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Caregivers Connecting

August 17 at 10 AM

Meet up virtually with other family caregivers to share experiences, encouragement, advice, and discuss community resources. Dial in and Zoom information will be provided after registration. Add us to your schedule – this support group meets the third Wednesday of every month.

Registration Required.

Call Catherine at 708.274.0052

or e-mail cstowers@pathlights.org

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Mainstreet Senior Expo & Education

August 20 from 9 AM to 1 PM

Visit Pathlights information table and hear our speakers at two special presentations: Identifying & Preventing Elder Abuse (Room C from 9:30 to 10:30 AM) and Evaluating Your Desire To Age in Place (Room A from 9:30 to 10:15 AM)

In-Person at Palos Heights Recreation Center (6601 W. 127th St., Palos Heights)

Registration Requested.

Click here to register

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Grandparents & Older Adult Relative Raising Children Support Group

August 22 at 11 AM

Join grandparents and other relatives raising children support group for inspiration, encouragement, and education about resources that are available to help.

Registration Required.

Call Meghan at 708.361.0219 or

e-mail mmitoraj@pathlights.org

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Community Leader Appointed to the Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security

To better inform policymakers on the root causes of poverty and economic insecurity, Kenneth Grunke, Executive Director for PLOWS Council on Aging, has been appointed to the Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security. Grunke’s appointment was made by House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs).

The commission consists of four members of the General Assembly, a member of the judicial branch and 20 members of the public, including people who have experienced deep poverty and advocates for older adults, youth, veterans, mental health, education equity, those experiencing homelessness, those differently abled and others.

“I’m honored to represent our diverse communities and participate in the important work of the Commission, “said Grunke. “Through our nonprofit’s knowledge of and hands-on experience with access to healthcare, housing and advocacy, I hope to be a convener of conversation and action and help reduce the inequities and disparities across our state to make communities stronger and healthier.”

The commission is tasked with educating policymakers on the impact poverty has on other measures of economic stability and economic outcomes, including educational attainment, rates of incarceration, lifetime earnings, access to health care, health care outcomes, and access to housing. The Department of Human Services will provide support for the commission to complete its work to produce a strategic plan that addresses poverty and economic insecurity in Illinois by November 30, 2021.

The Commission on Poverty Elimination and Economic Security was signed into law by Governor Pritzker in June as part of Public Act 101-636.

As Executive Director for PLOWS Council on Aging, Grunke oversees all operations for the 501(c)3 human service organization providing comprehensive community services to more than 16,000 individuals in Palos, Lemont, Orland, and Worth Townships of Illinois. He joined the nonprofit in 2017 and leads a team of 70+ staff, collaborates with the Board and Advisory Council, guides strategic planning, financial management and fundraising, ensures program quality and works with the community, legislators, regulatory agencies, and volunteers and representatives of the not-for-profit sector to promote policies that encourage a healthy aging community and address needs impacting different constituencies.

Prior to joining PLOWS Council on Aging, Grunke served as Executive Director of West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry where he provided vision and leadership to more than 350 businesses in eight diverse communities. His experience also includes work at Aging Care Connections as Director of Philanthropy and External Affairs and an Aging Well Manager, and Director of Individual and Major Giving at Pillars Community Health, a nonprofit provider of health and social services. He graduated with a Master in Social Work (emphasis in Gerontology) and Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Psychology with an emphasis in Social Services from Dominican University.

