WHEATON – More than 125 years ago, a farm in Wheaton began a transformation from an alms house where transient workers found short-term jobs to a tuberculosis asylum to a long-term nursing facility.
The DuPage Convalescent Center still remains on the property where it was established in 1888, but has expanded from its humble roots – from a handful of beds for those who resided on the farm – to a 368-bed capacity.
"There was a need in the community," said assistant administrator Shauna Berman. "Because these individuals really didn't have a place to go. It was a way for the community to support their healthcare needs."
With four interconnected buildings across its campus, the center serves a portion of society that is particularly in need. Berman said generally the residents are in their later years and have health issues that have rendered them unable to care for themselves. More than three-quarters are on some form of public aid, she said, and all lived in the county or have strong residential ties.
The center is funded annually by federal subsidies, public aid and $2.4 million in county money, which covers its basic operational and capital needs, Berman said. To pay for supplementary programming and other projects, it established the nonprofit DuPage Convalescent Center Foundation in 1993.
"Though housing, food and basic needs are covered, those things that make us all human – quality of life things – aren't covered," said foundation coordinator Linda Linford. "We step in and help provide that for them."
At 7 p.m. Aug. 7, the foundation will wrap up a year of celebrating the center's 125th birthday with a benefit concert. Local R&B band "August" will play at Wheaton's Cantigny Park. The foundation hopes to raise $125,000 through concert proceeds to renovate the resident dining room, doubling its capacity.
It will mark the foundation's first capital project campaign, she said.
"Most of the things you do socially tend to involve food," Linford said. "And because this is the home of our residents, we want to make sure that this environment ... is a real home atmosphere."
Berman said the foundation allows the center to create a less institutional atmosphere. The fundraising arm has helped provide television sets, decor, outings and hopes to bring in a music therapy teacher in the coming months.
"The foundation helps with our 'nice-to-dos,'" she said. "It's a really different opportunity where we can really enhance a quality of life, come in and really support our community. We have staff come in each and every day and give their time and effort, but sometimes you need money to do those extra things."
If you go
What: DuPage Convalescent Center Foundation benefit concert
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 7
Where: Cantigny Park, 151 S. Winfield Road
Get tickets: Tickets are $12 online at www.dpccfoundation.org or $15 the day of the event.