“I feel as if I have come home,” said Peggy, “I am surrounded by dedicated board members, volunteer spirit and commitment to children, families and community that is exceptional. The possibilities with Project HELP are truly endless and it is an exciting time to be part of it!”
As the youngest of seven children, Peggy appreciates the gift of her siblings and parents and believes every child deserves to have strong roots and unconditional love. To that end Peggy feels that strengthening families has always been her calling.
“This line of work is who I am. Plain and simple, I believe in a strong family foundation and all that it provides our community and our world,” said Peggy, “Strong family foundations organize themselves in every conceivable way but most cannot happen in isolation. Education, support, resources and community are necessary to help us all get there. I want to always be in action helping families become their best and strongest possible.”
In her current position as Executive Director of Project HELP, which she took on a little over a year ago, Peggy works to make sure the nonprofit’s mission of empowering parents, nurturing families and strengthening the community, is executed. She does this by overseeing their counselor and volunteers. She is also responsible for ensuring that families get the highest level of care and access to resources. Peggy teaches and runs Project HELP’s Parent Education Workshop program. And, works to ensure funding for the program, with the help of volunteers and board members, so that their services remain free to families.
“At Project HELP, it is ‘All hands on deck’. We are an organization with a small staff and a team of amazing volunteers doing incredible things for families. As the Executive Director of this organization, I am willing to take on any task, large or small, to make it flourish,” said Peggy.
Peggy says flexibility and patience are vital in her line of work. She also believes that having a keen understanding of child development, brain development and family systems is an absolute must. She needs to know how to build relationships with funders and community leaders in one minute and in the next, be able to help a family through homelessness, domestic violence or divorce.
During this fiscal year, Project HELP has served 122 parents with workshops, an increase of almost 100 since Peggy began working there. They also plan on increasing the average number of families being served to 32, up from 13 in prior years, and increasing the number of mentors to meet this need. They plan to also host one workshop a month throughout the county.
In addition to being involved in the Chamber and Women in Business, Peggy and Project HELP are active in the National Exchange Club, are an accredited Child Abuse Prevention Center and received the National Parent Aide of the Year award last year. Peggy also holds leadership roles in many county-wide and Aurora-based Early Childhood and Youth Collaborations.
“The days of ‘my clients, my children, my caseload….etc.’ are over, in my opinion,” said Peggy, “They are ‘our children, our community’. We are all in service together. You have to approach this work without your ego and embrace and enjoy the gift it is to really make a difference together.”
To other women in business, Peggy gives this advice: Be patient with yourself and accept your own strengths and weaknesses. Delegate what you struggle with and let your strengths take you where you want to go and do not feel weak because of it. Work on growing in the areas where you need some help. Search for mentors, support systems and people who are interested in seeing you succeed.
And because life can be feel very heavy in the day to day work at Project HELP, Peggy finds that laughter is the key to her happiness.
“I fill my life with those that make me laugh and see the lighter version of this life,” Peggy said, “If I can’t find a family member or friend to share a laugh with, I go straight for my dogs. They love, respect and smile at me and they don’t talk. Seeing my pooches happy and oblivious is good for my soul.”
By: Angela Bender, Marketing and Communications Associate
Headquartered in Naperville, IL since 1999, Naperville CARES is where the community comes together to ensure all our neighbors have access to resources to meet their essential needs. The CARES Emergency Assistance Program provides emergency financial assistance to pay for basic needs like rent and utilities. The goal of the CARES Car Program is to help individuals maintain employment by providing reliable transportation by either providing a client with a donated vehicle or repairing client-owned vehicles.