About PLOWS Council on Aging
Since 1975, PLOWS Council on Aging has been connecting adults 60 years of age and over, as well as adults with disabilities, their caregivers and friends, to resources they need to maintain health, dignity, and independence in their homes for as long as possible. Serving the 20 communities that comprise Palos, Lemont, Orland and Worth Townships, PLOWS helps more than 16,000 individuals each year. We provide a holistic suite of programs and services including Adult Protective Services, Advocacy & Benefits, Caregiver Support, Care Planning, Choices for Care Program, Home-Delivered Meals, Information & Assistance, In-Home Services, and Shared Housing. Please visit www.plows.org to learn about ways you can help us make a difference in our community and celebrate our 45th Anniversary. PLOWS Council on Aging is a 501 (c) (3), independent, charitable human service organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Tax ID: 36-2882809

Making a Difference for 45 Years

“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”

– Frank Lloyd Wright

Research shows that aging well and achieving a beautiful life often depend on a strong social support network and access to community programs and services.

Since 1975, PLOWS Council on Aging has been connecting adults 60 years of age and over, as well as adults with disabilities, their caregivers and friends, to resources they need to maintain health, dignity, and independence in their homes for as long as possible. Serving the 20 communities that comprise Palos, Lemont, Orland and Worth Townships, PLOWS helps more than 16,000 individuals each year.

Here are 45 ways PLOWS has been making a difference in the community for 45 years:

1. Sometimes accessing basic nutrition can be a challenge for older adults living independently or with significant limitations. Thanks to the help of volunteers, PLOWS delivers more than 62,000 nutritious meals each year to residents 60 years of age and over who are either temporarily or permanently unable to access food.

2. Sadly, older adults and adults with disabilities may experience abuse that takes many forms: physical, emotional, sexual, passive neglect, financial exploitation, or even self-neglect. PLOWS partners with the Illinois Department of Aging to investigate and address these sensitive, potentially life-threatening situations.

3. Your budget is part of the foundation on which you make your plans to age well. If you are living on a limited income, PLOWS may be able to put you on the right path and maximize your budget by helping you apply for benefits, which may lower your monthly expenses in areas such as utility bills, property taxes, prescriptions and other necessities.

4. Raising a grandchild? More than 100,000 older adults are primary caregivers in Illinois. PLOWS offers these individuals consultations, programs, and resources for financial assistance, as well as help with legal issues and self-care, and, in some cases, emergency funding so they can continue to provide a vital safety net to children under 18.

5. Did you know PLOWS helps adults with disabilities who are living at home? PLOWS advocates through Adult Protective Services and provides counseling to help identify various benefits that are available.

6. You don’t have to go it alone. Shared Housing is an affordable option for staying independent and enjoying companionship as you age. PLOWS has been matching people for a shared housing experience for 30 years!

7. PLOWS keeps you informed. When the pandemic began, PLOWS was one of the first to quickly organize a local healthcare event with a leading infectious disease expert to inform and educate the community about the virus and its impact on the aging community.

8. Caregivers need care too, which is why PLOWS organizes a monthly support group that enables caregivers to share information and ideas, and provide one another with emotional support.

9. It takes a village, a state, and a country. The Illinois Department on Aging, AgeOptions, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Department of Human Services, American Society on Aging and the Administration for Community Living are just some of the organizations that PLOWS partners with on an ongoing basis to provide an umbrella of care.

10. A broken heart does not have to mean a broken spirit. PLOWS offers grief support for older people struggling with the loss of a loved one or the loss of that person’s companionship due to illness or physical or cognitive impairment.

11. Medicaid, Medicare Parts B, C & D, and other healthcare programs can be complicated, leading to many questions. Trained professionals at PLOWS have answers and can explain eligibility, income and asset rules, options for a spend-down process, the differences between Medicaid and Medicare, and even assist with an application.

12. PLOWS’ trained care coordinators connect with clients and their family members to help create personal care plans, which may include a combination of programs, services and resources.

13. “One Call Does It All” is a favorite motto of PLOWS. Through this “call” to action, members of the community can begin the process of connecting to services or resources available in South Suburban Cook County. Just call 708-361-0219.

14. Have you heard of the senior citizen exemption? Don’t pay more in property taxes than you need to. PLOWS can help homeowners 60 years of age and over explore potential savings.

