Group of teenagers hanging out at Aunt Martha's original drop-in center

A Response to a Need that Everyone Has

50 Years 50 Stories

Where were you in ’72?

As Aunt Martha’s became a trusted source for youth in the area, the staff and volunteers quickly realized that unless the needs of the whole family were being addressed, supporting the youth was only addressing a piece of a greater set of challenges.

In 1975, youth services were expanded, and foster care placements increased. By 1976, Aunt Martha’s license was approved as a child welfare agency, paving the way to open our first Group Home and Teen Health Clinic with volunteer counselors and OBGYN practitioners.

“Aunt Martha’s is a response to a natural need that everyone has. When there is no one around to listen or understand or share, [we’re] a place to go where someone will listen and want to help.”
– Gary Leofanti, Founding Executive Director, December 1972

Park Forest was considered a great environment for these services, as one of the more progressive communities in the area filled with incredible volunteers and organizations who believed in the innovation and dedication of Aunt Martha’s in these early days.

In addition to participating in these early programs, the volunteers and young staff were always treated as equals and given opportunities to grow personally and professionally.

Early staff share stories of a thorough training in Reality Therapy, the founding tenet of Aunt Martha’s counseling strategy. Some were included in Social Service exchange programs where they were able to learn a new language and live abroad, learning more about their craft and how to best serve our youth at home. These young adults thrived in an environment full of big hearts and motivation, and were encouraged by an example of selflessness and compassion from the leadership at Aunt Martha’s.

Phil Allen and Gary Reed, Circa 1972-1973
Where were you in ’72?
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