Since 2019, Taller de José has partnered with The Quinn Center in Maywood, IL to offer accompaniment services for people in the Proviso Township, a group of 14 villages surrounding Maywood.
In April, we honored The Quinn Center with our Accompaniment Award in recognition of their dedication to bridging the gaps between resources, people, and opportunities — and in appreciation of their caring commitment to our shared program’s success.
Before receiving the Accompaniment Award at Builder’s Day, The Quinn Center’s Executive Director, Kristen Mighty, met with Cassandra Quinn, our 2023 Builder’s Day Event Director, to learn more about their work, values, and mission.
TDJ: Can you tell us just a little bit about what The Quinn Center is all about?
KM: The Quinn Center is located in Maywood, which is a western suburb of Chicago. We’re actually right next to the expressway, so a pretty convenient location. For the past 13-ish years, we’ve been running our programming and serving the community out of an old Catholic high school building that closed in the early 2000s. We serve the entire Proviso Township, which is 14 villages in the immediate vicinity of Maywood.
Because we know we’re not “experts in all things,” we bring those partners in to help meet the needs and fill gaps for our community members: to inspire them, empower them, and help them make whatever next step that they’re trying to make happen in the best possible way.
TDJ: That all makes so much sense. I think there’s a lot of overlap in our visions and the work that we do at Taller de José and at The Quinn Center!
What are some of the impacts that you’re making in Maywood and in your larger community?
KM: The first thing that comes to mind when I think of “impact” is trust. I think that we’ve done a considerable amount of work specifically on being a trusted partner, a trusted space in the community.
If we’re going to bring a partner in, the people in our community know that we’ve vetted them.
And they know that the programs we establish aren’t “bandaids” — these are solutions for issues that our community has voiced a need for. They know that when we bring in a partner, they’re coming on board for more than the short term.
Our programming is community-centered, you know. The work that we’ve done with COVID is a direct reflection of community members asking for it. The community saw a need and we had the opportunity to step in. And so we did it.
TDJ: Absolutely. Without trust, it’s really hard to serve anyone or make an impact in a positive way. So recognizing that that’s the foundation of what you do is so beautiful.
And I know obviously Taller de José and the Quinn Center have been partnered for a while. Can you tell us a little bit about what that has looked like over the years?
KM: It started with an idea from some board members of ours. When they suggested partnering with Taller de José, I realized that Taller’s accompaniment model was essentially what we were doing on an ad hoc basis with a lot of our folks.
It was like, whenever someone needed help, we’d figure out who of our people was available, and then we’d figure out the issue together through a lot of googling. It was ineffective and inefficient.
So when I realized that Taller de José was already doing this accompaniment work, I was like, “This is great!”
Because how we were doing it, we were really limited to helping just one family at a time. We had that limited capacity.
And it wasn’t enough.
So we were fortunate enough to get funding from the Congregation of St. Joseph to start this pilot partnership program between Taller de José and The Quinn Center.
It’s been a learning experience! There are a lot of turns we’ve had to make over the past three years that we’ve been doing this program. But it’s so well worth it.
TDJ: What are you excited about for the future of the relationship between Taller de José and The Quinn Center?
KM: I’m really excited to see how the word will get out! Our community is very much word-of-mouth. I’m looking forward to being able to serve more people and create a bit more structure around it.
The partnerships that we’re learning about and fostering right now will help us take it a step further — being able to keep an eye on common themes, issues with accessing resources, maybe alleviating some of those burdens.
TDJ: Along the lines of accessing resources, some people hearing this interview may not realize that part of our partnership is that we have a satellite office in your physical space.
Can you talk to us a little bit about what that has looked like?
KM: It’s an added layer of trust. When we say that Taller de José is in our building, people know they can trust them, because we’re already a trusted space.
So clients who need help from Taller de José come to Quinn just like they would come for Quinn programming. Of course, a lot of the appointments are out in the community, too — with the Compañerxes meeting clients for physical accompaniment to appointments.
TDJ: I think something people may not realize is that both of our organizations, I think, have community members who come to both of our organizations for multiple things. One individual can be served in a multitude of ways.
What are some of those ways that you’ve been serving the community?
KM: We actually work with all ages, from first grade through our older adults. And we have programming that we’ve set up and, you know, modified over the years to really specifically address what is needed for each demographic.
