Celebrating Women Transforming Lives

Phyllis Young, Luciana Young, Jean Fargo 
and Linda Legner
Phyllis Young, outgoing Operation New Start co-chair, and a handful of members attended Bridge Communities, Inc. first annual Celebrating Women Transforming Lives luncheon on Friday, April 29 at Danada House in Wheaton.  Those of us who attended had the pleasure of meeting Phyllis' mother Luciana Young, who flew in from Walnut Creek, CA, and her good friend and equestrian buddy Jean Fargo. I didn't know Phyllis rode horses, did you? I drove there with Linda Legner and Becky Moats, which was a treat in itself - caught up with long time friend Linda and got to know Becky better. I sat next to Beth Waldo, another member I became better acquainted with over lunch.


Executive director Joyce Hothan and the entire Bridge staff were very welcoming, the setting was gorgeous, the meal with dazzling petite desserts was delicious and the speakers heartwarming. 


During the pre-luncheon reception, case manager Tom Thiltgen singled out our group and expressed his gratitude for the kitchens. He said it was like Christmas for his clients, to which Linda Legner responded, "We like to call it a shower." We had a good laugh comparing Tom's male point of view to ours. 


The afternoon reinforced the devastation faced by too many women, especially in our current economic state either through divorce or job loss, and that Hope and Help exist through organizations like Bridge Communities. Operation New Start plays a huge role in normalizing conditions for women and their families since meals are the most basic luxury that mothers can provide for their families. 

Master of Ceremony Jenniffer Weigel, a Chicago Tribune columnist, WGN contributor and author, spoke openly about her divorce, finalized the day before, and how thankful she was to have a nice home to go home to unlike the women who seek help from Bridge Communities. Karen Wells, vice president, U.S. Nutrition and Menu Strategy for McDonalds, USA shared her experiences of growing up amid challenges and how her faith and perseverance led to personal and professional happiness and success. 


Honoree Vicky Joseph, spoke about founding Families Helping Families in Naperville, a Bridge Communities program partner; while fellow honoree Jill Markussen, detailed the journey that led her to start a College of DuPage symposium, "The New Face of Homelessness".



Beth Waldo and Marianne Cortopassi 
Luciana Young and Jean Fargo






Linda Leger, Beth Waldo 
and Marianne Cortopassi




Marianne Cortopassi and Becky Moats