Meet Art Kohn, a Board Member of The Selfhelp Home since 2020 and the Chairman of the Facilities Committee…
Q: When did you first learn about SHH?
A: There are actually two parts to my exposure to SHH. In 1965, my mother remarried and our combined families joined Temple B’nai Yehuda. The congregation included German and European immigrants, several Holocaust survivors (one being my mother’s best friend) and I was aware that some members were involved in various capacities at SHH in Hyde Park and possibly the new Argyle location. More recently, in 2015 our family was looking into a new home for my mother and we learned that over the years, SHH had expanded its Argyle facility to include assisted living apartments and a skilled care floor. While SHH’s location and services didn’t fit our needs at that time, it was added to the list of possible future homes for my mother.
Q. Your mother lived at Selfhelp, how long was she here and when?
A. In 2017, my mother was still living in Glenview and had been hospitalized several times with pneumonia, the last time she ended up at Evanston Hospital. Knowing that she would need to rehab and that her needs had changed, I contacted SHH about her moving there permanently. We met with Liza Steinfeld and we finalized the arrangements for my mother to move into SHH. After a short stay on the 6th floor, my mother moved to the 8th floor where she resided until her passing in September of 2020.
Q. What brought you from being a family member to joining a committee?
A. I guess it was somewhat of a gradual process that fed off my history of mentoring and capacity to improve how organizations function on behalf of and for their clients. SHH, as do most elder care facilities, give the residents weekly menus to choose from various meal options. My mother wasn’t really able to fill out the menus by herself, so I would sit down with her to do them. Though I’m certain they sufficed for many years, I found the menus at SHH suffered clarity from countless edits and loss of formatting. Having fairly extensive experience working with computers and various software, I was confident that I could reformat the menus to make them easier for residents to fill out, which in turn would make it easier for kitchen staff to serve meals. In the fall of 2018 I approached Sofia Metovic and asked if I could take a shot at revamping the menus. Sofia was thrilled that I offered my help and over the next several months we came up with a re-design that, with some tweaks, is still being used now.
Q. When did you join the facilities committee?
A. I actually began working with the facilities committee as a volunteer in July 2019. As would be the case for most organizations, the main focus of the facilities committee is planning for SHH’s future needs and building improvements. The timing couldn’t have been better as it was right at the beginning of the development work on the master plan for the remodeling of the first floor. It was also nearing the time when budgets were being submitted for the next fiscal year.
Q. Why did you join that committee?
A. During the time I was working on the menus, Sofia became aware that I was a retired construction project manager and that I was an active member on the condominium board where I lived. I’m certain that Sofia put in a good word to management, which resulted in my being asked if I would be interested in volunteering some time to lend my expertise to the facilities committee. As is my nature, I kind of dove right in and helped to move projects forward. After working with Sheila Cahnman and SHH’s management for several months, I was invited to join the BOD in February 2020 and to take over the chairmanship of the facilities committee.
Q. What is the committee working on now?
A. The main focus of the committee is working with SHH’s management to address maintenance and building improvements. We act as the Board’s overseer in recommending projects for approval and then providing guidance to management. We are currently near completion of the Social Hall renovation which is Phase I of the first floor remodeling. Moving ahead, plans are now in process for remodeling the roof deck and replacing the 9th floor roofs. Looking further into the future, the bulk of our committee work involves major repair & replacement projects to make sure the building is in tip-top condition and, as possible, upgraded to exceed industry standards in regards to comfort and safety. One of my objectives is to implement a more comprehensive long range plan for anticipating SHH’s building maintenance and renovation needs and the associated expenditures.
Q. Has it been a fulfilling experience for you?
A. I was raised with a belief that giving of oneself is an important part of community. I think that SHH’s mission is, and has been, an essential part of both the Jewish and local communities in Chicago and is deserving of as much support as it can garner. The fact that I can contribute, even in a small way, to preserving this institution is very fulfilling.
Q. How often are you at Selfhelp?
A. Many of the tasks undertaken by the committee require building visits and the pandemic has made things more difficult, but I have generally fulfilled the need by stopping by for an hour or two about three times a month.
Q. What’s your favorite part about visiting The Selfhelp Home?
A. During the time my mother was living at SHH, I enjoyed that some of the residents had roots that tied to my family and friends as well as the Chicago Jewish community. Other residents shared experiences that resonated with my upbringing, so it’s always nice to see them again. Additionally, I came to know quite a few staff members and it’s equally nice to see them as well. That said, I guess one other thing is witnessing how SHH is preserving a way of life for the Jewish community of Chicagoland and the reward of knowing I will be a part of that effort.
Q. What else do you want to share that I didn’t ask?
A. I’d just like to add that I think SHH is a very important part of the Jewish community and is worthy of our support be it through contributing one’s time and/or helping financially.