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Meet Resident Donald Davidson

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Donald is 80 years young and embraces each day with contagious optimism and an unquenchable passion for life.  He grew up on Chicago’s south side (82nd and Luella Avenue), attended Horace Mann grammar school and graduated as South Shore High School’s esteemed Valedictorian.  He credits his Russian-born father (Minsk) for his uncanny sense of humor, love of the arts and positive attitude.  He graduated from the University of Michigan with a Masters in Chemical Engineering.  He was inspired by the challenging world of computers and became the Director of the Computer Technology Department at Universal Oil Products in Des Plaines, IL.  His successful 42- year career was rich with milestones and achievements.  Donald has enjoyed traveling the globe and maximized his free time to explore and develop his artistic talents.  He planned ahead and retired at the age of 65.

“Live for the moment and let the past go.”

Donald has a warm, extroverted personality and seeks the company of upbeat, bright, engaging and positive individuals.  He has developed many diverse interests and continues pursuing them with abandon.  His favorite hobbies are music, dancing and great books.  He discovered the world of folk dancing as a young man and became an active, involved participant.  After mastering the basics, he shared his skills and became a popular folk dancing instructor.  He’s particularly drawn to Eastern European music.  His CD collection is eclectic and showcases a variety of genres including Klezmer, Gypsy, Bulgarian, Yugoslavian, Jazz and more.  His social life has always been active and folk dancing became his favorite place for meeting and networking with fascinating people.  Reading a variety of great books has always been second nature to Donald.  He’s an avid reader and is in the process of compiling his updated book collection.  It includes a variety of rare collector’s items and numbers approximately 40,000 volumes.

Donald was introduced to the Selfhelp Home in 2012.  His beloved, late wife, Rita, was a patient in the rehabilitation program.  He was impressed with the unique history, compassionate staff and unsurpassed high quality standards.  When management inquired if he would consider moving into the Selfhelp Home, his immediate response was, “I simply wouldn’t consider living anyplace else!”

 Donald is an extremely positive, forward thinking individual.  He’s involved in various activities and is a loyal fan of the Sunday afternoon concerts and current event discussions.  He enjoys schmoozing and engaging in all kinds of conversations with his growing circle of friends.  Donald is close to his younger siblings and is very involved in the lives of his three children and grandchildren.  Donald strives to live each day with humor, joy and always sees the glass as more than half full. 

“Everything that has happened to me in my life has been a learning experience.”  Donald doesn’t dwell on past mistakes and concludes:  “I’ve lived a full life and have absolutely zero regrets.  I’m looking forward to each day of my new chapter.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Organizations Seeing Eye to Eye on a Mission to Help Refugees  

Contributed by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch

The mission of The Selfhelp Home dates back to the 1930’s where a community within a community helped those fleeing Nazi Germany find a safe place to live and flourish in a new country, with a new language, supported by people who understood their past. As refugees, they established the Selfhelp Home to provide care and compassion for their fellow Holocaust survivors. While that original population is now dwindling, the core commitment to helping the stranger continues. Through the guidance and mentoring of Sophie Metovic, the dietary manager, the Selfhelp Home has partnered with RefugeeOne, an independent non-for-profit organization founded in 1982 that provides assistance to refugees resettled in the Chicago area. In needing to become an independent, self-supporting member of a new community as quickly as possible, employment is key, so in July 2016, the partnership between the Selfhelp Home and RefugeeOne began.

Ms. Metovic currently employs four people referenced to her from RefugeeOne. These individuals are so grateful for employment, that they see the dignity in jobs that others might not, and are hard workers trying to do their best, even with severe language barriers. Ms. Metovic tries to match their skills with the tasks she has available ranging from dishwashing, waiting on tables, baking and other miscellaneous jobs. Language is a continual challenge, but non-verbal body language speaks volumes. Some of the languages spoken are French, Portuguese, Swahili, Kinyindu, Kituba, Kikongo, Lingala and Tigrjnya.

Here are some of the brief biographies of the people: 

Adim Tekia, from Eritrea and Ethiopia, has a husband in Israel who is an engineer. She has a ten-year-old son who comes to the Selfhelp Home everyday after school and quietly sits in a corner and does his homework while his mother works. She helps in the kitchen and wants to get her paperwork in order so that someday she can be reunited with her husband. She is working to pay her rent and feels lucky to have a job where she can begin to learn English and feel supported and safe. She has been here for 10 months.

Tishibola Kalala is here from the Congo with her husband and two children. She is now pregnant with her third child and works as a waitress in the dining room. This is her first job, and in her limited English, with a big smile, she says, “everyone here is very nice.” She has been in Chicago for seven months.

