By Eileen O. Daday
Daily Herald correspondent
Mary Cadigan was a slightly built mother of six whose parents came from Ireland, but friends and acquaintances knew her as more than just a sweet Irish lass.
As one of the original board members of Journeys The Road Home, in Palatine, she was a driving force for the homeless and advocate for making services accessible.
Cadigan, of Arlington Heights, died Saturday from complications related to Alzheimer's. She was 82.
Beth Nabors, executive director of Journeys, says the agency now has more than 1,200 visits per year from homeless individuals and families, and those at risk of becoming homeless -- more than double the number of cases when Cadigan and her fellow board members created the organization.
"When I started at the Hope Center in 1999, we provided sack lunches, a place to rest, a mailing address and some light case management," Nabors said. "Today, we have a fully comprehensive service agency that offers counseling, case management, a full meal and food program, transportation, housing, and much more, and all free.
"Many of our core values today," Nabors added, "are in large part due to Mary Cadigan and the team that was part of the original board."
Cathy Ostendorf of Arlington Heights was the Hope Center's first executive director. She said Cadigan's activity in social justice causes started long before she joined the Northwest suburban agency.
Cadigan and her husband, Bill, volunteered every week at a homeless shelter in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and she was among the first to volunteer when St. James Church in Arlington Heights opened up as a PADS site. Later, she became involved in the movement to bring affordable housing to the Northwest suburbs, Ostendorf said.
"I really couldn't say what motivated Mary other than she realized that there was a need to provide shelter and food to those who needed it," Ostendorf says. "In her community and beyond, she wanted to be part of the solution."
Cadigan started volunteering for the Hope Center in the late 1980s, when it was housed in the lower level of the Wheeling Township building in Arlington Heights. She ardently embraced its mission, colleagues say.
"She was a lovely, caring woman with a special place in her heart for the homeless," says Jo Stellato, Wheeling Township's director of finance and administration.
Cadigan moved from volunteering to a board position when the Hope Center merged with Northwest suburban PADS Inc. in 1998, with the goal of providing a continuum of care.
One year later, she was a prominent part of the public debate to obtain an empty warehouse in Palatine for the new combined headquarters.
"Mary's good nature just could not understand why the neighbors didn't see the good the Hope Center would do," says Joe Farwell, an Arlington Heights trustee and attorney who represented the two entities in trying to secure the building.
"She was a very bright, warm, yet ardent supporter of the Hope Center," Farwell added. "She understood the importance of showing a united front, and never wavered from the idea that we would ultimately be successful."
Cadigan's leadership role in the agency was acknowledged in 2006, when she was named the "Outstanding Community Member and Volunteer" by Journeys.
Cadigan is survived by her husband, Bill, and children Clare (Patrick Lynch), Catharine M. (Mark Ostermann), Anne T. (Michael Gaziano), Sheila E., William J. (Beth Wood), and Eileen P. (Raphael Brasseur), as well as nine grandchildren.
Visitation for Mary Cadigan is being held today, Thursday, from 3-9 p.m. at Glueckert Funeral Home, 1520 N. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.
An 11 a.m. funeral Mass will be held on Friday, July 25 at St. James Church, 831 N. Arlington Heights Road, in Arlington Heights.