Tommi Ferguson, North Shore Village executive director.Submitted photo

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“Hillary Clinton said, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,’” said Tommi Ferguson, executive director of North Shore Village. “We believe it sometimes takes a village to be able to stay in your home and stay in your community.”

Ms. Ferguson’s organization, now celebrating its fourth anniversary, mainly helps aging North Shore residents both keep connected with community and maintain independence.

“Generally what we see is that, as people age, their social circle seems to shrink,” Ms. Ferguson noted. “Perhaps a spouse dies, or peers or neighbors move away. What we hope is that, through the village, people can begin to expand their social circle of friends at a time of their life when they’re often losing people.”

North Shore Village’s mission is twofold. It first offers regular programming, such as current-event and book discussions, as well as health- and finance-related workshops that keep members engaged with a community of peers. The organization also implements a large volunteer network that offers assistance to members in need.

“Our most requested service is transportation – it’s such a need in the community, and we try to fill that gap when we can,” Ms. Ferguson said, adding that many members are also volunteers who are vetted. “If they do driving for us, we keep license and insurance information on file here in the office. Beyond what our volunteers can offer, we also have a roster of vetted service providers, so if you need a computer technician or a handyman, we can connect you to a resource.”

After about two years of planning, North Shore Village officially opened in 2010 with about 127 members. “Today, we have close to 300 members in Evanston, Skokie, Wilmette, Glenview and Winnetka,” Ms. Ferguson added, noting that participant ages range from about 42 to 92. The organization is trying to expand to other communities as well.
 
While most members are in their sixties and older, there are younger participants who appreciate the village community idea, she said. “We have, on the social side, dinners out, field trips to museums, a current-events discussion group – it’s really just community-building.”
 
North Shore Village has one other staffer besides Ms. Ferguson. “We’re fortunate that, with two staff people and 50-plus volunteers, we’re able to execute our programs and deliver the resources folks need when they call on us.”

The village movement began with Beacon Hill Village in Boston several years ago, and there are now about 100 similar villages in some state of development. Research shows that the movement has led to improving its participants’ quality of life and significantly prolonging their independence. Ms. Ferguson said that an impact survey North Shore Village did two years ago backed up those findings.

“It really sort of delays the necessity for making final decisions on living transitions – we can’t promise to be everything to everybody or make living at home a ‘forever’ thing, but we can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “Part of it is a ‘peace-of-mind’ element – not everybody utilizes all the services or goes to all the programs, but it’s nice to know that, through one phone call, these things are there if you need them.”

North Shore Village celebrates its anniversary on April 26, and is offering a promotion, with 10% off new memberships, through that date. More information can be found at northshore-village.org 847-721-1413.