Officials: Little City, Countryside Association merger should mean more services
Two Palatine-area agencies serving hundreds of suburban residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities will merge in a move their leaders say will mean more comprehensive services and a greater array of programs.
Officials with Little City and Countryside Association for People with Disabilities announced the pending merger Monday, ending months of talks about combining their operations.
Shawn Jeffers, executive director of Little City, said the merger brings an exciting opportunity to re-evaluate and improve the services they provide.
"This is a marriage of two uniquely positioned organizations that have a lot to offer each other," Jeffers said. "It's definitely a win-win situation for the families."
More than 750 clients are served by the two organizations, Jeffers said. Most of Little City's clients come from suburban Cook County and Lake County. Countryside operates out of locations in Waukegan and northeastern Palatine, and most of their clients come from those areas.
The integration process could take a year to complete and teams are working to determine the most efficient way to integrate, said Howard Reicheneker, interim executive director of Countryside Association.
Jeffers said that at most two staff members would be laid off in the merger, and Countryside's building on Shirley Road in Palatine has already been sold. Some members of the Countryside board are switching over.
Overall, the merger will create a "better, stronger organization," he said.
Jeffers said the agency hopes to replace Countryside's Palatine location with a new facility by next spring, and although the address will change, families should expect to receive the same services.
"And once things get settled, we'll look at programs and see what we can collectively do to make it better," he said.
The merged company will go by the name Little City, but Countryside's name will be honored in another way, said Heather Ritter, president of the agency's board of directors.
"It was important to us and the families to acknowledge Countryside as a whole and acknowledge the founders from 60 years ago," said Ritter, who is also director of human resources for the Daily Herald.
Jeffers said that acknowledgment may come in the form of naming a center after Countryside.
Reicheneker said the merger will be beneficial because it allows more comprehensive services for the people they serve.
Countryside focuses on home-based services in the Northwest suburbs, in-day programming and employment services. Little City has a day school, a recreation center, vocational programming and a center for the arts. It also provides foster and adoptive placement services.
"With significant governmental and legislative challenges, joining forces will increase the organization's ability to efficiently serve and advocate for children and adults with disabilities, and their families," Reicheneker said in a news release.
Jeffers will become executive director of the newly merged organization. Reicheneker will take a position on the Little City financial team.
Little City is, by far, the larger organization, with an annual budget of $27 million, compared to Countryside's approximately $7 million.
Jeffers said last year that talks about a potential merger had been occurring on and off for years, but they picked up after the retirement of former Countryside Executive Director Wayne Kulick in June 2014.
Officials said state budget woes, and declining support from the state, also played a part in the merger discussions.