the past chair of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, formerly the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association. She resides in Willowbrook.

Don’t miss Hephzipaloozah and your opportunity to celebrate Mary Anne Brown!

June 10th will feature a street fair and carnival for families

There is no better way to kick-off your summer than at Hephzipaloozah, a free, communitywide celebration of children and families on June 10, from 3 to 9 p.m., in Mills Park and on South Marion Street in Oak Park’s Pleasant District. And, while the celebration will feature a street fair on Marion Street with live music every hour as well as a carnival for families in the park at Mills Park, Hephzipaloozah is also a celebration of Mary Anne Brown who will retire in June after more than 40 years as executive director of Hephzibah Children’s Association.

Don’t miss Hephzipaloozah and your opportunity to celebrate Mary Anne Brown!

Mary Anne will be honored at a special commemoration at 6 p.m, on the main stage, and friends, community members, former residents and staff are invited to honor Mary Anne and wish her well in her retirement. Under Mary Anne’s leadership, Hephzibah grew from a day care center with an annual budget of $100,000, to a nationally recognized child welfare agency with a full complement of interrelated services and an annual budget exceeding $9 million.

Mary Anne has spent 40 years passionately fighting for children and expanding Hephzibah’s offerings to serve an increasing number of children and families and we are grateful for her years of dedicated and tireless leadership,” says Tom Yates, president of Hephzibah’s Board of Directors. “She has made Hephzibah a model of how to care for children in an effective and caring manner. We will miss her spirit and enthusiasm.”

There is so much to enjoy before and after the ceremony honoring Mary Anne. From 3 to 6 p.m., you can enjoy the carnival in the park at Mills Park, with games, activities, pony rides and bounce houses. Plus, PBS Kid’s Nature Cat and characters from Happy Kids Chicago will join the fun. On the porch of Pleasant Home, Ebert Studios will take family and friends groups portraits which will be available free of charge on the Ebert Studios Facebook page. Event attendees will have an opportunity to donate to Hephzibah and in return receive a Portrait Certificate to be used with a future session at Ebert Fine Art Portraiture. Serenitea will offer tea service for a fee in the beautiful setting of Pleasant Home.

Concurrently, from 3-9 p.m. the street fair on Marion Street in the Pleasant District will feature a concert, live music, food, beverages and beer truck. Taking the stage at 3 p.m. will be a performance by the kids from Hephzibah Home and the Day Care Program. At 4 p.m., the Laurie J. jazz quartet will perform followed at 5 p.m. by School of Rock. The special tribute and presentation to Mary Anne Brown will take place at 6 p.m. Rounding out the day at 7:30 p.m. the musical group Classical Blast will take the stage performing their unique melding of classical into rock music hits. Food, beer and other beverages will be available for purchase from local vendors.

Hephzipaloozah sponsors include the Pleasant Business District, Pleasant Home Foundation, Ebert Studios, Vantage Oak Park, the Carleton Hotel and Pillar Financial Advisors. Local vendors supporting Hephzipaloozah include Carnivore, Poor Phil’s, Serenitea, and Warrior Catering, a program of Opportunity Knocks. The members of the Hephzipaloozah Event Committee are Dennis Murphy, Poor Phil’s; Paul Beckwith, The Sachem Company; Heidi Ruehle-May, Pleasant Home Foundation; and Jeff Ebert, Ebert Studios. For information about Hephzibah Children’s Association and the free Hephzipaloozah community event, go to hephzibahhome.org. The event will be held rain or shine.

Hephzibah Head Start Programs Promote a Family-Focused Foundation for Learning

Supporting positive parent-child relationships

It is the end of another school year and the good word is out about the strength of Hephzibah’s Head Start Programs. While both the Early Head Start and Head Start Programs currently are at capacity, there will be a waiting list of participants when the programs resume in the fall. That is because Hephzibah goes above and beyond what is expected.

While the goal of the federal Head Start Program is to promote school readiness for children ages birth to 5 from low-income families, Hephzibah’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs also work to support the needs of the parents and families. At regular meetings and trainings, families are engaged in the goal of making certain that their child is achieving their educational and developmental milestones.