Wakilongo Kahugusi from the Congo was a nurse in his country, and would someday like to be licensed here as he learns more English. He has three children- a daughter who is 14, and two sons, 13 and five. Wakilongo has been here six months and takes his job very seriously. He dresses very professionally, and is very hard working, always trying to please. He serves coffee to residents and does dishwashing.

Lalia Mweniake is here from Africa and lived in the Congo. She has worked at Selfhelp for 1 year. She has a husband that lives in the Congo and a 6 month old baby named Peter. Lalia lives with her sister Mapenzi, who also worked at the Selfhelp home and recently had a baby. The sisters give each other support. Lalia works in our Dietary department as a waitress in the dining room. In the Congo she studied Social Work and says the best part about her job is that she gets to help people and enjoys being a part of Selfhelp.

Ms. Metovic reports that as immigrants, like the people that inhabited the Selfhelp Home originally, there is gratefulness in being here, and a connection is made with the residents as if a special bond exists. There is a cultural connection of being the “other” and finding yourself in a secure space. Selfhelp has become a safe haven providing a mixture of love and caring while trying to teach the American way. Wakilongo described working in the kitchen to working in a hospital. , Ms. Metovic blanched, thinking he was referring to Selfhelp as being cold and institutional. “No, No, ” he said.” It is because it is so clean, and we have to wash our hands so many times in the kitchen.”

It is the goal of this partnership to help new refugees integrate into this country-to to become what they ultimately want to be. It is a challenge to recognize the dignity of all work as a step to citizenship. These four individuals realize they are lucky to have been given opportunity, and want to provide the residents of Selfhelp the care and assistance they deserve. It supports the initial mission of the Home to be able to go back to the Home’s roots, and support the stranger among us.

You can learn more about RefugeeOne and our partnership in the featured video.

Meet Resident Finny Rosner

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Finny was born in 1924 in Vienna, Austria.  She’s a tall, elegant ninety-two (92) years young.  Her memorable childhood home was filled with books, art, music and love.  As a young girl, she learned to speak French, in addition to her native German, and treasured her childhood years.  Her life took a dramatic turn for the worse when the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany occurred in March of 1938.

I’ll never forget March 12, 1938.  Hitler annexed Austria, and we Jews were thrown out of our homeland.  I was furious! 

 Finny moved to Chicago to live with relatives when she was thirteen (13) years old.  She mastered English, wore hand-me-down clothes and rebuilt her life.  She was drawn to inspiring young people and became a high school English teacher, first at Hyde Park High School, then at Near North Career Metro High School in the (former) Cabrini-Green neighborhood.

She enjoyed her work and encouraged many poor immigrant students to overcome language barriers. “If you can live in a country, you can learn the language.”   Finny married a gentleman from a cultured family and gave birth to three (3) wonderful children.  They’ve each been successful in their careers.  She values their integrity and close relationships with each other.  “My kids are the most decent human beings, they are good people and truly like each other.” 

 Finny is an energetic, optimistic individual who exudes both confidence and humility, with a delicious sense of humor.  “As I’ve lived my life, I’ve adapted and am grateful for the ability to let go of negative and destructive things.  Gratitude enhances my daily life.”

 She’s an avid reader and an involved book club participant.  She loves the theatre and was a regular subscriber to the Goodman, Northlight and Steppenwolf theatres for many years.

Smiling, she sums up her reflections, “The Selfhelp Home is a kind, comfortable place.  I appreciate the free choice and variety of activities.  The memory games keep my gray matter active and the Sunday concerts are the best.  I’m grateful for each and every day that I’m a member of this amazing community!”  

 

Another Year Completed of Art & Inspiration with the 5th graders at BZAEDS

This month, we finished up another year of working with the 5th graders at Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School (BZAEDS). This year, our annual intergenerational program with the school focused on the artist Marc Chaggal, and the various themes around his artwork.

Together, The Selfhelp Home residents and BZARDS students  explored topics around love, music, family, faith and more.  We worked together to create two permanent installations, one to be displayed in each facility. The paintings were made together and reflect the year’s conversations, stories and dreams as residents and students got to know one another.

The inter-generational program is facilitated by Fabiana Glazer, founder of GoldMind Arts. Throughout the school year the students from the 5th grade class visit with residents at Selfhelp and work on a project. The goal was to create a work of art through meaningful discussions about love, music, family and faith.  “We brought these two generations together and put them to work towards a meaningful work of art that facilitated conversation – and in the end we have a piece of art we can all feel proud of,” Glazer said.

