Women United

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Attending the Power of the Purse event on Nov. 5, 2017 (L to R) standing: Heidi Locker-Scheer, Maria Rodriguez, Vicki Juster, Jenny Sen-Gupta, Angie Underwood. Seated: Melissa Dickstein, Nandia Black, and Diane Trickey.

Retiring from the Village Board six months ago has allowed me to reset my priorities on how I spend my volunteer hours. One group that I have chosen to focus on is the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Lake County (soon to be called “Women United”), where I serve on the Steering Committee. This wonderful group of 90+ female leaders is committed to improving early childhood literacy in Lake County through philanthropy and volunteerism. Our network of women has been able to grant $100,000 this year alone to programs that serve children in areas of most need, helping them to be prepared for kindergarten and ready to succeed in school. Some of the communities most impacted by our work include Waukegan, Zion, North Chicago and Round Lake.

But it was Long Grove that played a central role in the story of WLC yesterday, as our major fundraiser for the year, Power of the Purse, was held at Royal Melbourne Country Club. I was honored to sponsor a table of local “women of influence” (many of whom are pictured above) including a former Village Clerk, two former Village Presidents, and a current Mayor. In between enjoying mimosas and brunch we were able to bid on purses and silent auction baskets, have fun playing games and winning prizes, and donate books and educational toys to children served in the “Little Kids, Big Futures” funded programs. It was an altogether lovely day but what made me smile the most was the sea of hands that went up when asked to sponsor one child for a week of Kindergarten Countdown Camp. When passionate, powerful, and committed women come together in the spirit of philanthropy, it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Nov. 15, 2017 Update: A total of $49,500 in net donations was raised at the Power of the Purse event this year. Nice job, ladies!!

Wonder Woman is the inspirational "mascot" of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the recent Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

Wonder Woman is the inspirational “mascot” of Women United. Three members of the Steering Committee had fun channeling her power at the 2017 Leadership Summit in Cincinnati last month.

Neighbors & Newcomers

Members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club (L to R): Sandi

Some of the Long Grove-Kildeer Neighbors and Newcomers Club members (L to R) at the September 12th Brunch: Sandy Yogendran, Renee Clark, Katie Hodge, Susan Fasano, Lana Pollard, and Angie Underwood.

Today I’d like to highlight one community group that is near and dear to my heart and continues to be a force for good in our village. Founded in 1957, shortly after the Village of Long Grove was incorporated, the Neighbors and Newcomers Club of Long Grove and Kildeer has been welcoming new residents and sustaining friendships for 50 years. This vibrant group has helped countless residents get acclimated into their new communities and fostered social connections that have lasted in some cases, decades. I was introduced to this group 20 years ago when we first moved to the area, and quickly met other newcomers like myself who shared similar interests and had children the same ages as my own. Some of the ladies pictured above I have known since I joined, others are more recent friends. I have had the pleasure of serving as President of this wonderful group three separate times over the ensuing years.

Earlier this month was the fall “kick-off” event, a brunch at our current President’s home in which we welcomed three new members and had fun catching up on summer happenings with long-time friends. Everyone who attended brought donations of toiletry bags filled with essentials (shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant, lotion, etc…) to be donated to WINGS, a local Safe House for women and children fleeing desperate situations. Each year the club sponsors one specific collection for a local charity. In past years the donations have ranged from food for the local food pantry, children’s pajamas for a shelter, toys for a holiday gift drive, and the adopt-a-family program through Vernon Township.

One way to really get to know your neighbors is through a shared interest. Here is where this group really excels, by offering eight different interest groups in which you can participate in, as little or much as you choose. My personal favorite is the Grove Trotters walking group, which meets at Heron Creek Forest Preserve or other neighborhood walking trails for fellowship and fitness in our beautiful Long Grove & Kildeer open spaces. You can participate in an evening book club, Bunco/Game Night, couples Wine Tasting or Gourmet dining, Out to Lunch with the ladies or take in a Chick Flicks show at a local theater. If social opportunities are what you are interested in, look no further than this friendly club. For more information please visit the Facebook page here.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a great amount of affection for this group. I liken it to the song I learned back in Girl Scouts, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” The friends I have made over the last twenty years in Neighbors & Newcomers are truly golden.

