Homecoming Open House Offers Valuable Insights
When it comes to gaining a deeper appreciation of Mercy Home’s impact on young lives, there’s no substitute for hearing directly from those who dedicate themselves to providing healing and hope to young people and families every day.
And after three years of virtual interactions and Covid safety restrictions on visitors and coworkers alike, Mercy Home threw open its doors on February 28 and welcomed members of all of its boards back home. The “Mercy Homecoming,” as it was billed, was the first event of its kind at the Home since 2019 and allowed members of our Regents, Emeritus, Leader Council, Associate, and Ambassador boards and their guests to learn more critical aspects of our work.
“You’re all folks who one way or another found Mercy Home,” Fr. Scott said in his opening remarks, leveraging analogies from the Parable of the Pearl in Matthew’s Gospel, in which a merchant sells all to purchase a pearl because he recognizes its worth.
You are truly agents of transformation in this world of ours. The support you give our coworkers and me makes all the difference in the world.
“And you said this has value. I want this to be a part of my life. This is something I can give my gifts to, my talents, my treasure, my time—because you recognize the value of the mission, the ministry, the work that we do here.”
Fr. Scott thanked our members and their guests for choosing to be part of our mission, no matter how they found their way to our door. “You are truly agents of transformation in this world of ours,” he said. “The support you give our coworkers and me makes all the difference in the world.”
New Mercy Home COO Joe Wronka then sent guests, who were split into four groups, to cycle between four presentations throughout the West Loop Campus.
Daniel Nelson, Kevin Felisme, Ashley Monroe-Turner, and Tom Gilardi told guests about the services we provide for former residents and members of their families, as well as those involved in our Friends First mentoring program. Nelson noted how the program evolved and expanded focus as a result of the Covid crisis, which hit our Home exactly three years ago. Community Care’s presentation focused on the six core principles of its relationship with its members and the investment that they are encouraged to make in order to succeed. It also underscored the value of continued connection that the Home provides former residents through this program.
Marlin Exton, Brittany Terrell, and Sergio Rodriguez hosted guests in the Learning Center to discuss how our educational supports are intertwined with our therapeutic ones. They immediately dispelled the notion that education and therapy are separate endeavors. They also discussed the way the program tailors educational and career experiences to what our young people hope to become and how we work to keep them engaged in learning at all times.
Kari Sikich, Amy Schulz and Gewanda Monroe used an interactive “choose your journey” digital presentation to demonstrate the kinds of choices that kids and caregivers face when considering Mercy Home. Monroe said that parts of the process are designed to empower kids who come to us seeking help. “A lot of kids have lost power in their lives,” she said. “Giving them choices and power back [through the admissions process] becomes very important.”
Sikich described the two-way street that runs through the admissions journey. “We do so much to gather whether they’re a fit for us [Mercy Home] that we want to make sure we’re a fit for them as well.”
Finally, Keli Shllaku and Taylor Housing welcomed guests to Speh Home to discuss the therapeutic and educational routines of kids in residence, touching on ways program coworkers help young people self-regulate, encourage a family-like atmosphere, and practice accountability.
Housing, the Speh therapist, also clarified notions of how therapy works in program, dispelling the popular notion that it exclusively takes place through one-on-one talking sessions between a youth and a professional. She noted that while it’s difficult for a lot of young people to sit and talk to an adult in an office, therapeutic activities can take many more active forms like arts and crafts, walking outside, or group conversations with peers about how events in the world impact them.
Speh resident Marc then provided a brief tour of the living spaces and took guests through a typical day in his life.
The event was well received, with members extending words like pride, gratitude, hope, personal, and powerful to describe their experience. The exploration of our programs arguably hit even closer to home for at least five board members on hand who had lived at Mercy Home years ago.
Reflecting on the sessions before members enjoyed a social hour and dinner, Fr. Scott returned to the image of finding something of great value in Mercy Home. He said he felt nourished by all he had heard and seen throughout the afternoon and by the enthusiasm and generosity of our coworkers in presenting the story of Mercy Home. He concluded with a note of gratitude to all involved, including the board members and donors everywhere who have invested in this mission.
“You were searching for that fine pearl,” he said. “I think you found that at Mercy Home. And we certainly found that in you.”