Hephzibah Head Start Programs promote a family-focused foundation for learning

“We are proud of the diverse population of families in the program and more and more families are coming to us through word of mouth,” says Melissa Smith, director of Head Start. “We support the parents and families by offering a programs and resources to help them with their goals, and they share their experience with other families.

The Head Start team is committed to building relationships with families that support positive parent-child relationships, family well-being and the development of strong networks within the community. Each month, the families receive health, educational, nutritional, social and other services. There are also frequent social gatherings like potluck meals, giving families the opportunity to share their cultural traditions. At one of the gatherings this past year, two families of Iranian descent prepared a traditional meal for the other families to enjoy.

In addition to the creative, classroom-based curriculum, the children learn through field trips and other experiential activities. This year, those trips included visits to the Chicago Children’s Museum at Navy Pier – a new experience for most of the children – and the local fire station. Last fall, the Hephzibah playground was transformed into a “pumpkin patch” where the children also had the chance to pick apples and take hayrides in a wagon.

Concurrently, the families are learning about important childhood developmental milestones and their role in helping their child achieve these milestones. They also participate in trainings and classes to help them achieve their own goals. This year, these included a financial services expert who provided financial literacy training funded by a grant from Community Bank of Oak Park and River Forest, and an immigration lawyer who discussed immigrant rights and answered questions.

The environment is changing rapidly and we want to create a sense of family within the program so everyone feels welcome and supported,” Melissa says.

Enrollment for the 2017-2018 academic year is now open and limited slots are available. For information about Hephzibah’s Head Start and Early Head Start Programs, contact Evangeline Leggin, Family Support Specialist at (708) 649-7101.

Seeking Summer Day Care Volunteers!

Attention Teens! Hephzibah would love your help.

Seeking Summer Day Care Volunteers!

Attention teens! If you have an hour to spare each week this summer, Hephzibah’s Summer Day Care Program would love your help. Students age 13+ are needed to help with the games and activities held each day during the summer program, which will be held from June 26 to August 18 at Irving Elementary School, 1125 S. Cuyler, Oak Park.

“Our teen volunteers play an important role in engaging the children in fun games and activities. The volunteers are also instrumental in helping the children make friends,” says Amy O’Rourke, director of Hephzibah’s Day Care Program.

Long-time volunteer Catherine Malnati says, “Summer Day Care at Hephzibah is a place where you forget you are a volunteer at all because the kids are so eager to pull you into whatever activity they are doing. You soon pick-up on who likes to read, who likes sports, or who is into painting, and yet, despite their differences and individuality, the kids are all best friends. It is one big family that anyone would want to be a part of, and that is why I keep coming back. ”

Volunteers only need to commit to one-three hours per week for four weeks, and all volunteers will receive training prior to beginning. To learn more about volunteering or to sign up to volunteer, please contact Hannah Weigel, volunteer manager, at hweigel@hephzibahhome.org

Auxiliaries Celebrate Hephzibah this Spring

Three events you won't want to miss!

Auxiliaries Celebrate Hephzibah this Spring
Three events you won’t want to miss

Hephzibah is fortunate to have the energizing, inspiring and generous support of three amazing auxiliary boards who have made it their mission to raise awareness of Hephzibah’s mission. In addition to planning and hosting fund- and friend-raising events throughout the year, the Chicago, Oak Park and Western Auxiliary members organize activities and outings for the children living in the group home and in foster care.

In the coming weeks this spring, each auxiliary will host events that promise to be a lot of fun for attendees while raising funds to support the hundreds children and families Hephzibah cares for each year. To attend an event, click on the link provided. Read more.

Oak Park Auxiliary to Host “Ham Bingo” at Hamburger Mary’s Show Lounge

Tuesday, April 18, 8-10 PM
Ham Bingo is hosted by Hamburger Mary’s Bingo-Diva Tasha Salad and it’s NOT your typical “church-basement” bingo! Grab some friends for a guaranteed good time. While you are playing bingo, you can enjoy drink specials and register to win fun prizes and raffle items. Tickets are $20 and include one bingo card for 10 games. Additional bingo cards may be purchased at the door.

Ham Bingo to Benefit Hephzibah!
Tuesday, April 18, 8-10 p.m.
Hamburger Mary’s
155 South Oak Park Avenue
Oak Park, IL 60302

Tickets to the event may be purchased online. Click here to get your ticket!

