Pictured: Resident Phyllis Toback (left) and Fern Shaffer (right)
Resident generously sponsors renovation of the women’s locker room to show gratitude to the staff.
Selfhelp resident, Phyllis Toback, wanted to give something special to the staff who she feels are a wonderful group of hardworking people (and she’s right!). Phyllis also wanted to honor former staff member, Fern Shaffer, who recently retired after a 30 year career at Selfhelp. This special space is now called “The Toback-Shaffer Women’s Lounge”. Phyllis shares the touching story behind this meaningful project:
“I moved to The Selfhelp Home six years ago when my husband (Dr. Gary Toback) was killed suddenly and tragically by a van while jogging. Recently I have been reflecting on the history of the residents and the staff. I became involved in a project to renovate the Women Employees’ Locker Room. I had noticed that this room, next to the well-used residents’ Activity Room (which staff member Fern Shaffer had spearheaded for more than thirty years) had not been renovated since before she arrived. I wanted to celebrate Fern’s service at her retirement. I also wanted to honor and support the personal aide and dietary staff, so many of whom have been immigrants and refugees from all over the world.
I have been much moved by efforts of managers (many of whom themselves have been immigrants and “survivors”) to provide jobs, language support, skills and professional advancement opportunities to so many who came to Chicago with very little. This ties in very strongly for me with the idea of the founding of The Selfhelp Home, which was about the vision, generosity of time, money, and effort to support the survivors of the Holocaust. I also see myself and many others who have moved into Selfhelp as residents as “strangers” because of unfortunate events like widowhood, divorce, physical and mental disablement. We have all had to make adjustments, often of great magnitude. I celebrate and give thanks for the vision of Selfhelp to provide for those of us who are “Strangers in a Strange Land” (Exodus 2:22).”
We recently celebrated the unveiling of our new women’s staff locker room renovations with a ribbon cutting ceremony. At the ceremony, Phyllis shared more about the meaning behind the theme of the locker room, “Welcoming the stranger”:
“For 75 years, Selfhelp has been a place that welcomes the stranger, so that was the theme of this renovation and the mission for me. When Moses was coming to meet his wife and they had a new child, Moses said he’s going to free the Israelites from Egypt: ‘I am a stranger in a foreign land.’ It was a biblical verse. Moses then named his son Gershom (Gary) which is a Hebrew name for ‘a stranger there’. Gary was also my husband’s name.”
Phyllis had the following printed on a canvas for the locker room, she wanted to make sure it was also printed in Spanish because of Selfhelp’s diverse staff:
“I have been a stranger in a strange land. He sido una extraña en una tierra extraña.”
We’re grateful for Phyllis’ generosity toward our home and appreciation for our staff. Phyllis joins the hundreds of other individuals and organizations whose donations help us refresh and update our Home away from home. Next up is our roof top renovation project, which started in September and should be finished in time for us to enjoy the roof in Summer 2023. Thank you to Phyllis and to all of our generous partners for their love and care for Selfhelp!
Kudos to the Maintenance crew (David, Carlos, Manny and Andres) for renovating the women’s bathroom and locker room so beautifully. They added new flooring, better lighting, new lockers, and a new bathroom! We love to see our community come together to make something special happen at Selfhelp.
View highlights from the ribbon cutting ceremony below…