Kirsten Freund knows a thing or two about hygge. Raised in Esbjerg, Denmark, on the North Sea and 100 percent Danish, the faithful friend and volunteer of The Danish Home of Chicago knows what it’s like to cozy up inside a comfy home a good portion of the year.
“It got dark at 3:00 in the afternoon; we used an awful lot of candles. I still light them in my house in Beverly,” said Kirsten of the stately five-bedroom home on the far south side of Chicago where she has lived for 47 years. This is the same home in which she hosted two luncheon presentations for guests to learn about The Danish Home’s $10.5 million capital campaign in support of physical improvements and increased charitable care.
“The Danish Home also has the hygge touch,” said Kirsten. “It’s the nicest thing to drive up in front and see the Danish and American flags flying. I always think, ‘this is home.’”
Kirsten has admired those flags since the early 1960s, when she came to Chicago to visit her great-aunt and uncle and studied business and language at Northwestern University. That is when the longtime Danish Home Women’s Auxiliary board member was introduced to, and fell in love with, the boutique community in the historic Norwood Park neighborhood.
Still today, she can be found in The Danish Home’s kitchen making smørrebrød with fellow auxiliary members at Summerfest each year and hosting the raffle table at monthly birthday parties.
“I love going to The Danish Home so much; the staff and residents are always so sweet and appreciative,” she said in her distinguishable Danish accent. Citing “dear friend” and avid gardener Krista Nielsen and former Danish Home administrator Leif Nielsen and his wife Diana, she said, “Some of my friends have moved in, and I always get such a warm welcome from everyone. They’re like family to me.”
Kirsten’s charitable spirit extends beyond The Danish Home. The former flight attendant is also an active member of The Danish Brotherhood in Tinley Park and travels every winter to Puerta Vallarta to help children with cleft palates.
Often, she makes the pilgrimage to her homeland of Denmark, where one of her twin sons lives; the other resides in Sarasota, Florida. At 77, Kirsten regularly swims, plays golf and rides in a bicycle club. “I am the longest living resident on my block,” she notes.
And when the time comes, The Danish Home is where she hopes to live. “The Danish Home is really special. It’s a lovely home with wonderful staff, wonderful food that could just as well have been made in Denmark, and everyone is cared for individually and so well. I don’t see any unhappy people here. It’s just a great group of people.”