Chicago Auxiliary Hosts Care and Spare to Benefit Hephzibah

Join Hephzibah’s Chicago Auxiliary Board for a fun-filled day of bowling at Timber Lanes Bowling Alley, named “Best Retro Bowling Alley” by Chicago Magazine! Join a team and your $30 registration fee covers 2.5 hours of bowling, shoe rental, pizza and one drink. Each team has a fundraising goal of $1,000, so you can help your team reach its goal by sharing your page with friends, family, coworkers and neighbors!
It’s a non-competitive, quintessential “old school” bowling experience that’s all about fun! Join us for:

Care and Spare for Hephzibah
Saturday, May 20, 2:30-5 p.m.
Timber Lanes Bowling Alley
1851 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, 60613

Click here to register  OR Sponsor the event!

Join the Western Auxiliary’s Hoof It for Hephzibah on Monday, May 29

The Western Auxiliary Board’s 17th Annual 5K “Hoof It for Hephzibah” Run/Walk and Kids Races provide a unique opportunity for the whole family to have fun while helping the hundreds of children and families cared for through the many Hephzibah programs. The annual event attracts more than 800 participants and raise over $30,000 to support Hephzibah’s mission.

Onsite registration begins at 7 a.m. and the 5K Run/Walk starts at 8 a.m. The Kids Races begin at 9:30 a.m. and the event concludes at 10 a.m. Online registration will open soon at the race website hoofitforhephzibah.com.
Hoof It for Hephzibah
Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017
8 a.m. 5K Run/Walk; 9:30 a.m. Kids Races (50 meter dash, ¼ mile run)
Newton Park in Glen Ellyn
5K Run/Walk: Pre-registration $25 / Race Day $30; Kids Races: $15

Join Us for Hephzipaloozah, June 10th!

An all-out, communitywide celebration of Hephzibah and Mary Anne Brown

On June 10, Hephzibah Children’s Association, in collaboration with the Pleasant Business District, will host Hephzipaloozah – a communitywide celebration of children and families. From 3 to 9 p.m., Hephzipaloozah will feature a street fair on Marion Street with local vendors offering food and beverages, a beer truck, and live music and concerts every hour. Families and children of all ages will enjoy the carnival in the park at Mills Park, with games, activities, pony rides and bounce houses. Read more

At 6 p.m. Hephzibah’s Executive Director Mary Anne Brown will be honored at a special presentation in recognition of her 41 years at the helm. Mary Anne will retire June 30. Friends, community members, former residents and staff are invited to attend the celebration and honor Mary Anne, whose leadership brought Hephzibah from a day care center with an annual budget of $100,000, to a nationally recognized child welfare agency with a full complement of interrelated services and an annual budget exceeding $9 million.

Hephzipaloozah is free of charge. Local vendors will offer food and beverages for purchase. The staff, children and families of Hephzibah extend our gratitude to the members of the Hephzipaloozah Event Committee: Dennis Murphy, Poor Phil’s; Paul Beckwith, The Sachem Company; Heidi Ruehle-May, Pleasant Home Foundation; and Jeff Ebert, Ebert Studios, for their enthusiasm, hard work and commitment to making Hephzipaloozah a true celebration of children and families.

More information about Hephzipaloozah will be featured on the Hephzibah website in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back frequently for additional information.

Hephzipaloozah Sponsorship Levels 2017

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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

“We must all hold ourselves accountable for promoting the well-being of children and families in our community” – Mary Anne Brown

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared the month of April as “National Child Abuse Prevention Month,” officially acknowledging the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Since 1897, Hephzibah has been on the frontlines of the war on child abuse and neglect, providing for the critical needs of vulnerable children removed from their homes due to extreme abuse and neglect. Inherent in our work is the commitment to raising awareness of child abuse and neglect and promoting prevention strategies in our community.

Throughout April and indeed throughout the year, Hephzibah encourages individuals, organizations and communities to work together to build awareness of abuse and neglect in our world, and prevent child abuse and neglect by strengthening and supporting families.

“We must all hold ourselves accountable for promoting the well-being of children and families in our communities,” says Mary Ann Brown, executive director. “Strong families make strong communities, and strong families require parents who have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to care for their children.”