A “Mayberry” Moment

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

Longtime resident Barbara Turner, pictured in December of 2014.

When you are a genuinely good person and live to be 98 years old, that in itself is a blessing. An additional result of having endeared yourself to so many people over the years is that you acquire many, many friends. A whole community of them, actually. And in a time of need, those friends can come together in the best sort of way. Recently, Long Grove experienced one such moment, in which citizens randomly pitched in to help longtime resident Barbara Turner enjoy her beloved Woodland again.

Barbara and her family are best known in Long Grove for the donation of the Reed-Turner Woodland, a 36 acre nature preserve just north of our historic downtown on Old McHenry Road. In the last year Barbara’s health has not allowed her to get outside and enjoy the beautiful open spaces right outside her home; even the porch has not been accessible due to a large step down. All that has been recently remedied, when a crew of local businessmen and resident volunteers showed up to build Barbara a ramp out to her screened-in area. Today, she is once again enjoying the bird songs and wildflowers. And despite the current heat & humidity–who doesn’t just crave a little fresh air now and then?

All this came about when several of Barbara’s friends tried coming up with ideas to get her back outside. The porch presented a challenge regarding the ramp design, which was finally solved by a local builder and contractor. Past and current elected officials helped design and organize the project, and waived the building fees. The local Lions Club helped out with building materials and labor, with assistance from a few handy members of the Historical Downtown Merchants Association and Historical Society. All of this could not have been done without the cooperation of the Long Grove Park District, which owns and maintains Barbara’s home as well as the entire Woodland preserve.

In our fast -paced modern world, it is easy to get caught up in the negative headlines and news feeds. It can seem discouraging that we live in a time and place where civility and human kindness take a back seat to being right and being in control. Witnessing everyone collaborate to help a beloved neighbor is an important reminder that by working jointly with others, great things can happen. Small town spirit is still alive in Long Grove! When we labor together, it’s a “win” for all of us.

Ramp construction underway!

Ramp construction underway!

Power of the Purse Raises $37,000

Having fun with the ladies and supporting early childhood education at Power of the Purse: (L to R) Lori Lyman, Village of Long Grove Trustee, Kristi Long, President and CEO of United Way of Lake County, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, Patrice  Maloney-Knauff, Women's Leadership Council Co-Chair.

Having fun with the ladies and supporting early childhood education at Power of the Purse: (L to R) Lori Lyman, Village of Long Grove Trustee, Kristi Long, President and CEO of United Way of Lake County, Angie Underwood, Long Grove Village President, and Patrice Maloney-Knauff, Women’s Leadership Council Co-Chair.

What woman doesn’t love a beautiful new purse? I’m pretty excited about the one I recently acquired at this year’s Power of the Purse event. Held at Royal Melbourne Country Club in Long Grove, this luncheon celebrating women, friendship, and philanthropy is the major fundraiser for the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. As a member of the WLC, I was delighted that our Village was chosen to host the event this year, and I made sure to pull together a table of Long Grove ladies who are passionate about getting our youngest Lake County residents ready to succeed in school and in life.

During my year and a half involvement with the WLC, I have been impressed by the support given both financially and in volunteerism to provide opportunities for low income children to increase their literacy. I’ve gotten to share a favorite Dr. Seuss story with preschool students at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago, and help establish their new Infant Toddler Community Resource Center. This summer at a meeting in our Long Grove Village Hall, I got to meet the grant recipients of our “Little Kids, Big Futures” Philanthropy Fund. Programs such as Success By 6 and Kindergarten Countdown Camp are possible as a result of the monies raised at Power of the Purse.

So about that new purse that I purchased–I had to act quickly to pick it out, sign my name on the pledge card and pop a balloon before several other women who were hot on my heels scarfed it up! There were games to be played, raffles to win, silent auction items to bid on, books to be dedicated and a delicious lunch to enjoy with friends. It was great fun to join with over 200 other ladies to spend an afternoon shopping, socializing, and making a positive impact in children’s lives.

