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home : community forum : community forum - submit/review comments November 25, 2015


Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2015
Community forum entry by: Mary Beth Mikrut

Presbyterian Homes (PH) was founded in 1904 in Chicago as a nonprofit organization to provide shelter, medical care, and a community for Presbyterians age 65 and older who were unable to support themselves once they were too old to work. This was prior to Social Security and allowed seniors to live with dignity to the end of their lives.

Because of Presbyterian Homes’ successful benevolent work and generous endowment made possible by thousands of individuals who believed in their mission, PH decided in the 1990s to address the issue of gentrification in Chicago and provide independent apartment living for a growing number of seniors who were being forced out of their neighborhoods because of condo conversions and increased rents. In 1994, the Neighborhood Homes Program was launched. The seniors had to prove that they had minimum savings and yet still had some type of income, such as social security. They would only pay 28% of their annual income for rent. Without a formal marketing effort, Mulvey Place on West Barry was fully occupied within a few months. The residents included folks whose former occupations ranged from teachers, nurses, administrative assistants, construction workers, etc. The need for affordable housing on the north side of Chicago was intense and the aldermen continued to reach out to Presbyterian Homes to encourage them to continue funding this very necessary program. In the late 1990s, Crowder Place was purchased and in 2009, Devon Place was purchased. More than one hundred seniors were living out their lives in dignity in a safe and secure environment.

So, in 2015, Presbyterian Homes has decided to shut down these very necessary and important affordable housing programs because ‘it just can’t afford to take care of them anymore.’ This is Presbyterian Homes, whose annual budget is $100 million, with a charitable endowment of more than $90,000,000 (as of 2010), and whose top ten executives’ salaries range from $110,000 to $500,000. Ironically, the Neighborhood Homes Program annually costs approximately $600,000 to operate.

What is going on with Presbyterian Homes? How can they abandon the charitable mission that was founded and maintained for more than one hundred years? Their response is that they are not legally bound to continue this program. They claim there is no statement in the rental leases that say that the program will continue forever. That may be the case, but in every fundraising campaign that Presbyterian Homes launched in the late 1990s and in the 2000s, they boasted that an “endowment gift of $150,000 will provide a subsidized [Neighborhood Homes] apartment to deserving older adults in perpetuity.” Is there a new definition for “perpetuity?”

The statement should not be “they are not legally bound,” the question that should be answered, “Are they not ethically bound?” Millions of dollars have been fundraised over the years to support the charitable programs of Presbyterian Homes. They were called the Geneva Programs which included the original lifecare program for low-income seniors on the Evanston campus the Endowed Bed Program the Great Opportunities Day Care Program (which was closed a few years ago by the administration) the Neighborhood Homes Without Walls Program (instituted in Lake Forest in agreement with the City of Lake Forest to provide rental subsidies for low-income seniors living in their apartments) and the Neighborhood Programs in Chicago.

With the closing of most or all of these charitable programs, what right does Presbyterian Homes to maintain a 501(c)(3) status? The remaining residents on their many campuses are paying high entrance fees and monthly service fees for the opportunity of living in a secure, worry-free environment. In the application process, these residents are thoroughly vetted to be certain they have sufficient assets to pay until their demise.

If Presbyterian Homes is shutting down its Geneva Charitable Programs, why should they even keep their original name? They claim they are faith-based – but how do they rationalize being a caring, Christian organization when they are dumping more than 100 seniors in the streets without seeking other options for the program – another senior living community to purchase the program or just launching a fundraising campaign to endow this vital program for low-income seniors.

As one resident of the Neighborhood Homes Programs stated in a press conference recently, “Shame on Presbyterian Homes!” Presbyterian Homes should be held accountable for their breach of ethics as a nonprofit organization.

Posted: Thursday, November 19, 2015
Community forum entry by: Karen Finstad

Today is the American Cancer Society’s 40th annual Great American Smokeout®, an event to encourage Americans to take a step towards a healthy life, encourage smokers to give up smoking and to think twice before initiating tobacco or e-cigarette use. The Great American Smokeout® has dramatically changed attitudes about smoking, helping bring about community programs and smoke-free laws that are now saving lives across our community and the nation.