While there are many factors that contribute to the increased incidence of child abuse, alcohol and substance abuse, poverty, single parenting, domestic violence and other stressful events often contribute to the likelihood of abuse. According to the National Child Abuse Prevention Month website, we can help prevent child abuse and neglect by making meaningful connections with children, youth and families in our communities. Research shows that protective factors are present in healthy families and promoting these factors is among the most effective ways to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect.

Everyone’s participation is critical,” Mary Anne says, “and focusing on ways to connect with families is the best thing our community can do to strengthen families and prevent child abuse and neglect.”

Teddies Bear Love to Kids

Avis Budget Group gives a personalized bear to welcome each child who comes to live at Hephzibah

Employees of Avis Budget Group, including Jim VanVliet and Mike Flynn have a strong connection to the kids at Hephzibah and seek ways to help however they can.

Employees of Avis Budget Group have a strong connection to the kids at Hephzibah; they host special outings and go out of their way to help.

For 10 years Avis Budget Group employees, friends, and families have partnered with Hephzibah Children’s Association to provide a personalized teddy bear to each child who comes to live at Hephzibah Home. The welcome bear is a special tradition that helps ease a child’s transition to the Group Home with a snuggly friend wearing a t-shirt that bears his or her own name.

On Friday, February 24th, Juanita Avila, of Avis Budget Group hosted an event with guests from ABG, Hephzibah, and representatives from 800BEAR. The partners celebrated with a fancy cake and the announcement that 234 additional bears have been purchased – enabling the welcome bear project to continue for another decade!

Thank you to our wonderful long-time partner, Avis Budget Group!

Thanks to the Queen of Our Hearts

The Heart of Gold Ball honoring Mary Anne Brown broke records for attendance and revenue

Mary Anne Smiling on Throne ps

Mary Anne was called “The Queen of Our Hearts” and surprised with a throne, cape and scepter, as she received the Heart of Gold Award.

Hephzibah’s 2017 Heart of Gold Ball, on Saturday, March 4, was an evening of gratitude and glowing tributes for Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown, as she received the Heart of Gold Award for outstanding commitment to Hephzibah over the past 40 years. Guests stood to applaud four times throughout the evening and helped raise a record-setting $400,000 to benefit the children and families served by Hephzibah – to whom Mary Anne has devoted her heart and her career.

Bridgeport Art Center’s lovely space was packed with more than 500 guests and twinkling with fairy lights on every table, as Mark Trinka, president of Hephzibah Children’s Trust and a former board member, spoke of Mary Anne’s accomplishments and the lasting impression she leaves on the hearts of those who have worked with her.

Senator Don Harmon issued a proclamation recognizing Mary Anne as a life-long champion of children’s needs, and thanking her on behalf of children and families in the state of Illinois.

Dan Farley, a former Group Home resident, presented Mary Anne with the Heart of Gold Award.

“She let me know that she was there for me, smoothing the path ahead and keeping a watchful eye,” Dan said. “Mary Anne was a beacon of light for me then, and she continues to be on my side.”

Farley recalled the comfort she gave him when he first came to Hephzibah at age 9, during a rough, uncertain stage in his childhood. Now 21 years later, Farley has graduated from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; he lives in Madison, WI, and works as a project manager for a prominent electronic medical records vendor.

Also attending the event were former Hephzibah Home residents, all of whom have stories of how Hephzibah and Mary Anne Brown helped them navigate a critical time in their lives.

An exciting live auction kicked off the evening, including Bulls seats on the floor and premium Hamilton tickets.  Bidders vied for The Sky’s the Limit package – a private helicopter tour of the city, embarking from the recently opened Vertiport facility, which was paired with dinner and wine at Eden, a restaurant launched in November by Jodi Fyfe of Paramount Events.

Hephzibah supporters helped this year’s Heart of Gold Ball exceed expectations in every way – by donating to the auction, attending the event, and sharing heart-felt messages to honor Mary Anne. Many made generous financial contributions to ensure Hephzibah’s legacy of providing hope and help to children.

Click here to view PHOTOS from the event, and here to see hilarious live-action GIFS.

