Coffee Talk: Dickinson Head Gets to Know Lake Foresters
By Ean Goldstein
Dickinson Hall has been a fixture in the Lake Forest community for nearly a century. Over the years, it has served a preventorium for pre-tubercular children, a school for handicapped children and, since 2001, a senior center.
Dickinson has programs and events that offer seniors educational, social and cultural opportunities that they may not have access to on their own, such as lectures, parties and trips, according to Dickinson Hall Senior Resources Manager Tricia Schwall.
“I have learned so much about other community partners,” says Dickinson Hall Senior Resources Manager Tricia Schwall about her 100 cups of coffee initiative. “We also have a senior advocate on staff to assist with the challenges that seniors have in finding help with day-to-day tasks, help with Medicare, resources, referrals and identifying and applying for benefits,” she said.
Additionally, Dickinson Hall has a transportation program, helping seniors -- particularly those who don’t drive anymore -- to grocery stores, doctor’s appointments, and any other errands that might be difficult for them to do on their own.
To try and be even more of a resource for local seniors, Schwall started a 100 cups of coffee initiative this year. As the name might suggest, she is in the process of having a cup of coffee with 100 different people to get to know more about the community that Dickinson Hall serves, as well as what they can do better to help Lake Forest residents.
“Over the past almost seven years that I have been at Dickinson Hall, it has always amazed me how many people I talk to that have/had no idea who we were and what we did,” Schwall said. “When I took over as the Senior Resources Manager, I decided to do what I could to change that.”
She began researching ways to build community surrounding senior centers and came across the National Council on Aging (NOCA), which had run an Excellence Award program that featured a senior center in Massachusetts that was doing the same thing. “It inspired me,” Schwall said. “So now that we have emerged from the pandemic, I thought I would give it a shot.”
As much as the initiative is meant to build more awareness about Dickinson Hall, Schwall has gained just as much from her experience doing it. “I have learned so much about other community partners,” she said. “I now have a better understanding of other resources out there that will help assist our senior population. It has been truly rewarding to not only spread the word about Dickinson Hall and what we have to offer, but also to learn about seniors.”
After sharing so many cups with members of the community, Schwall -- a fan of coffee even before starting this initiative -- doesn’t think she will get tired of it, even after her 100 cups are finished. “But if I continue to have so many of these meetings in a row,” she said, “I may have to switch to decaf!”