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Opening Up to a Caring Community

When an early slogan of McDonald’s was telling the country, “You deserve a break today,” one woman decided they were right. She wanted and deserved a break. Eileen Kushner set about becoming an owner in one of the most well-known, worldwide chain of restaurants.

After working multiple jobs to help her husband and three daughters prosper, Eileen went to work for McDonald’s. Living and working in the area around Oak Park, Michigan, Eileen’s initial job there consisted of making French fries and milkshakes. As time went on, and after working at various McDonald’s, she acquired many skills needed to own and operate a restaurant.

The mid-1980s brought about the next step in making her dream a reality. She and her husband, Larry, applied to the McDonald’s Corporation in the hope of becoming an owner-operator. Through the combined efforts of Eileen’s diligent work ethics and McDonald’s keen foresight in accepting quality business people, the Kushners were on their way.

The down side to this meant that Eileen and her family would have to leave their home and familiar surroundings of more than 30 years and relocate to Illinois. This was a hard decision to make, but for Eileen it promised to be a new chapter unfolding in her life, a chapter she had longed for.

In 1987, Eileen and Larry opened the McDonald’s Restaurant on Rand Road in Palatine, and 12 years later, another restaurant at 1200 North Arlington Heights Road in Buffalo Grove. “The Buffalo Grove Chamber of Commerce helps its member universally and was instrumental in getting the McDonald’s in Buffalo Grove open,” says Eileen.

As of September 2009, the Kushners now own a third McDonald’s on Northwest Highway in Palatine.

Apart from the typical struggles a woman might face in owning and running her own business, Eileen Kushner discovered she had Dyslexia when she was 35. This learning disability impairs the way we recognize and comprehend certain written words.

From early on, both Eileen and her twin brother, Elliot, struggled together in a static learning environment that showed little to no flexibility to children with special needs. Even the means to diagnose these needs was nonexistent. This left Eileen’s self-esteem and self-worth in a low state most of her teen and young adult life. Through her highly creative instincts and determined attitude, she was able to hide this disability–a disability she herself did not know she had–from everyone, including her husband. Later, after she discovered she had Dyslexia and was able to say, “Yes, I do have a disability,” what she found was a loving husband, supportive children and active friends all willing to help.

Now, finally, there was a reason for all of the personal trials she had faced up to this point. This disability is not the reason Eileen is special; she is special because she did not let this disability win. It did not stop her; it just added more of a learning curve to Eileen’s overall life lessons. She knew she would have to work a little harder and do things a little differently in order to make her dream a continued success. No matter what, she decided she was in control of her life and wanted to show that there are different ways each of us can learn.

Through her caring attitude and personal struggles, she has been able to give something back to others—tenfold. If you walk into Eileen’s Buffalo Grove McDonald’s, you will see many friendly people, both eating and working there. You might even see a select group of schoolchildren who volunteer their free time to help maintain a Learning Strategies Bulletin Board with information about celebrities with learning disabilities. Why do these kids care? You see, they too have learning disabilities.

This learning board, along with a separate Parent Resource Section, is a way to share with readers the pain each child feels in his or her life and useful tips for coping with and overcoming learning disabilities. Serving as a community outreach to all who enter, read and update it, this board was the inspiration of Eileen and her friend, Kathy Young, a Meridian Middle School teacher and author. “We wanted to put something back into the community,” says Larry.

Fundraisers are a big part of what Eileen and these children are all about, too. The kids work hard to organize, run and give out final distribution of any fund drives they orchestrate to help other children and needy families. The rewards and benefits, for not only those in want but also for the kids and families who organize them, is something you cannot measure or put a ‘grade’ to.

This is truly an American dream come true, for Eileen and the community.

“McDonald’s is always there if you need them,” says Eileen. “I love McDonald’s.”

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