We are grateful to an outstanding Gala Committee whose hard work was evident in every detail. Gwen Tonino was our stellar Event Chairperson, supported by Committee leaders Jen Weaver, Auction, Kathy Malpede, Event Production, and Donna Rolf, Sponsorship, and hard-working Committee members: Laura Connelly, Christina Ewing, Kim Green, John Grimes, Lisa Grimes, Kim Lutz, Kenna MacKinnon, and Cam Niederman. We could not have found a more dedicated, thoughtful group.

For coming together this year to help pay tribute to our special Heart of Gold Award recipient, Mary Anne Brown, we thank these  Honorary Committee members: Graham and Brooke Allen, Tony and Jean Barbato, Cuyler and Julie Brown, Kevin and Linda Conway, Bruce Elegant, Ron and Cathy Fox, Maria Garvy, Sr. Michelle Germanson, O.P., Senator Don Harmon, Marty and Mary Lou Noll, Dave and Lynde O’Brien, Perry and Diane Pero, Brent and Maureen Stratton, and Jack Vainisi.

Please assist us in showing our appreciation to the generous Event Sponsors who helped making the evening possible. Silver Heart Sponsors: Chicago Association of Realtors, Hephzibah Children’s Trust and Retail Properties of America. Bronze Heart Sponsors: Maria Garvy and William Keffer, Perry and Diane Pero, The PrivateBank and The Sidley Austin Foundation.

Table Sponsors: Graham and Brooke Allen, Jackie Barlow, Max and Mary Anne Brown, Sherry and Paul Carbery, Carleton Hotel/Ron and Cathy Fox, Cushman Wakefield/Eric and Lisa Sorensen, Shaun and Lisa Emerson, Christina Ewing and Jim Christofferson, Forest Park National Bank, Gerber Family, Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose Ltd., The Horton Group, John and Nancy Ide, Shaun and Roberta Lane, Byron Lee and Audrey Williams-Lee, McCarthy and Trinka, Noel and Michele Moore, Dave and Lynde O’Brien, Rush Oak Park Hospital, Cheryl ter Horst and Burt Constable, Pietro and Gwen Tonino, Lance and Mary Tortorici, US Bank, Tom Yates and Diane Ratekin. Friend Sponsors: Terry and Linda Brown, Community Bank of Oak Park  River Forest, Kevin and Linda Conway, Senator Don Harmon, Jim and Kathy Malpede, Oak Design & Construction, Amy Paris/The Pet Health People LLC, Donna Rolf, Brent and Maureen Stratton, Juliet and Rocky Yera.

Many thanks to everyone who helped support the Heart of Gold Ball and the children of Hephzibah.

Rock ‘N Roll Raises $50,000

The Western Auxiliary Board's annual party was a hit with guests and a home run for Hephzibah!

Penny Latta, Lisa Diomede, Megan Scheck and Tami Wanless are part of the Western Auxiliary Board whose members organized the Rock 'N Roll event.

Penny Latta, Lisa Diomede, Megan Scheck and Tami Wanless are part of the Western Auxiliary Board whose members organized the Rock ‘N Roll event.

At its annual fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 10, an enthusiastic crowd of 180 guests helped Hephzibah’s Western Auxiliary Board raise more than $50,000!  Rock ‘n Roll for your Heart & Soul at Glen Oak Country Club rocked past midnight with three bands, auctions, appetizers, games and more. The annual event doubled the amount raised in 2016. In addition to silent auction items that guests could bid on, there was an exciting live auction featuring a long weekend in Galena, the chance to ride a Harley motorcycle for a week, and a party with ice time at Johnny’s Ice House.
In addition to fundraisers, the volunteer group also organizes events with children who live in Hephzibah’s Group Home. Learn more about this dynamic board.

A Tribute to Mary Anne Brown

Marge Tye Zuba shares her surprise at the joy and laughter she found behind Hephzibah Home's French doors

three girls on playground equipmentMessages have been flowing in steadily since Hephzibah’s Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown, announced that she will retire in June 2017. At the gala on March 4th, Mary Anne will receive Hephzibah’s Heart of Gold Award.  — an honor she originated, and one she has given to many generous supporters. Marge Tye Zuba, a writer and educator who worked closely with Mary Anne, penned a tribute we’d like to share.

