Selfhelp Staffers Making a Difference: Meet Kim Dudasik

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.

Meet Resident Shirley Greenberger

“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 Adele Bernstein

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.

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. 

Selfhelp Staffers that are Making a Difference: A Series of Stories by contributor, Beth Gomberg-Hirsch.

Selfhelp Staffer Making a Difference:

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. Activity Director Carmen Boss is the first profile in her series.

Meet Carmen Boss: A Close-Up with Carmen Boss,  Activity Director

If ever there was an energetic face of Selfhelp, it’s Carmen Boss. She exudes the positive “can- do” spirit that any institution would love to have. Carmen has been working at Selfhelp for 17 years.  Recruited by a friend from Sheridan Shores, Carmen has led activities for the 6th, 7th and 8th floor for 17 years.  She leads a dedicated, hardworking team, who all rely on each other to get the job done.

Carmen speaks in a loud and joyous voice with a slight hint of a Southern accent.  She says someone once commented to her that she is “as country as a truck of peaches.”  Carmen has lived in Chicago her whole life, has one son and two grandchildren.  She views all the residents of Selfhelp as her children and treats them as if they were family.

Carmen has a heart for people, no matter how difficult their situation. She strives to get the best out of all residents and wants them to respond at whatever level is practical or comfortable. She considers herself a staunch advocate of the residents and wants to provide maximum stimulation, sometimes even overriding family members who may feel their loved ones relatives are not as capable as Carmen feels they might be.  She wants everyone to know that she cares. Working at Selfhelp has been her calling.  Helping others comes easy to her, and she feels that by the grace of God, this is her calling.

Carmen’s greatest achievements at Selfhelp have been the Bell Choir she once ran and plays that she had the residents perform.  As many residents live in Selfhelp for long periods of time, it is important to provide appropriate and varied forms of stimulation for them.  She tries to get residents out on field trips, even if it means organizing a cadre of volunteers to push those who are mobility-challenged.  Carmen tries to meet residents on whatever level they are on, and is often surprised by the outcomes and capabilities of the residents in nursing care.

Carmen  loves that Selfhelp values culture, and appreciates the enriching experiences it provides for residents.  “This is not just a place to play Bingo,” she says.

Carmen Boss– a true asset to the Selfhelp Home.

Downsizing & Making the Move to a Senior Community

Ask the Expert Marnie Dawson.  A Certified Relocation and Transition Specialist

Founded in 2008, Dawson Relocation Services helps seniors and their families with the process of downsizing and moving to a new home. An active member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, Marnie engages with colleagues nationally to stay informed of best practices for serving the needs of her clients. She serves on the board of the Illinois Continuity of Care – Chicago Chapter, where she meets with other professionals serving the needs of seniors.


Can you tell us a little about your company?

I have five part-time people who work with me and we are able to come in very quickly to assist people when they decide to move into assisted living or downsize.  We can do everything from sorting through personal possessions to whittle down what is to be moved and packing it up to measuring the new space, determining the furniture placement and coordinating the actual move with the person’s movers.  The person doesn’t even have to be there if they don’t want to be!


How are you different from other relocation services?

We are a small company and able to provide very personalized services.  We meet with the client to help them decide what to sell, donate, give away or repurpose. Helping them select the furniture that will work the best in their new space is also part of our services.  I often tell people “I speak mover,” so we are able to assist them in coordinating the actual move and they don’t have to worry about a thing. We are fully insured, we also adhere to the association’s standards and ethics, so people can be assured that we are a reputable company.


What is the most challenging part of downsizing for most people?

Often, my clients are in their 80’s and 90’s and the physical process of moving can be very difficult for them. Most have lived in their homes for a very long time and accumulated a lot of possessions.  It can be very overwhelming for them and hard to decide what to part with.  We create a plan and move through the process with them.  We all have an emotional attachment to our “stuff” and having a neutral third party help sort through it makes it easier to let go.


What do you do when people don’t want to part with their possessions?

It is up to the person to decide what stays or goes.  I listen to their stories and help them focus on the space they will have available to them in their new home and how to best utilize it.  I listen to their stories and am there for emotional support and to provide a reality check.  I sometimes play the role of “task master” but mostly, I am there to remind them of the amount of space they have to work with and what will fit and what won’t.  Ultimately, they have the right to say “no” and decide if they want to keep something.


What can people expect to pay for your services?

I charge a very reasonable hourly rate for my services and the consultation is complimentary. The cost depends on how much of the move they want us to manage.  We provide an estimate prior to doing any work so people know what to expect, but depending on what needs to be done, it can be as little as a couple hundred dollars.