Selfhelp Staffers Making a Difference: Meet Kim Dudasik

Contributed by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch: bethgh@gmail.com

Meet Kim Dudasik, Activity Team Member

Kim is the newest member of the activities team and has been a member of the Selfhelp family for the past 5 years. Kim works  for the Rehabilitation floor, and the Long Term Care Floors at Selfhelp.  She was encouraged to apply for the job by a friend who was related to Nerma Lamier, Director of Nursing.  Kim grew up helping handicapped relatives, loved to babysit, and used to volunteer in an institution with mentally handicapped adults.

Kim feels obligated to fill her daily eight hour shift effectively and efficiently, and considers a day well spent if all the residents are satisfied and safe.  Every day is a new adventure and every day creates a new memory for her.  Kim is grateful to be part of a well working team and feels very supported.  She loves working at a place where she can show her goofy and “corny” side and be silly to make people laugh.

Her goal is to make people smile.  Kim loves to sing and dance, and it’s a pleasure to watch her during musical experiences where she really comes to life. She treats the residents as if they were her own grandparents by freely giving them hugs and kisses and joking with them comfortably. She says it is her goal to make the residents feel secure and happy at the Home, and to insure that Selfhelp feels like it is indeed their home. She wants everyone to know that it is okay to live at Selfhelp and that people care about you there, and will love you like they love their own grandparent. She wants everyone’s stay at Selfhelp to be enjoyable as she tries to infect residents with her great attitude.

Kim has learned how to deal with death, and has accepted that as part of the job, although she says it’s a tough lesson to learn.  Kim loves to bake, and to travel.  She loves a good adventure and will try anything once.  She even loves to cliff dive.  She describes herself as a bit of a daredevil and likes to push herself to overcome fear.

Kim views life at Selfhelp as a place to create a memory for each day, and that “each day is a new journey.”  We are so lucky to be the object of Kim’s enthusiasm.

A series of stories by Beth Gomberg-Hirsch, contributing writer.

Beth Gomberg Hirsch spends a lot of time visiting her mom, Helene, a resident of The Selfhelp Home. Behind-the-scenes, Beth sees the great work of the staff, some of whom may not be as visible to the public but make a tremendous difference in the lives of the residents.  They are, Beth says, “the special sauce” that makes Selfhelp unique.

Meet Resident Shirley Greenberger

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

“I love my life, feel extremely lucky and have no regrets.” Shirley G.

Shirley is 95 years young and lights up any room with her energy, optimism and zest for life.  She was born on Grand Island, a small town near Omaha, Nebraska.  Her parents were born in Russia, survived tough times and cherished moving to the United States “When my parents arrived in the U.S., Hebrew Immigration Aid Society  was our family lifesaver, they fed and clothed us, taught us how to speak English and made us feel like family.”

 Although the family struggled financially during the depression, they were rich in their love for each other.  Shirley credits her early days for her “can do” outlook on life.  She was especially close to her oldest brother and several sisters.  She met her late husband on a blind date.  He was immediately smitten with her beauty and charm.  They married, raised four wonderful sons and moved to Los Angeles.  Her husband was a dedicated entrepreneur, owned two women’s retail stores and became very successful.  Shirley had a natural flair for fashion.  They worked hard, combined their talents and their business flourished.

Shirley is a gifted artist and has decorated her room with several of her exquisite paintings.  She’s an avid reader and surrounds herself with positive individuals who share her love of life.  Shirley’s looking forward to celebrating her upcoming 96th birthday.  “As my parents lives were forever changed by HIAS, moving into this extraordinary Selfhelp Home community has made all the difference!  I have no regrets about anything and embrace each new day!”

4 Steps to Overcome The Assisted Living Conversation

At some point in time, it may become apparent that mom and/or dad can no longer care for themselves at home. Often, the decision comes when the parent is living alone and the son or daughter begins to notice that the individual’s health is declining, little things around the house are not being done and concern may build around medication management, hygiene and eating habits.  The parent may be good at masking how difficult daily activities have become if you visit infrequently, but the more time that is spent with the individual, the more obvious it becomes that a change in lifestyle is necessary.

It isn’t easy to have a conversation about moving into an assisted living community, but there are some steps you can take to help reduce the anxiety around making this important move. Don’t wait until there is a health crisis or bringing multiple caregivers into the home becomes too difficult. Start easing into the conversation early on.

Step 1 – Start the process early as it will take time.  It could take more than a year before the parent is ready and agrees that it is time to move. Have the discussion while the person is healthy enough to live without full-time care and is able to enjoy activities.

