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The Glencoe Junior High Project has given middle school students a host of opportunities for socializing, community service and theater involvement. Photo courtesy of Glencoe Junior High Project & Glencoe Historical Society.
 

PeerJury BW

The first group of Peer Jurors in 1998.
 

TAFY BW

From let to right: Stephani Becker, Wilmette Youth Commission; Ginny Anderson, Executive Director of LINKS North Shore Youth Service; Patricia B. Cantor, New Trier Township Supervisor; and Joe Feldman, Chair of the Wilmette Youth Commission.

Pantry Youth

The Pantry is located at the Township Office at 739 Elm Street in Winnetka. In 2006, volunteers such as Louis Justman of Wilmette, a New Trier High School student, kept the shelves stocked.

 

Our History-New Township Era

 

 

 PublicWelfare


 

Although the topic discussed at the 1950 Annual Town Meeting was civil defense — a response to concerns about the Cold War — the Township’s officials and groups of volunteers were also studying social service needs and planning ways to provide for them.

This approach to the usefulness of Township government was articulated by Keki Bhote who served as Supervisor from 1974 to 1985:
"Other units of local government render basic services such as police and fire protection, roads and sanitation. We specialize in human service to this community."

The Auditors, now called Trustees, began to depend more fully on the recommendations of volunteer committees for allocating funds to agencies that provide social services.

Youth Services

Senior Services

Health & Human Services

Residents with Disabilities

Mental Health Residents in Need of Assistance

 

Youth Services

Mrs. Janet Burgoon, who had served as Public Welfare Director of the Township since 1945, had been working with a planning committee created to study the need for a special child care program. The committee consisted of Dr. Raymond Robertson, Institute for Juvenile Research, State Department of Welfare; Josephine Arthur, Evanston Hospital child psychiatry clinic; Paulette Hartrich, North Shore Mental Health Clinic; Rose Dawson, Glencoe Family Service; Newton Calhoun, Winnetka public school system; Mrs. Stewart McMullen, New Trier Township Citizens League; and Janet Burgoon. The committee asked the Board of Auditors to budget $25,000 for a child care project. The Auditors agreed, though some felt it was too large a sum (March 12, 1955).
The advisory committee had recommended a set of guidelines for the Welfare Director to follow.

In 1969 a special meeting was called at which Rose Dawson, then Director of the Glencoe Family Service, reported on a pilot project for group therapy for young people. She had been running such a program in Glencoe with good results and wished to expand it to include the other villages in the Township. She said that the young people were eager to participate. The Auditors asked what young people were concerned about. Mrs. Dawson listed the cold war, parental pressure, dating, and drugs among the topics they discussed. She added that some parents also needed counseling.

The Township Committee on Youth was formed in 1972 to comply with a State statute that permitted Townships to levy a tax for the purpose of "preventing juvenile delinquency." Serving on the Committee were Frank Temmerman, Lt. James Henry representing a village police department, Dr. Robert Gluckman, Robert Gerrie, and the Rev. Gordon Smith.
In 1974, the Township report stated, this committee recommended funding eleven programs including drop-in centers, an outreach program, a youth employment service, a youth health clinic, a counseling service, and the placement of emotionally disturbed youth in residential treatment centers.

Led by the Committee Chair Bob Neumann, the Committee initiated a dialogue between the police, the social service agencies, and the community. The consensus was that Township youth were doing quite well. The group suggested that young people who had problems were not adjusting to pressures to excel. The police pointed out that 90% of the delinquent acts of minors were committed under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. As a result of this conference, the LINKS Alcohol Program began and a conference on marijuana use was held. The Township brought a national authority, Dr. Robert Gilkerson of Cleveland, to deliver several lectures to students and parents.

The funding of youth programs was not without controversy. At the 1979 Township budget hearing, a group of citizens vociferously objected to funding a program that provided confidential sex counseling. This group also objected to the distribution of a pamphlet concerning young peoples’ rights and responsibilities that had been developed as a pilot project by Dr. Henry Feinberg. The vigorous debate lasted until 11:00 p.m. (this was the only time in Township history that the budget hearing was covered by local television stations). Ultimately the Board voted to give LINKS the funding it requested. The same topic was debated at the Annual Town Meeting in 1980 and again the group that disapproved did not prevail.

In 1999 the Township awarded its first Priority Needs Grant of $30,000 to PEN (Prevention Education Network), a coalition whose mission is prevention of substance abuse among adolescents. The program involves parents, teen-age mentors and the schools. The programs are designed to offer healthy activities that are satisfying alternatives to drug experimentation and use.  In 2007 the Board awarded a one-year direct grant of $20,000 and a $20,000 matching grant to the New Trier Township Alliance for Youth, or TAFY, which is a collaborative effort between LINKS North Shore Youth Services, Peer Services, HAVEN Youth Services and the Wilmette Youth Commission. The objective of the grant was to provide financial support in conducting a needs assessment of youth.

