Logos for Hephzibah and Infant Welfare Society

As you may know, I am extremely proud to be donating all of the proceeds from my debut baking cookbook, A Gift of Cookies: Recipes to Share with Family and Friends, to two vital children’s charities that are near and dear to me: Hephzibah Children’s Association and The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society. My hope is that these funds will help support the incredibly important work these institutions do, as well as expand awareness of the crucial services they provide to the most vulnerable in our society.

As such, I thought I’d take the opportunity to thank Debbie Blanco and Maggie Hirsen from IWS and Kenna McKinnon from Hephzibah for all that they do, and to share some of the highlights of their work from the past year. Juliet Yera from the Hephzibah Children’s Association and Peggy LaFleur from the Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Association very kindly provided the following information on what these organizations have been up to over the past year, how they’ve responded to the pandemic, and how important ongoing donations are for them to continue their essential work.

Boy and girl

Hephzibah Children’s Association

As you can imagine, the past year has posed a considerable challenge for organizations such as the Hephzibah Children’s Association. While many institutions were able to transition to remote operations, Hephzibah’s  essential workers continued delivering in-person services to vulnerable children and struggling families. More than 70 percent of Hephzibah’s staff are designated essential workers.  

Hephzibah Home’s 30 residential counselors, supervisors, therapists, cooks, and maintenance staff work around the clock on-site caring for the 26 children who live there. Since March, the home has been on lockdown, with only staff permitted to enter.

“While our roles haven’t changed, the anxiety of keeping the children and our coworkers safe, is different,” explains Scott Bruckman, supervisor in the Diagnostic Treatment Center. “That stress switches off, however, when I arrive and a child really needs my attention. I know I am here for this guy today. I am reminded why I’m here and why I do what I do.” 

Hundreds of foster care children and families in crisis rely on the support and services provided by Hephzibah’s Family-Based Services team. Every day, 30 therapists and caseworkers don protective gear to visit the children and families in their homes. “There is tremendous stress on families, and often we are their only source of support,” says Piper Caldwell, LCSW, Foster Care supervisor. “The need is great and resources are scant.” 

Additionally, Hephzibah’s 50+ child development specialists follow rigid health and safety protocols while providing quality, affordable day care with e-learning support for over 200 elementary school children. Hephzibah will continue to do whatever is necessary to meet the needs of children and families, and the support of the community helps to make it possible. 

The ongoing pandemic has made it especially difficult for at-risk children to fully enjoy and be excited about the holidays. To that end, the hundreds of children and families in Hephzibah’s foster care program and receiving services through our Intact Family program, will receive gifts, gift cards, and holiday meals, all provided by donors to Hephzibah and from several corporate partners and their supporters. 

“There is still much to celebrate this season,” says Juliet Yera, director of development. “Though 2020 has been an especially challenging, difficult year for our children and families, we are so fortunate to have a generous community embracing the spirit of the season and bringing comfort and joy.”

Visit the Hephzibah Wish List or donate to help make a child’s holiday dreams come true.

Child and dentist

Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society

Here at the IWS Children’s Clinic we have much to be thankful for, even considering the pandemic that is currently raging around us.  

To start, we have been successful in continuing to operate our medical, dental, and behavioral health services in a reliable and safe fashion. If you recall, back in March, dental offices across the country were ordered to close because of the heightened risk of virus particles being transmitted through aerosols generated by dental treatments. We also took a conservative approach to in-clinic medical visits to mitigate exposure. 

However, since June we have been fully up and running, following CDC protocols that have kept our staff and patients safe. At the same time, we’ve spent that time determinedly working to bring our young patients up to date on life-saving vaccines, preventive and restorative dental care and  addressing mental health concerns—many of which have been delayed or exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.

We’re also grateful for the OPRF Infant Welfare Society members who have stepped up (as always!) to help the families we serve in a myriad of ways: distributing home-made masks, winter coats, hats, gloves, and scarfs; giving out gift cards to grocery stores; and fulfilling holiday wish lists that contain basic needs such as sheets, towels, baking pans, and clothes as well as the children’s dream items such as basketballs, Legos, books, and board games. They’ve also been very innovative in adapting our beloved Holiday House walk to a unique virtual format: https://childrenscliniciws.org/holiday-housewalk-and-market. We encourage everyone to buy a ticket; in doing so you will be entered into our $10,000 raffle!

We are beyond appreciative for the awareness and financial support that Mary’s A Gift of Cookies is generating for the IWS Children’s Clinic. We are grateful to Mary and our other members who help ensure that all our children receive critical primary healthcare services so essential to unlocking their long-term potential.

Banner for Infant Welfare Society

We end this post by sharing the details of a small moment that recently took place during a well-child exam, when one of our medical assistants handed out some new socks to one little patient and her brother and sister. The kids were beyond excited, screamed with delight and put them on immediately. It brought tears to our staff member to see first-hand how much every small gesture of love means and why it is important that we treat the whole child, especially during a time of great need.  

We’d love for you to know more about our work – please take a moment to watch this short video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MopJEYev-WA 

To learn more about both of these amazing organizations and to donate, please visit their respective websites:



Alternatively, you can support them by purchasing a copy of my debut cookbook, A Gift of Cookies: Recipes to Share with Family & Friends.