Step 2 – Enlist the help of family members, trusted clergy members and the person’s physician. Practice what you want to say and make sure everyone is on the same page. Be ready to address objections and work through your responses in advance. Include the person in the decision; you can’t make it for them.

Step 3 – Visit a few assisted living centers.  Bring mom or dad to see the one that fits their lifestyle, interests and personal preferences best. Have them meet the staff and interact or join the residents for a meal.  Plan this in advance with the assisted living community so everything goes smoothly.

Step 4 – Let it rest for a while.  Keep the conversation open by checking in and asking how things are going. Reassure the person that you want the best for them. Address concerns about moving and let them know you will come to visit them.

With time, patience and encouragement, the person may come to the conclusion that a move to an assisted living community would be in their best interest.

 

 

Meet Resident Adele Bernstein

Contributed by Beverly Frank- bevfrank8801@gmail.com

Meet Resident, Adele Bernstein

“If God gives you the years, you live.”

Adele’s devoted father, Oscar Shore, taught her to live by these enduring words.  Born in Philadelphia in 1914, she’s a proud 102 years young.  After losing her mother at the young age of 5, her father vowed to raise his only daughter with care, love and deeply rooted Jewish values.  With the help of doting grandparents and Sadye, an older cousin mentor, Adele became a very smart, independent woman.

Adele and her father moved to the west side of Chicago. She graduated from Marshall High School and found an executive secretarial job in a real estate office.  A friend introduced her to her future husband, Norman Bernstein, a fine man who sold dry goods. Adele stills recalls their first date with a twinkle in her eye. “We double dated, saw Bob Hope’s very first movie and met at Chicago’s Avalon Theatre (79th and Stony Island).”  They married in 1940, raised two wonderful children and has 6 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  Adele feels grateful for the fulfilling life she’s lived with her late husband and family.

Adele believes she’s experienced both bad and good luck in her life.  The bad luck was losing her mom at a tender, vulnerable age.  Her good luck was in having a father, husband, and family who embraced her.  She describes her thoughts, “My late husband, son, and daughter are my lucky dividends.”  Adele truly lives each day, participating in art and poetry classes.  She also enjoys meeting new people and has many visitors.  She expressed her life today as part of the Selfhelp Home community:  “I am fortunate to not live in an institution, but in a special place that truly feels like home.  The staff is very caring, and I’m so very lucky to live at the Selfhelp Home.”

 

“Ever Since I Was 6 Years Old I Wanted to Visit The USA.” Meet Pascal Kraft, Selfhelp’s Newest German Intern.

Contributed by Jeryl Levin-Jlevin@selfhelphome.org

Chicago is one of the most fantastic, biggest cities I’ve ever seen,” exclaims Pascal Kraft, who came to The Selfhelp Home from the small southwestern German city of Rastatt to begin his internship as part of the longstanding relationship Selfhelp enjoys with the Berlin-based Action Service Reconciliation for Peace (ASRP). Rastatt, population 47,000, sits on the outskirts of the Black Forest. People in Rastatt are “a lot more formal,” says Pascal. “They would never ask a stranger or near stranger ‘How are you doing?’ “Here in Chicago people are a lot friendlier. I like the familiarity.”

Pascal is the first in his family to go to college. His mother is a housewife and his father a facility manager. Part French, his great-grandfather fought against Germany for France. His name, Pascal, literally translates into “Easter” and “Passover,” because the same Latin word Paschalis was used for both.

As is customary in Germany, Pascal is using his gap year between completing high school and beginning college to work in the United States. “I worked in a rehab clinic in Germany as part of my required social internship and wanted to work with older adults. One of the most important classes in gymnasium is Holocaust studies. “We visited Dachau and when the opportunity came up to intern at Selfhelp, I knew I wanted to work at a place that helped the survivors.” Pascal plans to study criminal law when he returns to Germany to begin college.

“Ever since I was six years old I wanted to go to the USA,” says Pascal, who will be touring the West Coast down Highway 1 after visiting the Grand Canyon on his break. Next year after completing his internship at Selfhelp, he plans to visit Israel.

Pascal has his own apartment at The Selfhelp Home, which he describes as “wonderful.” He pitches in wherever he is needed, but is particularly adept at computer work and preparing the Kindles for the residents. “Pascal has a great sense of humor and is very easygoing, says Fern Shaffer, Director of Programs, who supervises Pascal. “The residents love him.”

For the past 18 years The Selfhelp Home has maintained a partnership with ASRP.  Action Reconciliation for Peace is a German based volunteer organization that supports opportunities for international encounters and intercultural understanding.   Each year The Selfhelp Home houses a young German intern who is fully integrated into its community.