Board of Directors

Park Forest

A Community with a Plan

Park Forest began in 1946 as a dream held by Carroll F. Sweet, Sr., to build a “G.I. Town” for returning veterans. Due to the lack of building during the Depression and World War II, the returning veterans and their young families faced a severe housing shortage.

The result was the first post-World War II planned community to include a shopping center and all of the amenities of modern life built in to the original plan. Construction of “For Sale” homes began in 1950.

By the decade’s end,, Park Forest had been incorporated as a village. More than 3,000 rental units – including one that would become Aunt Martha’s drop-in center someday – had already been built.

A colorized photo ca. 1954 shows Park Forest’s Aqua Center from above, looking from west to east. Park Forest’s downtown shops are busy in the background at the top right.

The Goodrich Family

One young family to make its way to Park Forest were John and Therese Goodrich, who moved from the Pacific Northwest. Both would become deeply involved in local organizations and the Village government. They – and their nine children – have been part of Aunt Martha’s story since before the beginning.

Mr. Goodrich passed away in 2014. Fortunately, he and Mrs. Goodrich were gracious enough to sit with Aunt Martha’s historian Bernadette Maune in August 2005. We share a portion of that interview below, as well as some of the conversation we were so happy to have when we caught up with Mrs. Goodrich earlier this year.

From the Youth Commission to Foster Homes

We both knew Gary Leofanti even when he was hired. Here was this young kid, you know, with all these ideas. We were 100 percent behind what he was doing, and the Village Youth Commission and everything. And then we found out that they (Aunt Martha’s) were starting a foster parent program.

It was real interesting because the caseworker came over to interview us…and I think he was a little overwhelmed. We’d told all the (6) kids, you know, you’ve got to be part of the interview. Steve saw all the kids and said, “I don’t think you have to go through the training. You could probably do the training.” So we were a little hesitant.

Rather than diving into fostering headlong, the family opted to join Aunt Martha’s as an emergency foster home.

Part of Our Family

We were emergency foster parents for about three years and by about that time, when the kids had gone off to college. Steve [Aunt Martha’s caseworker, Steve McCabe] said, “We’ve got somebody that needs long term.”

I said we’ll have to have a family meeting. And so we talked about it and I said this is going to be somebody that’s a high school age and going to high school. And we had our three youngest girls who were in high school. I said they probably will know who it is and they will be going to school with him. So we talked about and we said okay so we’ll we’ll try it.

And so Steve brought Rudy over. And the girls went crazy! I don’t think he’d ever been hugged so much in all his life as when he found all these sisters.

And Rudy just became another one of the kids. He went to high school with the kids and all. And to this day Rudy is part of our family.

File Under ‘O’

When we talk to people about their memories of Aunt Martha’s, some stories can only be cataloged as “Other.”

This week, we follow board members (and Others, of course!) from the board room to the back nine, with a stop or two along the way.

We’ll hear about an unexpected visit from the Sisters of the Salvation Army. And we’ll imagine what might have been by lifting the lid on a story that’s no waste of your time.

The Cigars

What really stands out, back when I was President [of the Board], working with Gary, we had golf outings. Gary and I used to sit out on a golf cart at one of the holes, and the greatest thing was all of the cigars Gary used to bring.

Gary brought a bag full of cigars and every golfer came to our hole because they knew he had those cigars.

That’s what stands out. Sitting there in that golf cart with about 250 cigars. And enjoying some of them ourselves.

John Annis

Those Big Trucks Keep Rolling

All of the sudden, [Gary] brought this great plan to the Board – to invest in the waste management company.

I said, “What the h*** do you mean, ‘waste management’? We’re not cleaning up garbage cans, we’re raising babies!”

I fought him tooth and nail on it because I thought it was such a terrible thing to bring into a social service organization.

Every time I see one of those big trucks passing down the street, I see all the money we could have made on that investment.

But that’s where my head was. And like I said, those big trucks keep rolling.

Gwendolyn Bowen

‘The Kind of Stuff that Makes it Work’

I was working with a client [at the drop-in center] and it was a was a nice summer evening. So we went out, across the street and sat down in the parking lot next to the church.

We’re down there, laying on the asphalt, chatting. And Gary shows up with a carload of ladies!

I later learned that they were ladies from the Salvation Army who were looking at [Aunt Martha’s] to decide about funding.

Later I said to Gary, “Why didn’t you tell me that they were coming?”

He said, “They saw what you were doing and thought it was wonderful. They said, ‘That’s the kind of stuff that makes it work.’”

Lindy Willis

Schedule Your Appointment Today