15. Before being discharged from the hospital, you might ask yourself, “where do I go from here?” PLOWS’ trained professionals conduct exit interviews at three local hospital systems to help you determine your options.

16. A Memory Café gives people living with dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment and their caregivers a chance to connect with others, participate in activities like art and music, and share tips and advice. PLOWS offers this service twice a month.

17. Every year, PLOWS celebrates “Community Champions” — selfless older adults who volunteer to help their peers maintain independence and dignity. Visit www.plows.org to meet the 2020 Community Champions!

18. Language barriers can make it more difficult for older adults to obtain critical services. PLOWS offers assistance in Spanish and Polish and teams up with Arab American Family Services to help people of all cultures connect with programs and services.

19. Need help understanding the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps) program? PLOWS has the latest information regarding eligibility, ordering groceries online, coupons for farmers’ markets and more.

20. Don’t get scammed! PLOWS teams up with the Illinois Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) to inform the community about fraud trends and special alerts.


21. You are hardly alone in needing support. More than 16,000 individuals in 20 communities within Palos, Lemont, Orland, and Worth Townships rely on PLOWS’ services each year.

22. They are always there for you. During the pandemic, PLOWS effectively transitioned its employees to remote access for everyone’s safety and wellness. PLOWS has continued all services without interruption and has added several new initiatives to respond to community needs.


23. PLOWS shares important information through special pop up events (now remote or socially distanced) with organizations such as the Blue Island-Robbins Neighborhood Network, Sisters Working It Out, Alzheimer’s Association, and National Night Out.

24. Medicare A, B, C, D …. who can keep it straight? PLOWS’ advisors guide older adults and their caregivers with clarity through eligibility, critical enrollment dates, subsidies, and options.


25. The reauthorization of the Older Americans Act has made caregiving a priority, which allowed for more than 2,000 hours of caregiving assistance organized by PLOWS last year. That is a 51% increase over the previous year!


26. PLOWS “Choices for Care” education program and in-home services decrease the chances of older adults being re-admitted to hospitals and helps ensure proper services are in place to avoid isolation.

27. PLOWS offers volunteer opportunities for children, teens, and whole families to help local seniors. Young people can bridge generation gaps while gaining understanding or even earning community service hours. Visit www.plows.org to learn more.

28. PLOWS has created an informative website for better communication, connection, and transparency. And more than 650 people have joined PLOWS Facebook page to stay up to date on services and events. Go to PLOWSCOA

and become a friend!

29. Social isolation is a concern for older adults. Social distancing can increase their vulnerability. PLOWS makes hundreds of calls weekly to conduct wellness checks with clients and these calls often help identify new needs due to changes in the clients’ support system.

30. PLOWS is a proud member of four Chambers of Commerce. They value the exchange of ideas with the business community and the opportunity to connect with volunteers and leaders at The Chicago Southland Chamber, Heritage Corridor Business Alliance, Oak Lawn Chamber, and Orland Park Chamber.

31. The State of Illinois mandates that all people seeking admission to a nursing facility must be informed of all care options prior to admission, regardless of an individual’s income, assets, or funding source. Each year, PLOWS’ care coordinators conduct more than 10,000 screenings and assessments immediately prior to patient discharge at hospitals or nursing homes.

32. PLOWS prides itself on never having missed delivery of a single meal to any of its clients in 45 years. The nutritious home-delivered meal service doubles as a well-being check – necessary for individuals who experience social isolation.

33. As a convener of conversation and action, PLOWS regularly brings together elected officials, local law enforcement, members of the faith community and service organizations to brainstorm, solve problems and help aging residents in the south suburbs.


34. The number of LGBTQ seniors will double in ten years and PLOWS is working with SAGE (Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders) to ensure everyone gets the help and resources they are entitled to.

