Mission & History > Our History
Extraordinary Accomplishments Through Generations of Leadership
Acquiring the First House
The rich and dynamic history of The Community House began in 1941 when a group of residents recognized there was a growing need to support and serve the community. Committed to the belief that the community should take care of its own as the nation entered World War II, they set in motion a series of extraordinary accomplishments that took the organization from its original location in downtown Hinsdale, through moves, renovations and expansions, to our present facility. Through the culmination of generations of leadership, The Community House meets the daily needs of today’s community in ever more relevant ways.
In 1941, The Community House opened its doors in a former men’s club in downtown Hinsdale. The nation was entering World War II and many residents would soon be asked to serve their country both abroad and near home. There was a strong need for community support and service. The founding of The Community House occurred as the result of a rich mix of fortunate events.
- An organizing group, including several members of the disbanding men’s club, armed with the conviction that this community should take care of its own social needs created a plan requiring approximately $30,000 to secure the facility and two years of operating funds.
- The founder’s willingness to lead the effort with their own generous gifts challenged the community to join the effort.
- The club’s landlord volunteered to contribute his equity in the building in exchange for satisfaction of the mortgage.
- The broader community’s response included: gifts and promises of financial support from 365 of 1981 homes surveyed, over 500 households supported the campaign in some way, The Women’s Club and Fortnightly made significant contributions and promises of support in exchange for meeting space and The Hinsdale Doings provided support for community awareness. As a result, we started life as an organization with no debt on our facility.
Building the Second House
- The economy of post-World War II years led to significant growth for the villages in our service area. As a result of the expanded service offerings needed by the growing community, the original building was in desperate need of repair and expansion. Booming business in the village limited parking and accessibility. Fortunately, growth in the business area also meant that the property had increased in value. The Board of Trustees determined that moving to a new location could improve the organization’s financial position.
- An ideal location was found in the heart of Hinsdale’s residential neighborhood, a twenty-five-acre piece of property co-owned by the Village of Hinsdale and School District 181. The three organizations, through an amicable, mutually beneficial and community-minded agreement, essentially traded property.
- The community response to the challenge was led by another generation of leaders, many new to the area and anxious to be part of something that would enhance life in the community. Once again, our leaders donated funds and volunteered time. Over $900,000 was raised and the relatively small amount of debt needed to complete the move and build the new building was retired within six years. A small remaining debt was retired over the next six years. The Community House was again free of debt and on a solid foundation.
Renovating and Expanding the House
In 2001, The Community House entered the new millennium with a carefully conceived combination of existing and new space. This time of global tension and disruption and regular natural disaster, had again stressed the need for local communities to take care of their own. Extensive planning and coordination of community and individual resources and extraordinary leadership again were hallmarks of the process:
- Explosive program growth (more than 350% increase in the number of programs / participants) led a group of trustees and community leaders in 1996 to examine the area’s changing needs, assess the physical limitations of the current facility, and research several of the region’s premier community centers.
- Focus groups of community residents revealed enthusiastic support for plans to add an 18,000-square-foot fieldhouse and to renovate, reconfigure and restore the existing facility from top to bottom. We broke ground on the project in 2000.
- Funding this project, which cost close to $9 million, during a time of uncertainty was challenging. The project was ultimately financed through a combination of generous individual and corporate contributions, grants, existing reserves, dedicated endowment funds and tax exempt bonds.
- A third generation of volunteer leadership that had embraced The Community House over the previous 25 years stepped up to this challenge. This generation had already given significant time and talent to help dramatically expand our programs and services. They took on this major capital campaign to sustain this community treasure and raised more than $5.2 million on a goal of $5 million.
The Community House Programs Today
Over the years, The Community House has been the place people turned to launch new programs, incubate and stabilize vital services, and collaborate to meet local needs. Today we offer a range of programs for all ages that fill important gaps and improve our community’s quality of life.
A snapshot of our current programs and services:
- In 2008, we welcomed Charlie’s Gift Autism Center as our newest program. Charlie’s Gift became part of The Community House in response to the community’s passion to bring resources together under one roof, to serve children and families impacted by Autism.
- In 2007, The Community House took leadership of the Hinsdale Youth Center, where we offer programming for middle school aged students. We offer a variety of popular trips, programs and parties for this often underserved age group.
- In 1994, The Community House joined a coalition of service organizations to provide education support to children and families in the local neighborhood of Willowbrook Corner. In 2002 we took on the lead role of the coalition. Our Willowbrook Corner programs support academic success and enrichment activities.
- Volunteer Services and Active Adults Senior Programs were established in 1970’s, to strengthen our connections with local neighborhoods, and provide opportunities to get involved and give back.
- In 1978, Counseling Services were established to ensure our communities have access to highly qualified counseling and psychotherapy, in a confidential setting.
- Community recreation and theater for youth and adults have been part of the fabric of The Community House since 1943! These activities are the backbone of what we do, and help make The Community House a vital, beloved resource for all generations!
It is the synergy of our combined offerings and impact that makes us unique. The Community House is the only nonprofit organization that delivers both quality recreation and affordable social services that are deeply rooted in the community. We invite you to explore our website or visit our locations, to see what we can offer you and your family!