Loyola: Misericordia is Rogers Park's Hidden Community
Misericordia is a community located in Rogers Park for people
with special needs. (Photo by Kristen Aguirre)
By Catherine Durkin and Kristen Aguirre
The Red Line Project
Posted: Monday, Dec. 4, 2010
For the past 18 years Tina Stendardo wakes up, gets ready, and heads to work, where she strives to help people with intellectual disabilities do the exact same thing. Enhancing the lives of others with special needs is her passion, which correlates with the values of Misericordia.
Stendardo is the developmental training director at Misericordia, a not-for-profit corporation that houses individuals with developmental disabilities. As the developmental training director, she oversees the work programming at the organization. Stendardo has worked with Misericordia for almost two decades, and says her experience has been anything short of “wonderful.”
“As corny as it sounds there is such a family feel here,” Stendardo said. “For an organization who has 1,000 employees and 600 residents and so many things coming and going, there really is a nice family feel at Misericordia.”
Podcast: Tina Stendardo discusses how Misericordia allows its residents to feel like they belong in this world and are part of a special community.
The Misericordia Heart of Mercy home is a community of care for more than 600 children and adults, who suffer from mild to profound developmental disabilities. The organization is located in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, on a sprawling 31-acre campus with a variety housing options for individuals to live as independently as possible.
“We believe that the people who live here have a life worth living,” Stendardo said. “It is about all of us supporting these residents and making sure they have the most meaningful lives and that’s how u build a community.”
But Misericordia does more than simply giving its residents a place to live; according to Stendardo, the organization maximizes their level of independence and self-determination. This is done through a variety of ways, such as job placement which Stendardo believes is the most important.
Misericordia has a core group of residents that work around the surrounding area, at retail businesses and organizations such as Jewel, Lowes, and Best Buddies. The corporation also works through enclave employment, which consists of a job coach taking residents to various work sites and completing the task under the supervision of the coach.
“What that does is it really allows the residents who are more severely disabled to have a job in the community because they work really hard but they might need supervision or verbal prompt,” Stendardo said.
“The businesses really enjoy this service because it ensures that the work gets done,” Stendaro said. “It has open up the doors to give residents opportunities that they did not think they would get. And in this economy to say we were able to have 30 additional jobs from last year is very impressive and we are really proud of that.”
Tina Stendardo is the developmental training director
at Misericordia. (Photo by Kristen Aguirre)
Groups and activities at Misericordia also play a pivotal role in resident’s lives. While job placements programs help residents be more self-sufficient through working on campus, groups like The Heartbreakers help improve residents self-worth says Gail Wojciechowski.
Wojciechowski is the director of recreation and leisure at Misericordia as well as the director of The Heartbreakers, a group of enthusiastic dancers who perform at shows and fundraisers throughout the year.
“Being in The Heartbreakers builds their self-esteem and confidence as well as social skills,” Wojciechowski said. “There were a few residents who when they started in the group would come to practice and sit alone. But after being involved in the group they become best friends with their peers.”
Connecting with peers outside Misericordia is also important for both the residents and the corporation. Besides having the college campus like land, Misericordia also owns seven townhomes located throughout Rogers Park, for residents to live in. This allows them to meet people in the community, and in turn allows the community to learn and meet the residents of Misericordia.
“It’s really important to us to stay connected to our community and it’s really important that we have a restaurant, and one of the main purposes of it is PR,” Stendardo said. “We certainly want people to come visit and see what we are about and to know that they are welcome to visit us.”
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 57.7 million people in the United States suffers from a mental illness. One in 17 adults suffer from a serious mental disorder in a given year, as the disease itself accounts for over 15 percent of the burden of diseases in the United States. Misericordia’s mission is to aid those 15 percent living in the Chicagoland area, and Stendardo’s hopes that, that will never stop.
“I hope that we can continue forever because there is always going to be a need to work with our population, to serve and support them,” Stendardo said.
Interactive Map: Misericorida's location and where sites of the Enclave Employment Program are as well.
View Misericordia Heart of Mercy Home in a larger map