Back to the Future

By Mike Ellis

The Community House (TCH) will be wrapping up its 75th anniversary celebration this holiday season during its annual Holiday Ball on Dec. 3.

“We’re delighted this year not only to have a wonderful and festive holiday ball planned, but also to cap off our 75th year celebration, and recognize all the folks whose hard work made this wonderful year possible,” TCH executive director Jenifer Fabian said.

The Hinsdale-based non-profit organization has an extensive history in the greater Hinsdale community, offering programs and services that have expanded prolifically since its inception on Nov. 7, 1941.

“The Community House was started as a local initiative to provide a place for resources and activities as young men and soldiers were coming back from World War II,” Fabian said. “We’ve just grown leaps and bounds, not only serving our own families, but also serving a wide reach of families in the area who reach out to us not only for recreation, but for support when times are ough. We’ve grown in so many ways, and it’s just amazing to be here at this point of the journey.”

The original Community House was situated at the corner of First and Garfield in what was formerly a men’s club in a building that has long since been razed. (The Garfield Crossing development now stands in this space.)

Its current site at Eighth and Madison was built in the 1950s, and The Community House has resided in this structure ever since.

“It was neighbors coming together to see how they could support each other,” Fabian said. ... “We’ve tried to stay true to that legacy of neighbors helping neighbors, and being a place where people come together to make connections and build friendships, and also reach out and give back.”

Besides serving as a home to programs like Jodie Harrison Basketball and as a meeting place for a myriad of local organizations and even churches, TCH has expanded its programming beyond its walls through the years in the arena of social services.

Fabian said for more than 40 years, The Community House has featured a counseling center onsite.

“That was the first decision The Community House made to get into the area of social services,” she said.

Then, just upwards of two decades ago, Fabian said TCH took a leading role in the Willowbrook Corner neighborhood in unincorporated Willowbrook south of Interstate 55, following a fatal shooting that involved a local student. Since that time, the non-profit has provided counseling and after-school programs and in the largely underprivileged neighborhood to the south.

And roughly ten years ago, Fabian said The Community House assumed the reins at the Charlie’s Gift Autism Center in Downers Grove, which sees roughly 100 children and families each year that are impacted by autism and related disorders. Each May, approximately 1,500 community members unite for TCH’s Walk the Walk for Autism, which specifically raises funds for Charlie’s Gift.

It is these programs and a litany of others that the holiday ball assists in funding the first Saturday evening of each December.

The theme of this year’s ball will be “Uptown Holiday,” promising to deliver a more modern and eclectic flair, and it will be co-chaired by Artemis and John Anos and Eydie and Peter Jarosz.

Artemis Anos described The Community House as a natural and familiar fit for her family when they moved to Hinsdale.

“We moved here, and right away, we became involved,” Anos said, “because growing up, my husband and I both had community houses—it was a very important part of our life. When we bought our house, we were near a park and a community house, and we knew that this was going to be an integral part of our children’s lives.”

Anos said her children have been to Willowbrook Corner, “so they see what’s outside this nice place that they’re privileged to grow up in, and we want to teach them to give back too.”

Eydie Jarosz, whose husband grew up in Hinsdale, said her friends Artemis and John invited them to the holiday ball about five years ago, thus stimulating their involvement with the organization.

Jarosz said the vibe will be more “modern” and “urban chic,” while still maintaining many of the ball’s traditional elements and atmosphere.

“We’re so excited about the new connections and energy and focus that [Jarosz and Anos] have brought to the event,” Fabian said. “When I think back to last year’s holiday ball, we had a wonderful kickoff of the anniversary year, and we spent the year really focused on our history. I love the energy and the modern feel to the holiday ball this year as a reminder of what a bright future we have.”

Anos said one of the ball committee’s objectives has been to get the community more involved in the event, adding that Halo Salon and Ten Friends Blow Dry & Style House in Hinsdale will be contributing proceeds to The Community House for ladies that get their hair done the day of the ball.

Jarosz and Anos have been working with Kristina Taheri Special Events and owner Kristina Taheri of Hinsdale on laying out the evening. The color palette will include deep reds with a smattering of gold.

Jarosz said she has enjoyed working with Taheri, and has appreciated the opportunity to have a say in the planning process.One point of emphasis the ball co-chairs said they are placing on the night as TCH’s 75th anniversary celebration winds down is the transition from celebrating the past to focusing on the organization’s future.

“We’re building on the past; now we’ve got to build for the future for our children,” Anos said. ... “There’s always going to be somebody in need, and that’s what we want to do is make sure that we have this Community House that will be able to give those in need whatever they need."

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