Another service to youth, staffed by volunteers and administered by the Township’s Community Services Administrator, is the Peer Jury Program that began in 1998. With the concurrence of the police departments, the offenders and their parents, volunteer high school students act as jurors in misdemeanor cases. The sentences meted out consist of hours of community service and sometimes written papers about the offense. This Peer Jury Program has gained recognition throughout the area for the quality of its training for jurors. In its first ten years, the jurors have heard more than 300 cases resulting in more than 8,000 hours of community service. The police departments of Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe and Northfield have praised the program’s effectiveness, as have parents.

Health & Human Services

Harking back to the days when the Township posted smallpox cards on the doors of homes that were infected, helping residents to find health care and stay healthy has been a priority. About 1940 the Township Health Officer appears on the roster. This was an appointed position dedicated to controlling communicable diseases in the unincorporated areas of the Township. A few years later the Cook County Health Department became a Health District, and the villages entered into a voluntary agreement to unify the delivery of health services in the Township. Acting on a suggestion from the League of Women Voters of Wilmette, the Township formed a blue-ribbon study group in 1979 made up of public health professionals and civic leaders to examine the availability of health services throughout the Township. One of the primary outcomes was a Health Resource Directory of preventive programs, support groups, agencies specializing in specific diseases, referral sources and adjunct or back-up services.

The Township Health and Human Services Committee was formed in the 1980s to evaluate the Township’s needs beyond mental health and youth. The committee recommended funding to agencies that provide a variety of services to families and family members. The Committee also looked for unmet needs and made recommendations to the Board.

Mental Health
After World War II, the State began to transfer the responsibility for the care and financing of mental health problems to the local communities. It became apparent that the needs of residents and their families required the Township’s attention. At the Annual Town Meeting in 1974 the electorate gave power to the Board to levy a tax to help fund agencies involved in serving the mental health needs of the Township. Revenue Sharing funds that became available in 1972 could also be used.

The Mental Health Advisory Board was formed. This group conducted four community surveys. The first enumerated the agencies that provided mental health services; the second surveyed the referrers – school principals, police, social workers and clergy; the third phase sought information from families in the community about the utilization of available services; and the final part served as a cross-check to see how people rated themselves in the field of mental health.

The survey found that depression, family conflict, marital discord, and drug/alcohol abuse were the most frequent problems. With this information, the committee was able to allocate funding to agencies that serve individuals and families.

Senior Services

The Township has paid particular attention to the needs of its elderly citizens. Both direct and indirect services are offered. The Township Assessor’s office helps senior citizens file for tax relief with the Senior Citizen Homestead Exemption, the Homeowners Exemption, and the Senior Citizen Assessment Freeze Exemption.

Another direct service is providing transportation for elderly residents and persons with disabilities. In 1979 the Township acquired a bus that was used for door-to-door service. After a trial period, the Township found it was more effective and efficient to work with the taxi companies on Dial-A-Ride cards. With a Dial-A-Ride card, a resident who is 65 or older or who is a person with a disability received a subsidy on a taxi fare. When the program was first initiated, the subsidy was $3. In 2011 it had risen to $6 per ride. After eliminating the bus and going to Dial-A-Ride, the use of the service increased. In 2010 more than 1,000 residents were enrolled in the program.

Township residents are fortunate to have the excellent programs of the North Shore Senior Center (NSSC) available. NSSC is a recipient of Township funds for counseling, adult day care, community education, recreation and learning programs. Working with NSSC, the Township was instrumental in setting up a Handyman Program for seniors and currently cooperates in an Escorted Transportation Service for seniors who need transportation assistance to and from medical appointments.

Residents with Disabilities

With the passage of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) legislation in 1990, Townships were mandated to have programs to benefit residents with disabilities. New Trier Township responded by forming the Committee on Disabilities, which is concerned with education, advocacy and outreach for disabled residents. One of the committee’s first programs was designed to acquaint community employers with the needs and abilities of disabled residents. The committee sponsored the appearance of Chris Burke, a popular TV actor who has Down syndrome. In 1998 the committee sponsored an educational program in cooperation with village police departments to publicize the high penalty for illegal parking in handicapped spaces. In 1999 the Committee sponsored a conference on accessibility and inclusion of the disabled in religious services. A follow-up conference was held in 2001 that focused on sharing ways for all faiths to welcome the disabled. In 2011 the committee launched a public awareness campaign to encourage positive action within the business community, this time focusing on accessibility.

In 2005, when remodeling plans were underway for the Metra station in Winnetka, a long ramp was proposed that would have been unsuitable for persons in wheelchairs and others. Thanks in part to the efforts of the Township, the existing elevators were retained.

