Meet two of our Board Members, Jim Gimpel and Jo Reizner!
Q: What is your name and position/responsibility on the Selfhelp Board?
JIM: My name is Jim Gimpel, and I’ve been on the Board since April 2020. I was recently asked to chair the Facilities Committee.
JO: I’m Jo Reizner and have been on the Selfhelp Board since April 2020. I am currently a member of the Executive Committee.
Q: Where do you live and with whom?
BOTH: We have lived in Hyde Park, on the south side of Chicago, for 36 years, raised our two daughters here, and have been long-time members of Congregation Rodfei Zedek. We’re currently empty nesters, with the exception of our 13-year-old “puppy,” Maggie.
Q: Where did you grow up and attend high school and college?
JIM: I grew up in Laurelton, New York, until I was 13 years old, where I attended the Yeshivah of Central Queens. When we moved to the Midwest, we settled in Aurora, Illinois, and lived one block from the only synagogue in that city so that my grandmother, who was Orthodox and lived with us, could walk to shul every Shabbat. After high school, I attended the University of Illinois in Champaign and majored in architecture. My Master’s degree had a focus on structural engineering.
JO: I am a lifelong Chicagoan, born in South Shore, raised in Highland Park, and now living in Hyde Park. I graduated from Highland Park High School and attended Northwestern University and the University of Illinois, graduating with a degree in Economics. I also attended the University of Chicago Executive MBA program but was interrupted in that endeavor by the birth of our first child, Hillary. It turns out that motherhood has provided me with a much more interesting and rewarding education!
Q: Do/did you work outside your home? If so, what do/did you do for a living?
JIM: I started working at a small architectural firm in Aurora where I was exposed to all aspects of the profession, literally starting at the ground. I learned how to survey and draw the contours of an empty field. I used my skills to design many different types of facilities, prepared engineering documents, built presentation models, and had a lot of customer-facing responsibilities. I was a victim of the economic downturn in 1979-1980 and found myself shifting professions to a related field in real-estate property management. I was responsible for managing many different types of properties including some high rises along Lake Shore Drive and learned about the maintenance and upkeep of many older buildings.
Subsequently, I became the University Architect at the University of Chicago and later accepted the position of Associate Vice Chancellor for Capital Programs at the University of Illinois. Later, I became Director and Executive Architect of the South Campus Expansion. My final career move was to accept the position as the Director of Facility Development for the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and I retired with great pride and satisfaction at the completion of that once-in-a-lifetime project.
JO: I began my career in a medium-sized property management firm in Evanston, where I worked for eight years. The following 23 years, I was the vice-president for Real Estate Operations (REO) at the University of Chicago. REO was a microcosm of the real estate industry, involved in all aspects of the field, including buying, selling, developing, financing, and managing of residential, commercial, and office buildings. A non-academic auxiliary of the University of Chicago, REO was, in essence, a $35M company with over 75 employees. The business oversaw about $250M of real estate assets, consisting of 2,000 residential units in over 100 buildings, and several hundred thousand square feet of retail, commercial, and office space.
Q: What are five words that best describe you?
JIM: Detailed, dedicated, honest, kind-hearted, husband/father/grandfather.
JO: Funny, grandmother/mother/wife, music-loving, extroverted introvert, reliably kind, and caring.
Q: What is your connection to Selfhelp? When did you first learn about us?
JIM: My father, Max Gimpel, z”l, lived in Sun City Arizona with my mother, Alice, z”l. At 95, a few years after my mother’s passing, we helped Max move back to Chicago and came straight to The Selfhelp Home. We learned about Selfhelp earlier from Congregation Rodfei Zedek congregants who had moved there and from friends who had volunteered to do Friday Night Services. After Dad moved in, I, too, volunteered to do Kabbalat Shabbat Services, which unfortunately ended when COVID started.
JO: I remember Selfhelp from ages ago when we brought our children’s Hebrew School class to the building to sing Chanukah songs to the residents. We became re-acquainted with Selfhelp when Dad (Jim’s father, Max) moved here from Arizona upon the strong recommendation of two dear friends/fellow congregants whose mothers were living here.
Q: What is your favorite memory of Selfhelp?
JIM: I don’t have a single memory but a stream of visions of my father and the added years to his life that Selfhelp gave him and us.
JO: My favorite memories are of how happy Dad was living here, how well-cared for he always was, and the comfort we had in knowing that Dad was “seen” and treated with respect.
Q: How do you describe Selfhelp when you tell people about the organization?
JIM: I describe Selfhelp as haimish, but it goes far deeper than just a cozy, friendly, and warm environment. The care and treatment of the residents with the utmost respect is only matched by the warmth and friendliness of the staff toward the residents. They truly enjoy their work, and it shows in the treatment of the residents.
JO: I always start off by telling people what Jim stated above–that the care and overall environment at Selfhelp undoubtedly gave us the gift of many more years with Dad than we would otherwise have had. Selfhelp is an organization of people caring for people, not staff caring for residents, and it shows.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JIM & JO: Selfhelp is an anomaly, in the very best way, among other institutions offering a similar set of services. The accolades and annual five-star ratings earned by Selfhelp that continuously set it apart from others in the field are all very well deserved and reflect the hard work and dedication of the wonderful staff. We were very grateful to be the beneficiaries of this wonderful organization.