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Awards honor businesses, residents who went above and beyond

Second from left: Susan Breen (Coldwell Banker realtor); fourth from left: Pat Lehman (Coldwell Banker realtor); fifth from left: Mary Beth Hepp (Helping Hand executive director);  sixth from left: Tricia Riberto (Coldwell Banker branch manager).
Second from left: Susan Breen (Coldwell Banker realtor); fourth from left: Pat Lehman (Coldwell Banker realtor); fifth from left: Mary Beth Hepp (Helping Hand executive director); sixth from left: Tricia Riberto (Coldwell Banker branch manager).

COUNTRYSIDE – Fifteen adults with disabilities have new homes thanks to the support of several local Realtors.

By donating their commissions, two agents from Coldwell Banker La Grange, along with two other agents, enabled the nonprofit Helping Hand to afford three single-family homes for 15 adults who previously lived in one of the organization’s larger facilities.

For their cooperation, Coldwell Banker and Helping Hand, a nonprofit based in Countryside that serves children and adults with disabilities, earned the Community Collaboration Award at the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s “Seeds of Greatness” Community Awards dinner, April 17 at the William Tell Restaurant and Holiday Inn.

“To me, it’s a perfect example of how great a business can be,” said Steve Erickson, the Chamber’s executive director.

The 15 adults moved into homes in Countryside, La Grange and Willow Springs. Staff from Helping Hand take 8-hour shifts to service the homes, but they belong to their residents.

“They take care of it,” said Mary Beth Hepp, Helping Hand’s Executive Director. “They plan meals together. They go shopping together.”

Helping Hand, which has more than 40 people on a waiting list to move out of a larger facility or their families’ homes, does not receive state funding to buy the houses. The organization could afford only the three homes by saving $50,000 in donated commissions from Realtors and Coldwell Banker waiving its franchise fee.

Coldwell Banker’s Susan Breen and Pat Lehman, along with Jeanne Reilly from Sotheby’s International Realty and Jim Stillo from Skydan Real Estate, donated their commissions to allow Helping Hand to buy the properties.

One of them is a white house on Plainfield Road.

“We are so important. We live in the white house,” one of the home’s new residents told Hepp.

The chamber recognized five other businesses and people with awards, including Nazareth Academy student Matthew Serafin for Young Person of the Year. The son of Business Leader of the Year Thom Serafin (of the public relations firm
Serafin & Associates), Serafin was recognized for his involvement in Nazareth activities and outside the school.

Serafin helped organize Nazareth’s second annual prom night for teens with disabilities, sponsored by the school’s F.I.S.H. (Friends in Service and Hospitality) organization. Nearly 50 participants from 21 communities attended the prom.

Upon arriving at the event March 16, attendees walked a green, St. Patrick’s Day-themed carpet to the entrance, where they each were greeted by a student buddy who had been waiting in a separate room until notified by walkie-talkie. They then proceeded to the prom, which included a photo shoot with backdrop, disc jockey, dancing, refreshments, games and a raffle with prizes for each participant, who also went home with a goody bag.

Serafin’s favorite moment of the night was the announcement for king and queen, which went to two attendees who occupied the dance floor throughout the night.

“Their faces lit up,” he said.

The other Chamber award winners were Courtright’s Restaurant (Business of the Year), Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski (Public Servant) and senior vice president of USI Insurances Services Corporation Daniel Pancake (President’s Award).

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