35. PLOWS brings together community experts to discuss and resolve some of the most complex and challenging cases of elder abuse and self-neglect. The volunteer Multi-Disciplinary Team (M-Team) includes more than a dozen professionals with affiliations in banking, law, mental health, and social work, or who belong to faith-based, medical, and housing organizations. Some M-Team members work for police departments, libraries, villages, and townships.

36. Are you looking for answers about health insurance? PLOWS’ certified Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) counsellors provide free services for Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers. They helped a client find a prescription drug plan that saved him $79,000, enabling him to afford all his medications.

37. Hundreds of volunteers provide time, talent, and passion to help PLOWS realize its mission. They share a strong desire to give back through community service and show support by delivering meals and assisting with benefits’ forms, as well as serving on the board and advisory council, teaching seminars, and conducting well-being calls.

38. Did you know that it takes more than 70 professionals to run PLOWS? The diverse team consists of social workers with advanced degrees and certifications, care planning experts, and individuals with backgrounds in areas of safety, mental health, and disabilities. health, and disabilities.

39. Caregiving can take its toll … so, at times, give yourself a break! PLOWS’ Respite provides a much-needed breather for informal caregivers, while offering temporary care for an older adult.

40. Supportive organizations help to extend PLOWS’ reach. For example, The Center for Disability & Elder Law (CDEL) provides free legal services to low-income older adults and people with disabilities throughout Cook County, while BEDS Plus brings together supportive services and trained volunteers to help those who are homeless or on the verge of homelessness.

41. Need help with meal prep, light housekeeping, or grocery shopping? PLOWS can connect qualified older adults to in-home services and resources.

42. Each year, PLOWS responds to 27,000 intake and referral calls. Whether you are looking for the nearest in-home care company or a care agency in another state for a loved one, PLOWS’ specialists can guide you to resources and connections.

43. The healthcare, aging, and disability environments are ever changing. PLOWS’ staff meets regularly to examine, discuss, and modify the approach to care and learn about the latest advances from local, state and national experts as well as through continuing education and certifications.

44. PLOWS convenes experts to offer free classes on a wide range of topics including planning your path to aging, navigating legal and financial issues, and training for informal caregivers assisting people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

45. Help community members gain access to essential services by donating to “PLOWS’ 45th anniversary, $45,000 challenge” today at www.plows.org! Make your gift even more meaningful by celebrating the memory of a loved one, honoring or recognizing someone important in your life or even creating a lasting impact through a legacy gift. All donations support critical programs and services in areas such as nutrition, caregiving, safety and protection, and housing. PLOWS earned GuideStar’s Gold Seal of Transparency – a tangible and meaningful designation that gives confidence and full transparency for donor funding.

Do you have an idea for how to make the aging process more meaningful and rewarding? Give PLOWS a call. They are good listeners. For more information, visit www.plows.org or call 708-361-0219.

Donna Vickroy is a South Side native who graduated from Richards High School and Illinois State University. She was a reporter, columnist and editor for the Daily Southtown, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune for more than 38 years. She has received four Peter Lisagor Awards from the Chicago Headline Club, as well as numerous Associated Press and Illinois Press Association honors.

PLOWS Celebrates GivingTuesday on December 1, 2020

PLOWS Council on Aging, South Suburban Cook County’s premier leader and connection to aging information and resources, is participating in GivingTuesday, a generosity movement where millions of people come together to support and champion the causes they believe in and the communities in which they live.

On GivingTuesday, PLOWS will inspire generosity and ask the community to join in and help meet the increased needs of older adults, adults with disabilities, and caregivers throughout 20 communities in South Suburban Cook County.

“This is a critical platform for us to raise much-needed funds so that community members who are navigating the aging process can continue to have access to food, shelter and safety – fundamental rights that every individual should have,” said Ken Grunke, Executive Director of PLOWS Council on Aging. “Given our 45th anniversary this year, we are excited to launch our fundraising campaign: “Make A Difference”, in which our partners, RRF Foundation for Aging, have offered to match any and all donations made on GivingTuesday, dollar for dollar.* Now that is making an impact!“ added Grunke.

