Naperville kids charity leader to retire in 2018

  • IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of the nonprofit KidsMatter in Naperville, plans to retire next year to pursue a new adventure in nonprofit work -- supporting orphanages and education in Kenya and Guatemala. Her work in Naperville has focused on helping kids build the skills to avoid dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse.

      IdaLynn Wenhold, executive director of the nonprofit KidsMatter in Naperville, plans to retire next year to pursue a new adventure in nonprofit work -- supporting orphanages and education in Kenya and Guatemala. Her work in Naperville has focused on helping kids build the skills to avoid dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer, June 2015

  • IdaLynn Wenhold plans to retire next year as executive director of the nonprofit organization KidsMatter, which works to help kids avoid destructive decisions. Wenhold has held the position since 2001, shortly after KidsMatter was formed.

    IdaLynn Wenhold plans to retire next year as executive director of the nonprofit organization KidsMatter, which works to help kids avoid destructive decisions. Wenhold has held the position since 2001, shortly after KidsMatter was formed. Courtesy of Fair Lady Productions

 
 

Heard of KidsMatter in Naperville? If so, that's likely because of its first and only executive director, IdaLynn Wenhold, who is preparing to step down.

Since becoming its leader in 2001, Wenhold, 63, of Naperville, has built the name recognition and connections of the organization, which helps kids build the skills to avoid destructive choices.

"She's done so much to solidify the KidsMatter brand," said Josh McBroom, the nonprofit's board president. "It's a household name in Naperville."

Wenhold plans to retire next spring, saying the time is right for a fresh direction for the organization and a new adventure for her and her husband, Good Shepherd Church co-Senior Pastor Greg Wenhold.

"My desire is to be able to transition to a new leader who will be able to take KidsMatter to the next level and to really be innovative and creative," Wenhold said. "My prayer is that there will be someone that steps into this position that's truly passionate about serving our kids and our families and bringing renewed health in areas where there are struggles."

A steering committee of KidsMatter board members and others involved with helping youths and teens is beginning a search for Wenhold's successor, hoping to hire the right person by March, McBroom said. Applicants should send a cover letter, resume and references to Mike Bumpus at mike@kidsmatter2us.org by Jan. 31. Matching Wenhold's enthusiasm for pointing young people along the right path, and her expertise in social work and creating nonprofit programs, won't be easy.

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"When you hear her talk, you're like, 'She's so passionate. Her heart's in it,'" McBroom said. "We'll all be sad to see her go."

Wenhold came to KidsMatter after it formed in the late 1990s to address concerns with destructive teenage behaviors that Edward Hospital identified as health risks.

Substance abuse, alcohol use, pregnancy and violence were among the concerns the organization began to address by working to build positive characteristics in teens. The work grew into a mission of "building resilient kids who say 'no' to destructive behaviors and yes to endless possibilities," especially when Wenhold became a volunteer and then executive director.

"She's the backbone of helping kids," said Kandiss Hernandez of Fair Lady Productions, who this spring honored Wenhold with the sixth annual Fair Lady award. "She works around the community tirelessly helping others."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

She's been described as energetic, altruistic and contagiously happy, an eloquent spokeswoman and a well-connected collaborator -- attributes KidsMatter wants to find in its next leader, McBroom said.

Wenhold said her target retirement date is fluid. She's willing to help in any way to create a smooth transition for programs such as the "Don't Be an Accidental Drug Dealer" campaign against prescription abuse, or annual events including the Skaters' Picnic, youth job and volunteer fairs, and youth service awards.

As Wenhold prepares to retire, she said her husband is doing the same. The couple plan to devote more time to a nonprofit organization the family established in 2012 to support orphanages and schools in Kenya and Guatemala. Called 4:13, the organization is driven by the Bible passage in Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

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