Thanks to increased awareness, research, and other community-led efforts, smoking rates have dropped dramatically in the past several decades. However, the tobacco industry continues to aggressively market new and innovative products towards youth, encouraging non-smokers to begin smoking. The Evanston Substance Abuse Prevention (ESAP) Coalition is spreading awareness about the Great American Smokeout® to educate youth about the risks of tobacco products, emphasize the need to quit, press for local policies that control tobacco use, discourage youth from initiating tobacco use and support people who want to quit.

Throughout the week, members from the ESAP Coalition and its tobacco committee, including representatives from the American Cancer Society, Evanston Township High School, PEER Services, NorthShore University HealthSystem and the City of Evanston’s Department of Health and Human Services, are implementing Great American Smokeout® activities in Evanston. Initiatives include outreach at ETHS, where students learn about the risks of tobacco use, an informational board for students and parents at the ETHS Health Center, a physician-led presentation for adults who are looking to quit smoking, and a smoke-out barbeque at Northwestern University.

To learn more about the Great American Smokeout® or other tobacco initiatives in the community, contact If you are looking for resources to quit smoking, please call the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES.

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Community forum entry by: Marta Pappert

It’s been about a month now since Canal Shores dumped and spread that dirt mixed with whatever on the golf course, and it still stinks of chemicals. It is tracked in on the shoes of anyone walking over the bridge to the train or to Haven on dog paws and in their mouths too, if they chase a ball or stick. I am in the landscape business, and I know what organic smells like. This smells as if Dow and DuPont both set up manufacturing in our City. If Canal Shores was deeply concerned about the health of the grass, why did they allow the bicycle race last weekend to churn up the course? In my opinion, this was a very bad idea.

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Community forum entry by: Carrie Jackson

November is both National Family Caregivers Month and National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, a fact that surprises many people hearing it for the first time. As patients’ brains begin to shut down, involuntary systems shut down as well, leading to horrifying deaths in which people often lose the ability to swallow and breathe.
Losing my father to Alzheimer’s was exceptionally painful, and I am writing to offer profound gratitude to the nearly 16 million caregivers nationwide who work tirelessly to make the lives of patients livable until they pass on.
After my dad passed away, I decided to dedicate part of my life to honoring his memory, and became extremely involved as an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador. We work to advance public policies that prioritize finding a cure and helping people living with the disease today. I also want to thank Illinois’ Congressional delegation, and Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk, for working across the aisle to increase federal funding for National Institutes of Health research programs looking for a cure.
The speed with which scientists have developed advanced treatments for cancer, HIV and other diseases identified as policy priorities by Congress makes the case for expanding current research into Alzheimer’s crystal clear: it is already the most expensive disease for our country’s public health systems to treat, and the patient population is expected to triple by 2050.
Simply put, we cannot afford not to address Alzheimer’s.

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2015
Community forum entry by: Joe Rocheleau

Thank you to Stuart Cohen for capturing and framing the issue of questionable architecture accurately and informatively. This issue doesn’t only apply to landmark buildings or those in historic districts in Evanston. I’m not an architect, however it is easy to see the issues of this addition after reading this article. Mr. Cohen also presents a compelling challenge to the Preservation Commission members’ interpretation of their published standards.
We own a home in the Ridge Historic District and faced the Preservation Commission when we wanted to replace a roof over our outdoor living space. We fielded many questions on materials, size, set-backs, etc., but ultimately it was approved. We also faced several Commission members who were arrogant and condescending to not only us but to the other homeowners on the agenda that evening. One member pointed out that our home was “historically insignificant” (as though that mattered) and actually openly ridiculed and criticized an architectural detail of our home that had nothing to do with the project we were seeking approval for. Her comments led to concurrence and chuckles from the other members, reminding us of a “good old boys/girls club.”
Perhaps it’s time for some new, fresh, architecturally experienced, and objective members on the Preservation Commission?

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