Cars and Cigars

Lake County Board Representative Craig Taylor (on the right) shows off his vintage car to Aaron Underwood.

Lake County Board Representative Craig Taylor (on the right) shows off his vintage car to Aaron Underwood.

Earlier this month I was pleasantly surprised by an event in our historic downtown that I attended by happenstance. On Sunday, July 10th a group of volunteers gathered at the Historical Society farmhouse to do some needed painting, and over the course of the morning as we worked, we watched the Stempel parking lot slowly fill with nearly 100 antique and vintage cars. As it turned out, downtown business Neumann’s Cigars and More had partnered with the Village of Kildeer Police Department to host a car show and fundraiser that attracted an estimated 1,000 people enjoying the beautiful summer day. Besides checking out all the cool cars, the event featured music, food, raffles, awards, and a demonstration by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office K-9 unit.

With so many interesting and unique cars on display, we could not help ourselves from wandering over to investigate. My husband was like a kid in a candy store! The “Cars and Cigars” fundraiser collected over $15,000 to benefit Illinois Special Olympics, and while Aaron was ogling the sweet rides of the past, I had a chance to chat with the organizer of the event. Kildeer police Chief Steve Balinski launched the fundraiser five years ago while working with the Buffalo Grove police department, and continued the tradition when he made the move to Kildeer.  I love the teamwork of volunteers from two of our neighboring villages coming together with a Long Grove business to host such a fun and successful afternoon, all to benefit a worthy cause. I’m so glad we were in the perfect place to see this real-life “hot wheels” collection come to life!

Be Our Guest, Be Our Guest…

Our Village Hall was the recent setting for the presentation of over $60,000 in grant funds from United Way of Lake County Women's Leadership Council.

Our Village Hall was the recent setting for the presentation of over $60,000 in grant funds from United Way of Lake County Women’s Leadership Council.

In one of my favorite movies, Beauty and the Beast, Lumiere delightedly sings his famous tune “Be Our Guest as he prepares the castle to welcome visitors. Recently, my official duties have included welcoming several groups of guests to our modest but beloved municipal “castle,” Village Hall. This post will highlight two of these spring visits that I’ve had the pleasure of hosting.

On May 23rd, 80 third grade students and their teachers from Country Meadows Elementary School in Long Grove made a field trip to Village Hall as a part of a unit they are studying on community and government. The students learned about our own local government, and how we fit into the layers of county, state and federal government. We discussed the types of things our staff and elected officials do for the community, and what my job of Village President entails. For show & tell I passed around my gavel and shiny, official Village President badge, which was a big hit. The kids were also highly engaged when we did some role-playing, with student volunteers sitting at the board table as Trustees to help debate and decide one of the actual issues on the Village Board agenda for the following night: Should we allow the addition of carnival rides to the downtown Long Grove Summer Fest scheduled for June 24-26? Despite some very good discussion on safety concerns, it will probably come as no surprise to learn that all of our young residents voted in favor of this proposal! I promised the students that I would share their input with the Trustees at the meeting the following night, and in fact our actual board members took the future board members’ advice as the agenda item passed. Following their time in Village Hall, the field trip continued with a tour of the Archer one-room Schoolhouse, Outhouse, Pioneer Herb Garden and Ruth Barn, with help from docents Amy Gayton and Aaron Underwood of the Long Grove Historical Society. It was a delight to host our students from Country Meadows and sharing in their enthusiasm and energy was uplifting.

Another equally dynamic and energetic group was welcomed to our Village Hall and historic buildings on June 2nd, when I hosted the quarterly meeting of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. Over $60,000. in grant funds was presented to local agencies and programs with the goal of increasing early childhood literacy and kindergarten readiness in the most high risk areas of Lake County. Hearing directly from the educators about the impact these grants make in the lives of the children was meaningful, as was the giant, glittery thank you card the kids created for us! The women of WLC appreciated the charming and relaxed atmosphere of the entire evening in Long Grove, from the start at Village Hall and continuing with tours of the historic buildings until ending at Broken Earth Winery. A nice benefit of my job is being able to share with others some of my favorite places in our Village.