Over the years, New Trier Township has worked collaboratively with organizations to provide information to people with disabilities and their families and to increase awareness among the business community and general public. Among the programs provided were:

Emergency Preparedness Seminar (2006), which focused on emergency planning for persons with disabilities and how to work cooperatively with local fire and police departments.

Home Sweet Home Conference (2008), which provided information on support services, financial assistance programs, home modifications and more, that enable residents to live at home.

Unlock the Door to Workplace Opportunities (2008) gathered information on resources for employment programs and services offered through WorkABILITY, a program partnership between New Trier Township, Jewish Vocational Service, disabilityworks, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and New Trier Township High School’s Special Education Department.

Volunteer ABILITY (2009) looked at how volunteers with disabilities can help organizations fulfill their mission.

The Business Builder – Disability Awareness Conference (2010) that provided information on how to interact with and make services accessible to people with disabilities, their families and friends.

In addition to advocacy and education, New Trier Township is fortunate to have several agencies devoted to meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. But in 2006 there began a paradigm shift in the manner in which these services were being funded. Money Follows the Person was an initiative identified in the 2007-2012 Strategic Plan that moves funding of needed services from an institutional setting to the community. It provides people with disabilities the freedom to choose where they want to live and get services.

Recognizing that people with disabilities should play a central role in the support they receive, the Township introduced the Community Support Grants program in 2007. Since its inception, this program has provided 114 grants of up to $1,500 each. The grants were issued to adults and children with disabilities to help with services such as speech and occupational therapy, assistive equipment and specialized activities. While the program has no age or income restrictions, it had been limited to persons with severe disabilities.  In 2010, the eligibility criteria were expanded, and funding was increased from $50,000 to $75,000.

In October 2008, WorkABILITY, an initiative to provide employment resources for persons with disabilities, was launched. It is a collaborative program designed to facilitate the employment of persons with disabilities by providing a centralized service within the Township at no charge to residents. Individuals with disabilities, including special needs students, can meet with a specialist at the Township office to create an employment plan.

Residents in Need of Assistance

Financial Assistance

As far back as 1850, Township residents were concerned about their neighbors who could not support themselves or needed emergency financial assistance. Access to state and federal aid programs is often a long, frustrating process. The Township can step in with emergency aid that may pay for urgently needed rent, utilities, or medical care.

The Township Supervisor serves as treasurer and supervisor of the General Assistance Fund. The Social Services Administrator assists the Supervisor by interviewing clients, administering cases, and referring clients to sources of aid.

The General and Emergency Assistance programs are cooperative efforts between the Township and residents whose economic resources are limited or nonexistent. General Assistance provides basic needs for residents who are unemployed or disabled and have no other forms of income or assets. Emergency Assistance provides help for residents faced with life-threatening circumstances or the inability to pay expenses necessary to obtain or maintain employment. By 2011, more than 120 residents were receiving some type of assistance from these two funds.

Yet another resource, is the Angel Fund, a discretionary fund used by the Supervisor and the Social Services Administrator to provide financial help to individuals or families that are in serious financial crises but do not qualify for any government aid program. The Angel Fund is totally funded by voluntary contributions from individuals, religious and service organizations. It is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, so contributions are tax deductible. All the money contributed is used to help residents; there are no administrative costs.

One of the programs provided through the Angel Fund is the Back to School gift card program. Each year, before the opening of the school year in August, the Township distributes gift cards to assist families in need with purchasing school supplies. While in 2008 the Township distributed 144 gift cards, by 2010 that number had increased to 400.

Pantry
The Pantry is among the Township’s most visible services. In the beginning it was stocked by one generous person - Phyllis Baekgaard - who used her own funds to fill the pantry shelves in the old bank vault of the Township building. Currently, the shelves are filled by contributions from individuals, businesses, houses of worship, and community groups.
By 2010 the Pantry saw an average of 289 persons receiving some type of assistance with their grocery needs. Each week more than 100 bags of groceries are distributed, including items not covered by food stamps such as diapers, toilet paper, soap, and laundry detergent.

Employment Services
The Employment Counseling Service was created in 1983 to provide help with job research, resume writing, interviewing, and locating open positions. This was a free service. It also served employers by referring screened job applicants.
In 2007, the Township expanded this service to residents with disabilities through its WorkABILITY initiative. Today, New Trier Township continues to provide referrals to service providers who assist residents in seeking employment.

Child Care
Of course, one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome in obtaining employment and remaining employed is the high cost of child care. In response to this challenge, New Trier Township introduced a Child Care scholarship program in 1993 to provides assistance with payment for child care for income-eligible parents and guardians. In 1999 the program was expanded to include before-and after-school care for school-aged children. In 2000 the program expanded further to cover eligible summer camp programs. The program is designed to help offset the cost for services provided by licensed day care, before-and-after school care, and/or summer day camp programs.

 

Read the next chapter - Citizen Involvement

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