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Community Organizations

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Few things make a community as endearing as learning about how the people in it strive to help each other. One of Northbrook’s greatest assets is its diverse, motivated group of citizens, working to serve each other and thereby bettering themselves.

The Civic Foundation, with its extensive history reaching back to its formation as the Shermerville Improvement Club in 1907, has woven itself into the fabric of Northbrook life and consistently inspires people to take action. It helped bring its current president, John Kempel, to the group in 2005, and he had looked to help the community and the group ever since. Just recently named President, Kempel noted, “I have some definite ideas of things we could do better as a foundation.”

The entirely volunteer-led group has a purpose “to support, through active participation and funding, projects that enhance the quality of life in our community”—a mission that is especially felt with its only major fundraiser and Northbrook summer staple, the ubiquitous Northbrook Days. It demands planning all year round, coordinating the amusement park for people young and old, planning the food within the Foundation, allowing vendors to sell, and even setting aside Saturday mornings of the festivities for special needs children to have activities tailored to them so they may enjoy the event as well as anyone else.

But many people mistakenly assume Northbrook Days is all that the Civic Foundation does, something Kempel would like to see changed. “That’s a very limited vision to have for a foundation that exists for the betterment of the community,” related Kempel. “So I think we need to set our sights out and beyond just Northbrook Days.”

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One other major way of helping the community Civic offers comes in the way of grants. In 2008, for example, Civic made grants for approximately $80,000 that went to organizations such as the International Center for Deafness and the Arts, North Shore YMCA, and the Northfield Food Pantry. All that, and Northbrook students looking to go to college can apply for support through the generous scholarships Civic offers.

Another organization taking care of Northbrook citizens, Youth Services of Glenview and Northbrook began as a way to treat problems for troubled high school students but grew into something far more supportive along a whole spectrum of issues. Begun in the early 1970s to help children with problems with drugs, Youth Services offers prevention and intervention forms of help for the entire gamut of issues. “We work with just about anyone you can think of, whether it’s kids who are just having trouble growing up or kids with depression,” explains Nancy Bloom, executive director for Youth Services. “We run groups for parents of bipolar kids and then we do support groups for siblings of bipolar kids, kids with anxiety disorder.”

Part of the success in their approach involves interacting not just with the youth, but healing the entire family unit and thereby helping to ensure the problem need not arise again. Even for those without supportive families, Youth Services provides a Befriended Youth program to offer the children in need of strong role models with just the type of people that can provide stellar examples of maturity.

In order to provide even better services, Youth Services looks to move into a new facility in July and continues to accept donations toward financing the building. “We’re very fortunate that we had most of the funding before this recession,” says Bloom. “Nonetheless, we’re still looking to raise another $1 million.” For those looking to have a room named after individuals, families, or businesses, those opportunities still exist, and for those just looking to donate time or money, Youth Services of Glenview appreciates all the help so they can go forward and help others.

Some children and adults need even more specialized help, like those who frequent the International Center for Deafness and the Arts (ICODA). Begun as a way to provide a creative outlet for the underserved hard of hearing and deaf children to express themselves and help each one to grow, it developed from its genesis in 1973 into a fixture of the community. ICODA has begun a capital campaign in the hopes of expanding to a larger facility, one that would allow for a TV studio and a modern theater for performances besides allowing for college partnerships to further augment the ways it can help those it serves.

Delineating any one reason for visiting a community may be difficult, but with the impressive array of organizations working toward the betterment of the overall community, Northbrook’s citizens stand as the Village’s strongest draw. For those already there, or those who will surely wish to be there soon after visiting, Northbrook has a strong tradition of consideration that everyone, in or out of the community, can appreciate.

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