“Describing Hephzibah as an orphanage housing 26 children, ages 4 to 12, who have experienced horrific abuse and neglect at the hands of parents and foster parents, conjures up deep sadness and outrage. And, if you were fortunate to visit Hephzibah, you might steel yourself before entering, assuming that, within those doors, you would find little to smile about.  And you would be right. There is not a “little” to smile about.  There is a LOT, to smile about and to laugh about. Hephzibah is a happy home!  You won’t step over the threshold without sensing the joy, the peace and the fun of Hephzibah.

Mary Anne Brown’s contribution to society can be seen in the lives of the many children who have lived at Hephzibah Children’s Association over the past forty years she has been the executive director.

Take ten steps inside and you will find the French doors that open to Mary Anne Brown’s office. Over these past forty years those doors have been open, and often, emanating from within, you would hear almost raucous laughter from behind the desk of this woman whose head and heart have created a safe home, a warm haven and a new beginning for so many children who have suffered the label “ward of the state of Illinois.”

Believing in the goodness of children and knowing that there is great resilience within young broken lives, Mary Anne has surrounded herself with a staff of highly competent, passionately committed and creatively adept staff. Under her leadership, rebuilding lives begins one day at a time.   It is, for many of the children, the first real home they have known.

Unable, or unwilling to accept the status quo, Mary Anne has sought out opportunities to enhance and enrich lives. Believing that academics are most critical for these children, Mary Anne initiated an Academic Advisory Board. She solicited funds to hire an educational coordinator to work with the children who attend the Oak Park Public Schools. Through the years she has crafted a strong partnership with District 97 that continues to this day.

Hephzibah Children’s Association is one of those places where no one expects the focus to be on reading…It is an orphanage! And yet, everyone who works there believes and embraces the value, joy and transformational power that reading has in the lives of these young children.  Reading is one of the critical issues she has concentrated on over the past six years.  Books, tutors, a reading clinic at University of Illinois at Chicago…all of these are just a small part of the daily celebration of reading.  While children in foster care often have many social and psychological needs, Mary Anne Brown recognizes the critical need for each child to be able to read.  As she puts it, “Reading is the ticket.”

Mary Anne Brown is extremely non-linear. While, in the middle of planning for the sixth Hephzibah Summer Reading Academy, she points to a box of cowboy hats that just arrived…”Wouldn’t the kids love a rodeo?  Let’s have one.”  And within hours, staff has secured the services of a downstate stable and horses will arrive outside Hephzibah’s door, along with carnival games, etc., to celebrate the end of the school year in June.   While closing off a boulevard may be daunting to some, it is incidental to Mary Anne.  For her, it is about the bigger picture.  For her, it has always been about the children.  It is about each of them stepping into that stirrup and riding high down the street…It is about a photo taken of each one.  It is about a memory to treasure.

And, then there are the arts. How Mary Anne loves the arts.  “Yes, the children must have a summer art experience” she says.  And, again, within hours, through community networking, artists are sought out, dates are determined and so began the five year Colorful Days Festival, providing arts every Thursday for nine weeks in the summer.  And so, the children were introduced to the harmonica, painting murals, gospel singing, dancing, face painting and drumming.

Over the years, many of the children at Hephzibah celebrated “family” at Sibling Camp. Many had siblings they had not seen in a long time.  Mary Anne’s idea of a Sibling camp took shape quickly and now the annual camp finds brothers and sisters treasuring those “taken for granted” sibling moments of sharing stories, taking walks, and swimming together.

There are awards, many awards that Mary Anne has received. Yet, there are none as rich or meaningful as seeing Jon read for the first time, or hearing Tony play the harmonica, or seeing Michael on top of the Pinto pony.  Mary Anne’s joy is about that summer afternoon in August at Thatcher Woods where 26 children celebrated the end of the summer reading academy by releasing the butterflies they nurtured from caterpillars.  Her joy is about hearing Julia referring to the butterfly who didn’t fly away quickly and stayed on the grass for a while “He’s not hurt.  He’s just scared about being free.”

We are most fortunate to have such a woman within our midst. And, honoring her is about honoring the children for whom she lives and breathes and with whom she laughs and loves.”

Thank you to Marge Tye Zuba for sharing this tribute. It’s not too late to take part in the Heart of Gold Ball by attending, placing an ad in the program, or making a donation in honor of Mary Anne Brown’s Heart of Gold Award and her enduring contribution to Hephzibah. The ad book deadline is February 15th. Learn more.