When Raheela Anwar was a young mother new to Winnetka more than two decades ago, neighbors encouraged her to visit Winnetka’s Community House as a way to meet other residents.
“I had a three-year-old and a three-month-old and I was working all of the time,” says Anwar, a married mother of three and President and CEO of an exciting new human capital consulting company that launched in October 2020 called Group 360. “But I found a class to join at the Community House called ‘Moms & Tots’ and it was just what I needed at that time.”
Meeting people where they are and making accessible offerings is the secret sauce to what has made Winnetka’s Community House a hub for meaningful local activity for more than 100 years.
The Community House offers a wide range of programs that fit the needs of families. Whether you’re new to the Winnetka community or a long-time resident looking for activities for your family, the Community House has the answer. The performing arts programs include dance, theater, and more. The education programs touch on everything from early childhood development to dog obedience. The sports programs teach the fundamentals of youth basketball, gymnastics, and floor hockey—to name a few—in a non-competitive, fun environment. Or, you can spark your creativity with the exceptional enrichment and arts programs.
“I remember when my daughter so badly wanted to take karate,” says Anwar with a laugh. “I wasn’t sure how we could make this work with our schedules, but the Community House offered a karate class three days a week that my daughter loved. This is how I ended up joining the Community House’s Fitness Center. I worked out while my daughter was in class—it was great.”
Anwar is a wonderful example of people who find their way to the Community House through its family programming and then stay on as a board member to ensure its continued success.
“I’ve always been very involved philanthropically, and I tend to plant my flag in places that I have a personal connection to,” she says. “The Evanston Library where I learned to read or Northwestern University where I went to college are two examples. The Board of Governors at the Community House was a natural next step for me after being a part of its programs and serving on the Woman’s Board and taking on a number of its leadership roles.”
Like Anwar, Peter Eatherton, the vice chair of the Board of Governors, discovered the magic of the Community House after he moved to Winnetka.
“Peter and I served together on the board for the Counseling Center of the North Shore,” Anwar explains. “When he and his family moved here, it wasn’t long before they were taking different classes or enrolling their children in a variety of Community House programs. When I asked Peter to join our board, he did so without hesitation. He wanted to give back to an organization that had given so much to his family.”
It has become an intrinsic part of the mission of the Board of Governors to perpetuate a multi-generational succession plan for the Community House’s leadership that is representative of the community it serves. This fall, the Community House will launch a capital campaign to raise funding for initiatives that will continue to make the customer experience at the Community House best in class.
“There is a reason why we’re obsessed with the Community House,” Anwar says. “We believe in it so strongly. I can’t even tell you how amazing the fellow governors on our board are. There is such a wide range of accomplished, caring people that are committed to the Community House’s success. I look forward to every one of our board meetings. It’s work, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
To learn more about the Community House in Winnetka, visit mycommunityhouse.org.