To make a donation, visit www.plows.org, call 708-361-0219, or mail a check to: PLOWS Council on Aging, 7808 West College Drive, 5th Floor, Palos Heights, IL 60463.

About GivingTuesday
GivingTuesday was launched in 2012 as a simple idea: to create a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past eight years, this idea has inspired hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

About PLOWS Council on Aging
Since 1975, PLOWS Council on Aging has been connecting adults 60 years of age and over, as well as adults with disabilities, their caregivers and friends, to resources they need to maintain health, dignity, and independence in their homes for as long as possible. Serving the 20 communities that comprise Palos, Lemont, Orland and Worth Townships, PLOWS helps more than 16,000 individuals each year. We provide a holistic suite of programs and services including Adult Protective Services, Advocacy & Benefits, Caregiver Support, Care Planning, Choices for Care Program, Home-Delivered Meals, Information & Assistance, In-Home Services, and Shared Housing. Please visit www.plows.org to learn about ways you can help us make a difference in our community and celebrate our 45th Anniversary. PLOWS Council on Aging is a 501 (c) (3), independent, charitable human service organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Tax ID: 36-2882809

*up to $5,000 in total

A Calling: Pastor, Firefighter & Advocate for Older Americans

If there’s one thing the Rev. Glenn Bergmark has learned in his 85 years of service to others, it’s that one never stops rising to the challenge. After 30 years of meeting those challenges as a member of PLOWS Council on Aging, Bergmark has made the difficult decision to announce his retirement as a member of the board this year.

“PLOWS and the entire community are incredibly indebted to Glenn’s many contributions. If it wasn’t for Glenn’s passion, strength, vision and commitment to service, PLOWS would not be where it is today – a leading south suburban organization that is a resource and lifeline for older adults and individuals with disabilities,” said Kenneth Grunke, Executive Director of PLOWS.

During those 30 years, Bergmark, a retired ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) pastor, currently serving as a supply pastor with the Metro Chicago and Northern Illinois synods, served on various committees including Executive, Finance and Programs and Services, as well as serving in each officer position (President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer) multiple times.

He will remain a member of PLOWS’ vital Adult Protective Services Multi-Disciplinary Team (M-Team), Bergmark recently reflected on the lifetime of opportunities and challenges that helped forge his legacy of compassion and service across the south suburbs.

Like many of the challenges that have arisen under his tenure, Bergmark said the COVID-19 pandemic has been a call to “get creative” for those in the field of helping others.

“What can you do when you can’t have that vitally important contact with people?” he said. “You find new ways and means to connect, and PLOWS has done exactly that.”

As an ordained pastor, Bergmark’s career began busily and increasingly picked up speed.

His first assignment was as pastor of a two-point parish, First Lutheran Church in Granville and Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica in North Central Illinois.

Seventeen miles apart, the position required him “to be in two places at the same time,” and prepared him for a future filled with equally daunting challenges.

A few years later he was called to fill a position in Lemont. Having grown up in Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood, he was familiar with what was then a sleepy southwest suburb of about 4,000.

The council at Bethany Lutheran Church told Bergmark they needed their new pastor to be involved in the community, to be visible and to help any way he could. He figured that could mean putting out some fires, and he would — literally.

Within days of moving in, he was recruited by Lemont’s then-volunteer fire department.

“Two gentlemen in fire uniforms came to the door,” he recalled.

One was the chief; the other was his new next-door neighbor, who was holding a helmet and boots.

Bergmark learned they needed a chaplain and the chaplain’s duties included answering calls during the day when most of the other volunteers were at work.

He’s been involved with Lemont Fire Protection District for 55 years, as spiritual leader, fire fighter, a commissioner and, currently, an elected trustee.

