For 30 years, Cynthia Sommerman was accustomed to a simple routine of working in the cafeteria at Loyola Medical Center and sitting around at home with her parents.
But when the 59-year-old moved to the Edwin F. Deicke Home in Lombard five years ago, everything changed.
"For the first time ever, Cynthia had a social life," said Sommerman's cousin and guardian, Nancy Oates. "She's blossomed ever since she's been there. It's just been a blessing to us, a true blessing."
That joy turned to sadness recently with the announcement that after more than 30 years of serving adults with developmental disabilities, the Deicke Home may be forced to close due to financial trouble.
"We're looking for a long-term solution," Executive Director Bruce Thompson said. If that solution isn't found soon, the home will shut its doors at the end of April.
"The ultimate goal is to find a philanthropist who will help us," he said. "That's what we really kind of need at this point."
There are multiple fundraising efforts underway to keep the home open. Gianorio's Pizza at 434 S. Main St. in Lombard will donate 10 percent of sales between 3 and 9 p.m. today to the Deicke Home.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 8, a fundraiser with a buffet dinner, live music, dancing and a raffle will be held at the Villa Park VFW, 39 W. St. Charles Road.
Donations also can be made by visiting gofundme.com/savedeickehome.
The idea for the home started in the 1950s when a group of parents with developmentally disabled children started gathering at residences and churches.
Concerned about their children's education, the parents opened a school. But as special education started to become more mainstream, the parents began thinking of ways they could help their children through adulthood.
The Deicke family made a substantial donation that allowed for the home to be built in 1982. Since then, it has provided services for more than 250 people ages 21 and older.
Guardians pay $375 a month for a resident to stay at the home. In addition, the home receives money from the residents' Social Security plans and a subsidy from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Thompson, however, said those revenue sources cover only about 30 percent of the facility's operating costs. The home doesn't receive any state funding, he said, and that means the remaining revenue must come from fundraising, grants and donations.
It costs about $44,000 a year for the home to take in a resident, Thompson said. If the residents are moved into the state system, he estimates it would cost about three times as much to care for them, and with taxpayer money.
For many years, the home hosted a weekly bingo fundraiser that sometimes brought in a combined $150,000 a year. But attendance declined as the recession hit, and in 2009 the home's board of directors agreed to cancel the bingo nights because it was losing money on the events.
Over the years many people who were involved with the home's beginnings left it large sums of money in their wills, but that money also has diminished, Thompson said.
At one point, the home's reserves were in the upper six figures, but now there is only enough to cover costs for two to three months, he said.
In 2011, a fundraising expert was hired to help the board find new donors. The resignation of two board members due to family issues, however, resulted in the home not having enough board members to carry out a plan, Thompson said.
There currently are 16 high-functioning residents between the ages of 25 and 71 who live at the home.
Each resident has the ability to dress and bathe him- or herself, and an understanding of the medications he or she needs to take, Thompson said. Residents are assigned chores and provided with regular opportunities to do activities in the community, such as shopping and bowling. Some also hold jobs.
There are 16 paid staff members who work at the home. About 30 volunteers also help with events and come to the home each week to socialize with residents or lead music, art, cooking and exercise classes.
Gina Demore has been volunteering at the home for only a few months, but she has seen how comfortable all the residents are together.
"I was heartbroken because this is their home," she said of hearing about how the facility may close. "When you go there it is a true home. It's not an institution. This is their home, and these 16 residents, they're all family."
On a recent afternoon, the residents were scattered throughout the two-story, redbrick house, just like college roommates in a dorm.
Three women lounged on their beds and recliner chairs in a bedroom upstairs, enjoying a television show together.
Down the hall, Marilyn Francik proudly showed off her collections of angel figurines and DVDs, along with black-and-white photos of her deceased parents. She smiled as she talked about her job at Repeat Boutique, where she has worked for seven years.
"I've been here 25 years and I don't want to leave here," the 68-year-old said. "If it wasn't for Bruce, I'd probably be bored to death."
In a common room downstairs, a group of residents played a card game while one woman sat alone on a couch, reading the Bible.
James Bosh, 58, moved to the home a few months ago after living in another facility. He said he has adjusted to living in the Deicke Home and is looking forward to attending a baseball game with the other residents in the spring.
"They do more outings than (my previous home) did, and the food is a little better," he said.
Judy Montague's guardian, Maureen Lyons, said she's amazed at how much her 49-year-old sister has thrived since moving into the home last summer.
"It has been the perfect, and I mean perfect, situation," Lyons said, adding that the thought of the home closing has brought her to tears. "I think all of us guardians are exhausted. We're saddened, we're shocked, we're anxious, we're scared."
Oates said guardians, residents, staff members and volunteers are still hopeful there is "an angel out there" who can help save the home.
"This is a cry for help," she said. "We need some big money from corporate sponsors and we need it consistently over the years."
While the home is clearly in need of large donations, Demore said she hopes many people will get involved in the efforts to raise money. She said she wants people who aren't familiar with the home to know it is truly "a gem in Lombard."
"For these folks to have a place to call home and have the independence that they have, there is something that's very special and it needs to be saved," she said. "I feel that we just need a lot of people to do a little bit."