Peace Village ‘neighborhood’ has meant home for 25 years

Silver anniversary celebrated with residents and families

Submitted photo. Mary Klees (from left), Ronnie Cullen, Dorothy Katosh, Mary Gentile and Mary Kelleher enjoy life at Peace Village.Submitted photo. Mary Klees (from left), Ronnie Cullen, Dorothy Katosh, Mary Gentile
and Mary Kelleher enjoy life at Peace Village.

When a new neighborhood is built, residents line up to move in as the homes are finished. Friendships form quickly as children play together, bunco clubs and golf buddies are organized, and trees are planted. Twenty-five years later, the trees form a broad, shady canopy and those children are gone, perhaps married with children of their own. Some families have moved away, dissolving those clubs and buddies. For the newer residents moving in, feeling right at home in these older, charming neighborhoods can take awhile.

Submitted photo. Harvey Leffring, CEO at Peace Village celebrates with resident Marie Fischer.Submitted photo. Harvey Leffring, CEO at Peace Village celebrates with resident Marie Fischer.Celebrating 25 years, the “neighborhood” of Peace Village in Palos Park is completely different. While the trees have indeed grown, getting involved, making friends and feeling right at home immediately has stayed just as easy as the day the Village opened its doors in 1989.

Residents celebrated this Silver Anniversary in elegance and style, dressed in finery appropriate for weddings and galas, sparkling and lavish. With melodies such as “Moon River” provided by Harpist Laura Fako Utley, the ladies and gentlemen were seated in the bright dining room, tables covered in crisp linens and twinkling crystal. Tuxedoed servers carried savory cream of chicken with wild rice soup, followed by a summer salad of mandarin oranges, red onions and fresh mushrooms on a bed of mixed greens, draped in a citrus vinaigrette.

Harvey Leffring, CEO of Peace Village and Joe Ferrantelli, Board President, welcomed residents. “We are now at a quarter century – and a community that is loving and caring doesn’t just happen. This is an achievement made possible by many. This evening is to honor our residents, to recognize and acknowledge that you help us help you call this great place home.” The mission of Peace Village, Leffring explained, is to enhance the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of all the residents.

At the tables, diners were now being treated to tournedos of beef tenderloin in a bordelaise sauce, a trio of lightly dusted shrimp, baby carrots and broccoli sautéed in butter and Delmonico potatoes, laced with garlic, heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Lively conversations sparked the air and bottles of commemorative wine were opened and enjoyed. Toasts to friends were made.

Three residents were enjoying very special attention. Florence Berger, Amy Boberg and Eva Vische all wore corsages of pink, marking them as the neighbors who have made their homes at Peace Village for the longest time.

Eva arrived at Peace Village in October of 1992, encouraged by friends who were already residents. “It was sort of strange but that feeling went away very quickly. I have made so many wonderful friends here. For years, I was in charge of birthday celebrations, I decorated the trees at Christmas. I’ve done so many things here.”

Eva’s family, Vilma Dal Corobbo, Kathy Biel and Dominick Westbury, joined Eva for the Silver Anniversary. Eva, soon to be 105, has enjoyed almost 22 years as a resident of Peace Village and Vilma is extremely pleased about how the Village has become her home. “When Aunt Eva arrived here, she became involved in the choir, in the hospitality committee, in the holiday decorating, going on the day trips. She was very independent, enjoying her own apartment and her own life. There is a whole social environment here. She knows everyone and they know her.”

Resident Support is Lora Contorno’s mission; she helps new residents transition to the Village. “It’s so important that there is a positive attitude and good feelings when making this move. Change can be difficult, but I love how we are all embracing this new standard.” Lora also leads non-denominational spiritual services and meditations that cover all topics and themes, using modern and traditional elements such as deep breathing and music. “I am here for the good of the residents.”

Dinner finished with a summer berry torte, with bright berries strewn across a delicate sponge cake topped with a creamy white chocolate cheese.

Ferrantelli explains that members of Peace Memorial Church, decades ago, noted a gap in the senior housing community. “We saw that people needed a place to live as they grew older, and we wanted to create a place for people to call home.”

On June 23, 1992, Peace Village opened its doors to the first residents, who created a neighborhood of their own, with shared interests and a plethora of diverse activities. There are ready-made clubs and there are naturally forming buddies. That neighborhood feeling persists today, as new residents arrive, bringing their own interests and experiences. There are movies, music, parties, games, trips and much more – literally something for everyone, at any stage of enjoying retirement. “Our neighborhood never grows old, because there are always new people moving in; our residents are still interested in learning new things, maintaining hobbies, just enjoying life.”

The buildings on the bucolic grounds, complete with lake and walking path, are most definitely not showing their age. Apartments are updated, common areas are rehabbed and refreshed, decorating is kept new and contemporary. Chandeliers sparkle, woodwork shines and windows gleam. This is a neighborhood where residents and staff take great pride in their surroundings.

Vilma smiles, “As Aunt Eva has slowed down – she is 104, you know – Peace Village gives us great peace of mind. She’s able to stay in her own home.”

Ferrantelli understands that. “Residents are at home here. This is their neighborhood. Whenever someone is away for an overnight, I always hear ‘it’s so nice to be home’ when they return. That’s what we’ve achieved in these 25 years. Peace Village is home.”

—Peace Village 

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