Members of the Women's Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County (L to R) Charlotte Richter, Angie Underwood, and Judy Kotsiopoulos.

Members of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County (L to R) Charlotte Richter, Angie Underwood, and Judy Kotsiopoulos attending the June 2nd meeting in Long Grove.

A Model Citizen

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

Sharing a light-hearted moment with emcee Bonnie Conte (right) of Avalon Salon in Deerpark, at the May 5th Long Grove Mother’s Day Fashion Show at the Grove Country Club.

I could be wrong, but I’m guessing that male politicians don’t get asked to model in many fashion shows. If they do, I’m pretty sure it does not involve wearing a dress, high heels, and lots of accessories (let’s not even mention the indignity of spanx!) Last month I was asked to help support a local not-for-profit group by modeling in their “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” fashion show fundraiser. The Caring Women’s Connection helps a number of organizations and programs in Lake County serving women and children such as: A Safe Place, Lake County Haven, Mount Saint Joseph, Stuben House, and scholarships for deserving high school seniors. I was happy to assist in raising funds for these worthy causes…but modeling? Did they know that my last experience walking the runway was circa 1975, wearing my hand-crafted, (blue-ribbon winning!) 4-H sewing project at the McLean County Fair? These days I’m more accustomed to making speeches or running public meetings, but anything for a good cause, right?

The day was actually a lot of fun and I got the chance to make connections with some fantastic women. The dress that I showcased came from Fashion In Motion, which is a pink mobile truck featuring beautiful clothes and accessories for sale instead of tempting food items. For more information on the work of this dynamic and caring group of ladies visit their website at CaringWomensConnection.com.

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the "Breakfast at Tiffany's" Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women's Connection.

Backstage with fellow models Cris Grooms (center) and Rita Foley (right) at the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Fashion Show sponsored by the Caring Women’s Connection.

Another local fashion show was held last week in Long Grove and this time my support came by way of raffle tickets purchased, boutique shopping, and cheering on the efforts of our hometown merchants. Over 150 fashionable ladies gathered to see the newest looks of the season just in time for Mother’s Day, courtesy of Long Grove boutiques Olivia’s and Bella Donna. It was a delightful evening of shopping and conversation with friends and neighbors, with the raffle proceeds going towards the fight against breast cancer. Here’s to high style, philanthropy, and lots of lovely ladies!

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia's Past walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

Boutique owners (L to R) Mira Pinscher of Bella Donna and Lynne Jankovec of Olivia’s walk the runway to celebrate the conclusion of another successful fashion show.

Primrose Promise

Primrose School of Long Grove Director Sarah Simon and Franchise Owner Rich Wierzchon joined me at the March 15, 2016 Rotary Club meeting.

Primrose School of Long Grove Director Sarah Simon and Franchise Owner Rich Wierzchon joined me at the March 15, 2016 Rotary Club meeting.

One of several new businesses currently under construction in our village is Primrose School of Long Grove. Located on Old McHenry Road just north of Route 22, Primrose will offer educational child care for infants & toddlers, and preschool, kindergarten, and after school programs. In anticipation of welcoming their first students later this summer, Director Sarah Simon and Owner Rich Wierzchon attended the recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Long Grove, Kildeer, and Hawthorn Woods to give an informative program.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Sarah and Rich previously, so I already felt I had a basic knowledge of the new school. But I was impressed to learn more about the Primrose Promise. Using expertise and passion, this company is determined to make a difference in children’s lives; not just those who attend our Long Grove school but for some of America’s children at greatest risk. The Primrose program incorporates a strong character development component. Through fun activities like arts, games, and role playing, the children learn values such as honesty, compassion, respect, and good judgement. They participate in community-minded programs such as Save the Children sponsorship and a local “adopt-a-grandparent” partnership. One of the values that I particularly like is the Primrose commitment to giving without expectation. In today’s world, it is especially important to learn that serving and caring for others is what we do as good citizens, without expecting something in return. Children, families, staff and owners join together to support local charities and the Primrose Children’s Foundation, a non-profit that partners with national charities such as Reach Out and Read.

