Published Oct. 14, 2010
Times are changing at HCS Family Services
direction helps long-standing agency continue to help
those in need of food, shelter
The past 18 months have been
busy for HCS Family Services.
In that time, the nonprofit agency has gotten a new name, new logo,
new executive director, new development director and new
And things are only getting started.
“We are just totally transitioning everything and how we talk about
ourselves,” said Susan Fritz, who joined the
organization as executive director in May 2009. A new
marketing committee is working on new mission and vision
statements that reflect a new direction for this
“We really want to see strong, healthy families,” Fritz said. “That
doesn’t mean it’s just to provide for the basic needs or
their practical needs. It also means we have to help
them stay with their parenting skills or we have to help
them become economically self-sufficient. It’s not just
one angle that is going to help them be a strong
HCS Family Services will continue to provide the food pantry at the
Hinsdale Memorial Building that has been a hallmark of
Hinsdale Community Services since its inception in 1936.
But HCS Family Services now also offers a mobile food
pantry once a month Hinsdale Lake Terrace in Willowbrook.
That program is allowing staff members to get to know
people who might be in need of other services they can
“Most people come to us as a result of the food, and that’s why we
love our mobile pantry out of Willowbrook,” said Deb
Baker, development director. “We’re starting to build
some great relationships out there.”
The agency’s new name better reflects its service area, which
includes Hinsdale and six nearby towns. It also helps
people who need services think of the agency a little
“ ‘We’re from Hinsdale and we’re coming in to rescue you’ — that is
not how we see this relationship,” Fritz said. “We are
right there to walk with them and help them see they can
realize some big dreams in life.”
Most of the agency’s clients come from Westmont and Willowbrook,
and many residents of Hinsdale Lake Terrace receive
housing assistance from HCS. Some clients, though, might
come as a surprise.
“We do get a number of clients who are from communities you
wouldn’t expect — Oak Brook, Burr Ridge, Hinsdale,”
Fritz said. “There’s a lot of individuals who are maybe
more typical to this area. Maybe their husband lost
their job or maybe it’s a woman who was recently
divorced and she lives here in Hinsdale and all of the
sudden she doesn’t have the support she had.”
Regardless of clients’ circumstances, HCS wants to do more than
simply provide food or rent assistance in a time of
crisis. The goal is to help them reach a point where
they don’t need services at all. That focus is what
impressed Hinsdalean Al Sunseri when he joined the board
three years ago.
“I like the idea of their emphasis on counseling people to
self-sufficiency,” he said. “That’s the reason I joined.
It was not just a give-away organization. It was one
that took people and moved them along with specific
goals with the end goal being self-sufficiency,” said
Sunseri, who was elected board president in October
The plan is for HCS to provide support in four areas: practical
assistance and resources; guidance, support and
advocacy; family building; and education and career
development. Some of the offerings, such as the
three-year Elites program, are quite comprehensive.
“Everyone is going to have different needs,” Fritz said. “Ideally
we see all of the programs working together. There will
be some folks that come in and might only receive rental
assistance from us. They might not be a good candidate
to come in and let us help them through the Elites
“It’s a two-way street,” she added. “If they don’t want this for
their lives, we can’t force it. I would say 75 percent
of the time people do want this for their lives. They
just don’t know how to get there.”
Changes at HCS aren’t only taking
place in terms of staff and services. The board of
directors is in a time of transition as well.
Sunseri is recruiting other professionals to the board and a
implementing a new approach to directing the agency.
“We’re running it like a business, and that may be something that
I’m bringing to the board,” he said. “My overall goal in
being president of the board is trying to combine the
best of the business community and the service
community. Because it’s a service organization doesn’t
mean the board has to be run like a service
Among those business professionals who have recently joined the
board is Dan Dunn, president of Aqueity, a computer
networking company in Oak Brook. He first got involved
when board member Paul Swanson asked if his company did
any pro bono work for nonprofits. The answer was yes,
and after meeting Fritz and Sunseri, Dunn agreed to take
on the project. His team spent about six months working
to bring the office up to speed in terms of computer and
“I respected their leadership and was inspired to have my team take
action,” he said.
After helping HCS achieve part of its vision from a technology
standpoint, Dunn was ready to do more. When Fritz and
Sunseri invited him to lunch to talk about the board, he
quickly agreed to sit in on a meeting.
“At that point I was already pretty inspired,” he said. “I knew a
lot more about the programs. I was much more involved in
Meeting other board members further convinced Dunn he wanted to
join the group.
“I was really inspired by some of the challenges that were coming
up for HCS. I was inspired by the board members.”
Dunn was elected vice president a few months after joining the
board, and he looks forward to bringing other new faces
and new assets to the table.
“I’m really excited to develop the board with other high-profile
board members who can attract other resources,” he said.
But what Dunn finds the most motivating are the success stories he
has the chance to hear on a fairly regular basis.
“What really gets met the most excited about everything (is)
probably every other board meeting, a family member that
has been helped by HCS will just randomly walk into a
meeting and tell us about what we’ve done as an
organization. That’s what’s really inspiring.”
Seeing the difference HCS has made in people’s lives is what keeps
Sunseri committed to the organization as well. He
recently spent time with HCS clients who were allowed to
shop for free for an hour at the Union Church resale
after it closed to the public. Watching their faces as
they piled up bags of clothes and linens was extremely
Being part of an organization that is growing and changing also has
appealed to Sunseri.
“I joined HCS at that particular time because it was a success that
is going to happen,” he said. “We have a direction now
where we didn’t have a direction before.”