Will you help organize/downsize someone even if they are not going to be moving?

Certainly!  I have helped people who are going through a divorce and selling their home and some people come to me years before they plan to move to prepare for their eventual move to a senior living community or apartment.  We also help empty nesters who are moving to a smaller home or repurposing rooms in their existing homes.


Marnie enjoys work her work immensely and finds it very rewarding. Helping families and elderly people who are struggling with the overwhelming task of preparing for a move and taking away the stress is the main reason Marnie got into this business.  She understands that sorting through one’s life and working with movers is not always easy and is glad to lend a hand, dig through a basement, clean drawers and closets – whatever it takes to make the process easier.



Our Greasy Little Secret! Chanukah Latkes Recipe

Our Greasy Little Secret! 

The first night of Chanukah is right around the corner and after close to 80 years, Selfhelp has made close to 100,000 latkes – now that’s a lot of potatoes! So…  we are once again letting you in on the greasy secret that tastes OH SO GOOD. We’ve reduced our recipe down from 40 cups of peeled and shredded potatoes -so that you can feed 10 hungry friends with delicious latkes.

Here is what you need to feed 10 hungry friends:

  • 4 cups of peeled & shredded potatoes
  • ½ cup of grated onions
  • 5 tablespoons of salt- more? You decide!
  • 5 eggs
  • ¼ cup of flour
  • Around 1 cup of vegetable oil for frying

(Grapeseed oil for faster and quicker browning)

Chanukah Happiness in 10 Easy Steps:

  1. Peel and shred the potatoes, remove the liquid with a cheese  cloth-or do it the old-fashioned way and squeeze by hand a little at a time.
  2. Shred the onions and mix them with the potatoes.
  3. In a large bowl, beat or whisk eggs with the salt.
  4. Mix the eggs and potatoes and onions together.
  5. Add the flour a little at a time.
  6. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until it’s hot.
  7. Place a scoop of the potatoes mixture in the hot oil.
  8. Press down on each scoop to form a ¼ inch or ½ inch patty.
  9. Brown on both sides, and let the oil drain on a paper towel.
  10. 10. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on the side.

Yum -Enjoy!

Get the Recipe

Staff Longevity Contributes to High Quality Care

As you walk into The Selfhelp Home, you’re greeted by a welcoming “hello” from Linda Peek, a 16- year employee. On other days, that friendly welcome comes from Marlene Younan, a 24-year employee.

In an industry that has a significantly high turnover rate of approximately 70 percent, in other words, two out of three nursing home or long term care workers leave their jobs in the course of a year.

The Selfhelp story is vastly different.

Selfhelp is home to 172 employees and 20% have 16 or more years of service. 21 employees have 20 or more years. For example, 27 years ago Sofia Metovic began as an entry-level dishwasher. Her excellent work ethic drove her to the top and she eventually became our Dietary Manager overseeing 40 employees and 700 meals per day.

Agnes Daniel, was only 16 years old when she started at Selfhelp as a server. Today- 38 years later, Agnes is the Assistant Dietary Manager and is the longest serving employee at the Selfhelp home!

In the kitchen, delicious homemade rugulach cookies are a specialty and we have Najeba Youmaran to thank for that. With 35 years of service, she recently retired and held the secret recipe near and dear to her heart. She is teaching Symone Mikell about making rugulach, amongst others. Symone is a 6-year employee and the daughter of Sharon Mikel, a 23-year employee with a vast wealth of knowledge. Sharon’s mother, Pearl Sullivan who also worked at Selfhelp Home for 8 years.

Ask Luba Levitsky what it’s like to work at Selfhelp for 33 years and she will tell you, “it seems like yesterday!” On Shabbat, you’ll find Luba in the dining room making sure every guest is happy. Over the years, Luba has also been in charge of housekeeping and laundry.

On Fridays, Bernice Jackson, delivers the Shabbat wine and challah for residents on the healthcare floors. Bernice has been with Selfhelp for 34 years. Other Dietary cooks include Martha Ruilova and Maria Tapia, both with 25 years and Graciela Sanchez with 21 years.

Having a great culture at Selfhelp is due to the staff loyalty and longevity of its employees. The longevity of the staff also helps to maintain a certain environment at Selfhelp and keeps it from changing too much. This consistency leads to better quality care and services, provided by people the residents have come to know and trust.