News of Bergmark’s devotion to the region soon spread and he was asked to form the Lemont Environmental Advisory Commission, on which he continues to serve, as well as the Lemont Lions Club, former Mount Assisi Academy’s development committee and Franciscan Village’s ethics committee.

He said his “most interesting story” is how he became involved with PLOWS in the midst of all his other work.

An older couple in his parish told him about the organization that helps supply meals and services to older Americans in need. He reached out to PLOWS and quickly realized its importance.

“People grow older and have needs. You have to have a way of dealing with that,” he said.

Bergmark served first on the board of PLOWS in 1994. In 2000, he was President as PLOWS was moving from Oak Lawn to its current location in Palos Heights.

“It was a tremendous move” that was both practical for space reasons and symbolic as it followed the southwest migration of much of the older community.

The moved paved the way for growth, in terms of services, budget, employees, volunteers and clients.

“It expanded everything we did,” he said. “I was so happy to be a part of that.”

Though he departs his seat on the board, Bergmark said he plans to continue his work with the organization’s M-Team, which brings together people with different specialties, including law enforcement and social services, to investigate individual cases of elder abuse and self-neglect, and discuss solutions. In addition to helping people 60 years of age and over, the team is also available to adults who are disabled and in need of help.

He was honored for his work on M-Team in 2017 by AgeOptions, suburban Cook County’s agency on aging. Before that he was named Citizen of the Year by the Lemont Chamber of Commerce and Senior Citizen of the Year by the 3rd Congressional District.

In many ways, the pastor said, PLOWS is a ministry.

“And it’s as busy as it’s ever been,” he added.

COVID-19 has led to an increase in the number of people turning to PLOWS for help, he said. Whether they need home delivery of meals, protection from emotional or physical abuse or access to financial assistance for utilities or property taxes, the pandemic has increased the strain on many older Americans.

“Many people who never thought they’d need that kind of help were suddenly confronted with it,” he said.

Because of the safety limitations presented by social distance recommendations, PLOWS staff and volunteers have had to get creative in finding ways to fill needs, he said.

“The pandemic has been the greatest single challenge PLOWS has had to face, but at the same time it has reminded us of how important PLOWS is to this community,” he said.

The agency’s ability to adapt has laid the groundwork for a bright future, he said.

He cited its strong, growing relationship with Moraine Valley Community College as one example of ongoing expansion.

“PLOWS always has the task to be aware and be alert to coming challenges. Every time we think we have it nailed down, something changes at the federal or local level. The future is being open to the possibility of changing ways and means of dealing with needs in our community,” he said.

“Our history tells us there’s only one way we’re going to go and that’s getting closer to meeting more needs in the years ahead,” he said.

Bergmark met his wife MariLynn when both were students at Augustana College. They’ve been married 62 years and have three children, five grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Though they are “staying home” like much of the country, both remain engaged in the community.

MariLynn is a prolific master quilter who at one time turned 100 quilts a year with other members of her church. She recently participated in a quilt dedication at Christ Lutheran Church of Clarendon Hills to benefit Lutheran World Relief, an organization that lost containers of quilts that are repurposed as knapsacks, room dividers and shelters when their storage facility was destroyed during the massive explosion at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon.

Bergmark says he has grown in tandem with PLOWS. He credits his experience with the service organization with helping him “learn how to grow old.”

“As I have grown, I have become more sensitive to those kinds of challenges that people face as they age – socially, physically, financially, healthwise,” he said.

Empathy and understanding are just some of the benefits he has experienced from his work with PLOWS, he said.

Pastors, he said, “are not simply people who preach the word and administer sacraments. A pastor is someone who relates directly with people on an intimate and personal level. We are enablers, people who are trying to help people in a special way. That’s what I think ministry is for me.”


There are many ways you can contribute towards our cause, and every act of generosity goes a long way in helping us fulfill our mission.

Pathlights is a 501(c) (3), independent, charitable, human service organization. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent of the law. Tax ID: 36-2882809