So we have after-school programs, and it’s been fun to see us get back to pre-COVID numbers and see a lot of new faces. It’s been great to see them, hear the voices in the hallway again. That was the hardest part about the shutdown is just — these empty hallways.
And then it’s been actually really interesting to see and exciting to see the expansion in our older adult programming since COVID, both online and in-person. I think the most fun thing has been getting bingo going in the building. It’s really fun to hear all the laughter and the good times that they’re having in the room when they’re doing bingo.
And then the other accomplishment is our hunger outreach.
After COVID, instead of just coming back to only in-person, we’re alternating our in-person and outside distribution days. And we’re gonna give that a go and see how that continues to meet the need. Because with inflation, and with decreased SNAP benefits, we’ve definitely seen bigger numbers.
But thanks to our partners and our funders, we’ve still been able to meet that need.
TDJ: That’s really cool. And I love that you have bingo! You mentioned there are activities seniors are doing online, too. What does that look like?
KM: There are different activities each week!
We started the online programming during COVID to make sure that we had some kind of way to address social isolation while we had to physically isolate.
Our volunteers started by teaching our older adults about Zoom — what it is, how to access it with whatever device they have, how to use it to connect. I think our volunteers did a wonderful job there.
One online activity that’s really popular is “Creative Conversations,” like they did a series on the history of Maywood, and it was interesting to hear those perspectives from our older adults. Those are things that haven’t been getting passed down! So we were able to record those, and they’re on our YouTube page.
And they also do some physical activity: chair Zumba, chair yoga.
There’s been a book club, musical bingo, art classes.
The art class is hybrid now, so we can accommodate those who like to come in person and those who like to be online. And it’s art therapy. So there’s some aromatherapy, some light music in the background. They love it. And I love it! I love to see the artwork afterward.
And those are only a handful of those things that we’ve done!
TDJ: It’s so much community-building! I love that.
A lot of the work that you do is youth-focused as well. And one of your youth groups will actually be joining us at Builder’s Day! I don’t want to give it away, I want you to share who they are and what they’ll be doing.
KM: Our Ballet Folklorico group helps the younger generations learn and be able to express their culture. Being able to see them in the traditional wear and doing the dancing, it’s just amazing.
It’s always fun to see them do that work and be able to have opportunities like they do with Builder’s Day to increase awareness and share about that culture.
We also have an after-school program that focuses on homework help and enrichment based on each child’s needs. We have a partnership with the med students at Loyola and they’re wonderful tutors! It’s just amazing to see the children respond to them and interact with them and to see them build those relationships.
We also serve 100+ kids every July through our summer program that helps keep math and science fresh. It’s not hard-core academics, but it’s also exposure to music, the arts, the creative aspects so that we can get their minds working creatively. We want them to think about their future and be bold and confident to know they are going to finish school. And we want them to dream about what it is that they want to do when they finish school.
And then we have some family events — movie nights, the fall festival, just opportunities for the families to do things together.
TDJ: Oh, I love it. I love just how you’re holistically thinking, not just about academics, but about relationships and families and enrichment.
And that’s part of why we have Builder’s Day, too, to celebrate relationships and enjoy all of the work that we have all, as community partners, been able to accomplish. I’m really excited that you get to be there that we get to honor you. What does it mean to you to be recognized with the Accompaniment Award?
KM: The first thing that comes to mind is, it means we’ve succeeded with our pilot program! It may look a little different than our initial proposal. But we knew that there was a need here.
It’s been fantastic to see that it actually is working. And people are being helped by it. We’ve seen as many people as we saw over the past two years combined!
And I know that there are still people out there that are probably confused and frustrated with being able to reach whatever resources — or not sure if a resource even exists. So I hope whoever sees this interview will know now that there is a resource there for them. That they can reach out and they don’t have to do it alone. They don’t have to be frustrated alone.
So to be honored in this way, it just embodies what I think our partnership is already.
The relationship that we’ve built, the trust, the partnership that we’ve built, that it has sustained. And I think it’s something that will stay beyond whatever tenure that any one individual ever has anywhere. Because we’re so aligned in our mission, and in the work we do, that this was a partnership waiting to happen.
TDJ: Absolutely. I love the perspective of: it’s a symbol that the pilot is working. And it may not have looked exactly like we envisioned when we set out — but I think very, very few things ever look exactly how we imagined them.
Thank you again, Kristen, for being here and taking time out of your busy schedule to chat. I’m excited for people to get to know the Quinn Center better!