Fern Shaffer has worked at Selfhelp for 22 years, Fern coordinates over 100 live music concerts a year, making Selfhelp a venue for some of the most renowned local musicians plus many interesting lectures and programs

On the 8th floor, Director of Nursing, Nerma Gayosa-Lamier, has a total of 22 years. She’s responsible for keeping Selfhelp a top rated home year after year, and also sets the tone for the high quality of care delivered to our residents. Her nursing team includes long time employees, Carmelita Gan, 19 years, Joy Demegillo, 20 years, Sonia Armintia, 19 years and Pio Chuanico with18 years.

Certified Nurse Assistants play a key role in the lives of our residents. Claudette Blaise, or “Mrs.Blaise” has been with Selfhelp for 31 years, Voncile Flowers, 28 years, Florida Dela Torre, 26 years and Begum Lodi 21 years. Personal Aids also play important roles. Rose Leandovksy, has 36 years. Fe O Torres has been smiling and singing along with our residents for the past 23 years, and Kalsang Dekyi, with 22 years.

Just about every square foot of Selfhelp has Alfredo Reyes Gonzalez name on it, a 23 year employee. Alfredo worked his way up and is now Selfhelp’s top engineer, his work includes the recently renovated movie theater, sanctuary and media room and the beautiful warm wood in the social hall and 8th floor and countless other repair projects we can’t see.

These dedicated and committed individuals are at the core of what we do at Selfhelp and as a result, the culture and mission of Selfhelp live on and evolve to meet the needs of the residents we know so well. This is what makes Selfhelp a truly unique and vital community.

The Big Hearts Behind the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation

Since 2007, The Selfhelp Home has been a recipient of a program funded by the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation. This program highlights the importance of giving while providing life changing access to a vibrant Jewish life for many Chicago Jewish residents.

Who Was Bernard Heerey?

Bernard Heerey (“Bud”) has been best described as a quite person, a good man and a great story teller. “Bud didn’t spend his money on travel, gambling or clothes. He gave his money to charities,” said Nathaniel Grey, his longtime lawyer and friend.

Bud was born and raised in Chicago. His parents emigrated from Ireland and raised Bud as a religious Catholic. Bud inherited the family business, fixing car radios and providing car batteries. The business was located on the part of Clark St., commonly known in the 1960’s as “Skid Row”, an impoverished area located south of North Ave. and north of the Chicago River. Bud understood the neighborhood.

In 1959 he met and enlisted the services of Nathaniel Grey, as a lawyer. Mr. Grey described Bud as a “Land Assembler.” He continued, “Bud was a risk taker: he would buy up small, contiguous parcels on Clark St—condemned buildings, small commercial buildings, old transient residential buildings—piece them together into a large, assembled holding, demolish the buildings, turn the vacant land into paved parking lots, and sell the assembled parcels to developers. He was essentially helping to clean up Skid Row.” He followed that pattern on other streets in Chicago.

Bud never married and had no children. He passed away at the age of 79. His thoughtful estate planning developed a substantial portion of his estate to charity. He left specific bequests to various Catholic institutions. He provided for a foundation that would give grants to Section 501-(C)(3) organizations irrespective of race, religion or creed, for the benefit of aged person and worthy students.

Mr. Grey was to oversee the estate and serve as the designated Trustee of the foundation. Officially organized in 2006 the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation now currently provides over $3 million annually in grant funds to section 501 (C)(3) institutions.

Scholarships and fellowships for worthy students attending Chicago based schools that currently fall within the foundation’s mission includes Solomon Schechter Day School, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Chicago Jewish Day School, Garrett- Evangelical theological Seminary, Cristo Ray Jesuit High School, De La Salle Institute, and the University of Chicago.

Chicago based institutions that receive funding by the foundation to benefit aged persons include The Selfehlp Home. Selfehlp is proud to be one of the early recipients of grants from the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation. At the Selfhelp Home, the foundation’s grant subsidizes the rent for several residents who otherwise could not afford the cost of living in a retirement community.

Other senior facilities supported by the foundation include CJE Senior Life, the Little Sisters of the Poor and the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

The Selfhelp Home Board President, Austin Hirsch, expressed his sincere gratitude towards the generous grants received from the Bernard Heerey Family Foundation over the past nine years.
“Having this program each year helps us in supporting our mission and allows us to expand our reach into the community to provide the best quality of life for seniors in a culturally rich Jewish environment.” said, Hirsch.

“The Foundation is doing what Bud wanted, making an impact on the lives of others” said Mr. Grey.