Nora O'Malley has been best friends with Sister Rosemary Connelly for almost twice as long as Connelly has been Executive Director of Chicago's Misericordia care community for people with developmental disabilities--76 years, to be exact. A resident of Sedgebrook, a retirement community in Lincolnshire, IL, O'Malley grew up with Connelly on the west side of Chicago and has been her partner in service to Misericordia for over 40 years. While her name does not appear frequently in multiple publications like Connelly's, and she has not received the humanitarian awards her friend has, O'Malley has devoted immeasurable heart and mercy to the organization whose name in Latin means, appropriately, "Heart of Mercy."
A former nun and a PhD with over 50 years of experience in health care, encompassing nursing, hospital administration and management, O'Malley has brought her volunteer spirit to Sedgebrook. Many others share her passion for serving the 31-acre, racially, religiously and socio-economically diverse Misericordia campus on the north side of Chicago. Each November, over 50 Sedgebrook residents visit Misericordia, where they support its annual holiday festivities and are served by resident employees in the Hearts & Flour Bakery, the Greenhouse Inn restaurant, and the gift and thrift shops. "Two busloads of volunteers go to Misericordia every year; there are such generous, supportive people at Sedgebrook," said O'Malley. "Volunteerism is very alive here," agreed Sedgebrook Community Resources Coordinator Ryan Springer. "Our residents are very involved in the community, giving back whenever, wherever, and however they can."
"Sis," as Nora O'Malley is known to family and friends, moved to Sedgebrook in 2008, primarily because she was impressed by the presence of an onsite physician. (Currently, there are two onsite physicians at Sedgebrook.) "Having been in healthcare all my life, that was very attractive to me. I also liked that pets were allowed," said the dog owner. In the nearly six years she has lived at Sedgebrook, O'Malley has come to treasure the "wonderful friends" she has made and the top-notch quality of life. "I'm so grateful to be here. Everything is right here--the fitness center, the salon, a bank, store, worship center, indoor parking; you can be as private or as busy as you like. You don't have to leave the building if you don't want to because everything is available." But anyone who knows Nora knows she's frequently out and about, most often devoting her time to Sister Rosemary and Misericordia's mission to "honor the life and preserve the dignity of all persons."
"I have always tried to help Rosemary as much as I can," said O'Malley, recalling a meeting with Connelly and others in the 1970s, at which the idea of a festival to raise funds was born. Today, Misericordia's annual Family Fest draws thousands each year. "When I was a young nurse, there wasn't anything for people with disabilities in Chicago. It's so rewarding to have a place like Misericordia, where people can have a social life, a job, friends, and their personal dignity. It's the opposite of the old time state institutions," she said of the 600-resident community with a waiting list of as many potential residents. "People love living there, and many more love volunteering there."
Sedgebrook is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering a diverse lifestyle, maintenance-free living and outstanding amenities. Five-star rated Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation is located on the 92-acre Sedgebrook campus in Lincolnshire, Illinois. Sedgebrook is owned by Senior Care Development LLC and managed by Life Care Services LLC. For additional information visit www.welcometosedgebrook.com or call 847-901-3319.