One of the founding members of WINGS, whose passion to help homeless women with children grew out of her community work in Elk Grove Village, has died.
Jane Broten died Sunday after a courageous battle with breast cancer. She was 80.
"Jane was an extremely compassionate woman who cared about people and cared about meeting their needs," said Nancy Vanderweel, Elk Grove Township supervisor, who served on local committees with Broten.
She pointed to Broten's role as Elk Grove Village's community services coordinator, from 1974-1981, where she helped organize Meals on Wheels, senior and mental health services, and a youth employment program -- many services still provided by the village today.
Broten also helped bring Head Start and its federally subsidized preschool services to Elk Grove families in need.
"She and her husband believed strongly in education -- and the earlier the better," Vanderweel added.
Broten and her husband, Alton, met at Valparaiso University, where they both majored in sociology. Immediately after college, Broten was hired as a child-care worker at the Lutheran Children's Home in Addison, where Alton Broten was the director.
They married in 1954 and ultimately settled in Elk Grove, where they raised their five children.
After her work with the village, Broten managed the Practically Perfect resale shop in Arlington Heights, whose proceeds benefited Clearbrook and its children and adults with developmental disabilities.
In 1985, she joined with a group of volunteers from St. Marcelline Church in Schaumburg, who responded to the growing issue of homelessness in the Northwest suburbs and in particular to meeting the needs of women and children.
When the group incorporated in 1986, calling itself the Housing and Shelter Program, Broten was on the board. She remained a board member until 2002, overseeing its name change to WINGS (Women in Need Growing Stronger) in 1989 and the development of its 18 transitional homes and eight supportive housing units.
"She played a huge role in the creation of the organization and helping to get it through the very tough startup years," says Rebecca Darr, executive director. "She was one of those very down-to-earth people who acted from the heart."
Susie Bryant, former WINGS board president, remembers Broten as a hardworking board member who eagerly shared her expertise in community service and working with a nonprofit organization like Clearbrook.
"She gave us valuable information about setting up resale shops," Bryant says. "It was really the information we needed to get ours started."
Broten was preceded in death by her husband but is survived by her children Thomas (Kathryn), Michael (Julie), William (Sarah), Daniel and Nancy (Robert) Broten-Munson. as well as four grandchildren.
A funeral service will take place today in Vining, Minn, where Broten and her husband retired to in 2006. Plans are in the works for a memorial service at a later date at Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit in Elk Grove.