Rich Wierzchon told us a moving story about the motivation for him and his wife Jenny to start this particular business at this particular time. Jenny is an experienced teacher who followed in the footsteps of her mother, a life-long educator. The entire family believes strongly in the character-based education Primrose will provide, and the opening of this school is being done in part to honor the legacy of Jenny’s Mom, who recently passed away.

I believe Primrose School will fit right in to compliment the high-quality education already available in our community. We will all look forward to the completion of construction in the months ahead and welcoming another new business to our Village. And I promise to come visit our little philanthropists and citizens of tomorrow!

Cat in the Hat Cuteness

Sharing my love of reading with the students at Green Bay Early Childhood Center.

Sharing my love of reading with the students at Green Bay Early Childhood Center.

In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday this week, schools across America have been visited by red & white striped hat-wearing volunteers sharing their love of literacy. Today I had the delight of donning such a hat and reading to a preschool class at the Green Bay Early Childhood Center in North Chicago. And let me just say, this early morning dose of cuteness was much more invigorating than a triple shot latte!

My involvement with this particular school comes as a by-product of being a member of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. WLC has recently partnered with Green Bay Early Childhood Center to fund a community resource center that will be used to help get as many kids as possible ready to start kindergarten with the necessary skills. This morning our “crew of crazy chapeaux” had a tour of the school and the space we are helping to create which will be shared by Head Start families as well as residents of the local school district. By dedicating time and money now to improve early childhood education in some of the most at-risk areas of Lake County, we are making a significant investment in our workforce and families of tomorrow.

When I was a child my favorite Dr. Seuss book was “Green Eggs and Ham.” When my kids were little, the title they asked me to read over, and over, and over was “Fox in Socks,” mainly to see if they could catch me up in the tongue-twisters! Today I had the pleasure of reading “Dr. Seuss’s A, B, C’s” to an adorable group of energetic 3 and 4 year old students, who could not have been more fun.

David Brooks of the New York Times has noted, “By age 5, it is possible to predict with depressing accuracy who will complete high school and college and who will not.” By recognizing this need and addressing it head-on in the last 10 years, WLC and United Way of Lake County has seen a dramatic improvement of kindergarten readiness in Waukegan from 6 percent to 48 percent! That “Cat in the Hat” is more than just a sly comedic character; he is providing a spark that can lead toward improved literacy and a brighter future for all of our children.

"Crew of Crazy Chapeaux" aka members of the Women's Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County.

Volunteer readers and members of the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County.

Power of the Purse

One of the purses auctioned off today to benefit United Way of Lake County.

One of the purses auctioned off today to benefit United Way of Lake County.

Earlier this year, I was asked to join the Women’s Leadership Council of United Way of Lake County. As Village President, I receive many offers to serve on committees and attend fundraising events for worthy causes, and as much as I would like to, there aren’t enough hours in the day to participate in them all. Today’s fundraiser for WLC, “Power of the Purse,” was a great reminder of why I have chosen to volunteer my time and resources to this impressive group of women.

Made up of corporate professionals, entrepreneurs, elected officials, retirees, teachers, stay-at-home-moms and volunteers, the Women’s Leadership Council uses our collective  power to make a difference in early childhood literacy programs in Lake County. The “Little Kids, Big Futures” Philanthropy Fund helps provide enrichment such as a kindergarten readiness program in Round Lake, and a Kindergarten Countdown Camp in Waukegan. Our goal in WLC is to do our best to make sure Lake County’s most vulnerable children are prepared to start school on track. Since 2013, the group has granted nearly $75,000 to help prepare our youngest residents to succeed in life.

I have had such a positive experience working with and getting to know the other women in the WLC. Today’s luncheon proved that you can have fun and games and philanthropy all at the same time. I ended up winning a bottle of wine, and my friend Susan scored a beautiful new purse in the silent auction. We made memories in the photo booth, and helped build a preschool library for an area school. It was altogether a lovely day and proved yet again, dynamic women banding together can enable great things to happen!