“We started as a group of Lake Forest and Lake Bluff women 27 years ago with six or seven women. Now, we’re at 160,” says Jan Elwart, president of the Women’s Board of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago, Lake County Services. Elwart has been a member of the organization for 13 years, and she first became involved through friends who invited her to see what the organization is all about. “That’s often how women become aware of the Women’s Board of Catholic Charities, and a lot of our members have been on the board for a very long time.”
In other words, this is a close-knit organization that has grown over time because of the efforts of a committed group of women who believe in its mission to raise funds for Catholic Charities of Lake County, which in turn provides support to those in need in variety of capacities in the community. The largest fundraising event of the year for the Women’s Board will take place this month at the Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park. The 27th Annual Art of Caring, set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, will raise close to $300,000 for Lake County residents who need help, regardless of their religion, race, or economics. The Honorary chairs for this year’s event are Mary and Norm Carlson of Lake Forest.
Michele Medzigian and Ann Patterson are co-chairs for this year’s event. Both women have been involved with the Women’s Board for a considerable number of years—Medzigian for 12 and Patterson for, well, too many for her to remember exactly. “It’s a really wonderful group of women, and there are so many different ways to get involved,” says Medzigian. “I feel like I’m helping my neighbors nearby, and you can see the impact on families in Lake County. I’m really proud to be involved.”
The last few months and weeks leading up to the event are filled with invitations, donations, and planning other event details for Medzigian and Patterson. Like many other fundraising events, Art of Caring will have a seated dinner, dancing, a raffle, live auction, and paddle raise. But this event also has something you usually don’t find at fundraising events: art.
“When Art of Caring first started in 1990, it was an art show held at West Lake Forest Train Station,” Patterson says. Local artists contributed some of their pieces to be sold during the event, and all the proceeds went to Catholic Charities. “Now, 27 years later, we still have art at the event, and lots of other things, too,” she says. This year’s event will have artwork from 16 local, well-known artists for sale.
The theme this year is “A Touch of Red,” symbolizing how a little touch of red—or a little help from Catholic Charities, which is identified by its bright red logo—can touch lives in Lake County.
“Red is passion. Red is energy,” Medzigian says. “We’re celebrating all the good Catholic Charities does in our community.”
This year, the group is honored to have Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich in attendance. Other event highlights include a live auction with trips and experiences, a $5,000 cash raffle, and an after-dinner performance by The Cover Girls, a group of rock violinists.
Medzigian shares some of the programs that funds raised at the Art of Caring will go to, including the Family Self- Sufficiency Program, designed to help single-parent families who are trying to move forward become independent and find stability in their future. Another one is the Samaritan Hope Program for homeless mothers and their children who need to get into a safer, more stable environment. Funds also go to the Emergency Services Program open to anyone who needs help during a crisis, whether it’s a warm coat during the winter or emergency shelter and food. Some of the other programs include Meals on Wheels, senior outreach, counseling, a food pantry, and the Lake County Diaper Depot.
“Catholic Charities of Lake County is part of the larger Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, but Lake County alone serves over 55,000 people each year,” says Elwart.
“We provide services that span everything from maternity and adoption care to assistance for seniors and veterans. It’s such a broad array of programs and services that Catholic Charities is able to offer. It’s truly an amazing organization, and it’s so exciting to see women who want to share in the commitment to what Catholic Charities is doing.”
“The Art of Caring” hosted by the Women’s Board of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Chicago, Lake County Services will take place on Saturday, May 21 at 6 p.m. at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park.
For information and tickets, go to catholiccharities.net/artofcaring, or contact Mary Ellen Mason at 847-782-4115.