Founded in 1930, Family Service of Lake County has provided mental health counseling, senior and caregiver services, and Latino and youth services in Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, and the surrounding community for decades.
And yet, it’s an organization whose name isn’t as widely known as it should be. Nancy Sawle-Knobloch and Carrie Callas are the two women leading the way to change that. “I’ve lived on the North Shore for the past 10 years,” says Sawle-Knobloch, president of the board. She retired from Kraft Foods and moved from Michigan to the Chicago area. “A Family Service board member cornered me at a bat mitzvah of all places and said, ‘You should be on our board.’ At that time, I didn’t even know it existed,” she admits.
Sawle-Knobloch has served as the board for the four years since, serving in a variety of roles—most recently as board president. One of her key responsibilities, in addition to governance and funding, is to support Family Service’s new executive director, Carrie Callas, who joined the organization a little more than six months ago. Together, one of their key goals is to get the word out about Family Service and make it a known commodity in the community.
As executive director, Callas is responsible for strategic planning, partnerships, and fundraising. Most importantly, she wants to move the program forward and make sure it’s represented in the community.
“Our core programming is counseling and mental health services,” she continues. “That has evolved over time to serve more communities.” In addition, she says senior and caregiver services have expanded and now include respite care and financial services help. Callas tells the story of a couple that had been married for 50 years, and the wife had become her husband’s caregiver. “For a year, she had barely left her house, and was previously very active in the community,” she says. “Our case manager was able to identify a few needed services, setting her up with respite care, and it was shocking to her that there was a service to help her.”
Callas believes Family Service excels at helping youth. “I think our staff is really wonderful with youth and the emerging needs of youth both from counseling perspective and with academic interventions within the schools. Middle school through high school is such a time of transition and growth, and kids really need guidance and intervention to help them go on the right path to succeed. That’s a place we can really grow, and that’s what really excites me.”
Family Service has recently launched a youth and family counseling program at CROYA in Lake Forest called GROW (Guidance, Resources, and Options for Wellness), offering individual sessions of youth and family counseling. Many topics address depression, self-esteem, and relationship issues. Despite the fact that Lake County’s aging population continues to grow (which will mean more needs for seniors), Sawle-Knobloch is focused on the impact that intervention and counseling services can have on young people—catching them even earlier in life than they are now. “If we catch these kids early, then who knows? Maybe we could eliminate the high school program if we help them educationally and emotionally early in their lives,” she says. And you can tell that Sawle-Knobloch is thinking about options right there during our discussion. Callas joins in the conversation too, providing a few of her own ideas. You can tell this is what’s making a difference right now at Family Service of Lake County.
Both of these women are committed to providing exemplary services for the community, but they are not content with the status quo. They want to makes changes and grow Family Service in a smart, strategic way.
Which is why community outreach is so important right now for Family Service. “Community awareness of our services is one of our key goals and initiatives in the coming year,” says Callas, especially in order to establish and keep relationships with some of the key referral providers in the county like the hospitals, schools and police departments. “We are developing new ways to reach people, and focusing on vision and goals for our programs in the next three years. We want to make sure community residents who need our services know about us,” she says.
To learn more about Family Service of Lake County, visit famservice.org.