Freelance reporter Michele du Vair
Updated: October 24, 2012 6:37AM
I’ll admit, I’m old fashioned. I like the time-tested principles of love with boundaries for our children, fiscal responsibility for our institutions, paying it forward for those of us who have been given much. In short, I like Mooseheart.
Every time I walk through those pillars and onto that fabulous campus, I think, these people are really trying to do the right thing. Some of us might not always agree with their methods; and no doubt there are a few tares among the wheat, as there are in every organization. But on the whole, Mooseheart does a darn good job of taking in kids from heart-wrenching environments and molding them into moral, disciplined individuals with a social conscience.
And it’s not just the campus personnel that provides for these kids. It’s the entire Loyal Order of Moose organization. “We take them from when they were born, all the way through high school. And they’re ready for college when they leave here,” says Diane Jezek, a Mooseheart volunteer and Women of the Moose member for 31 years. “And every one of them has us as their parents ... and they’re our kids.”
It’s that commitment, that pride, that has gotten Mooseheart through some tough times — the devastating Great Depression, two world wars, declining membership within its own organization; and yes, even the sex scandal that erupted in the mid 90s. Many benevolent institutions would have folded by now. Not Mooseheart. They cut the administrative staff, not the teachers. They took in more than just their own organization’s children. They drastically toughened their screening process for hiring employees. And more recently, they positioned themselves to serve as landlords for the commercial development of some of their land, rather than sell it off.
Mooseheart founder James Davis was thinking of the future when he secured that 1,000 acres of prime Chicago-area farmland. And so is the current executive director, Scott Hart. He has not only found a way to provide additional income from that land, he has opened up the campus to the community. Boy Scouts groups, car shows and women’s bake sales all host their events at Mooseheart these days. In turn, the Mooseheart Color Guard serves at Kane County Cougars’ games; and Mooseheart kids sell candy bars at the local Jewel for veterans.
“I think in the last decade, there has been more interaction between Mooseheart and the Fox Valley than there was in the first 90 years combined,” says Hart. “And I see that as a positive.”
So do I. Sure, there’s much to be said for old-fashioned values. Without them we’d be lost. But there’s also something to be said for adaptability. Opening up Mooseheart to the light of the outside world promotes trust, compassion and community.
That community will help Mooseheart maintain its core purpose of creating a home for children in need, a home for children like Rebecca Stryker.
“These are the people we grew up with. We lived with them and played sports with them and bonded with the family teachers,” says Stryker, a senior at Mooseheart. “They’re not friends anymore, they’re our family.”