Mia – April 10, 2017

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Residents’ birthdays are celebrated on the third Wednesday of every month at The Danish Home. (photo source)

It felt a little strange to return to The Danish Home after so many years. The last time I was there, I was a little girl excited to “help” my mother and other Women’s Auxiliary members host festive birthday celebrations for the residents each month. Now I’m a grown woman with children of my own, carrying on my mom’s work and enjoying every minute of it.

I was thrilled to find The Danish Home is still the homey, caring place I remember so fondly. Stepping through the front door, I was again transported to Old World Denmark, with all the special traditions intact. The Danish Home residents still enjoy their koldtbord, the Danish version of smörgåsbord, and their authentic Danish pastries, which make delicious use of custard, almond paste and cinnamon.

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Wonderful food is always on the menu at The Danish Home. (photo source)

While food was my primary interest when I visited The Danish Home as a kid, these days I’m more focused on what I can do to brighten the days of the people who live there. It’s been especially rewarding to do that as a member of a committee charged with planning a series of wonderful events to mark the 125th anniversary of The Danish Home. We’re all descendants of the 12 women who founded The Danish Home back in 1891, and we quickly formed a friendly bond based on that shared history.

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Then called The Danish Old People’s Home, The Danish Home was founded in 1891. (photo source)

My great-great-great-grandmother, Christina Hansen, was one of the 12, and it’s only now that I’ve become a Danish Home volunteer that I realize what visionaries she, Emma Thorsen, Anna Mikkelsen, and the other founders were. Their decision to create a caring home for the aged was a major departure from the poorhouses that for more than 100 years had been the only option for elderly citizens who lacked family members who could provide for them.

By 1891, when The Danish Home was founded, a growing number of benevolent societies had established homes to tend to the elderly. But while many fell to progress over the decades, The Danish Home continued to thrive by practicing the most up-to-date care in an atmosphere rich in Scandinavian culture.

I’m so proud to be able to represent my grandmother and all my other family members who have contributed over the years to making The Danish Home the comfortable and caring community it is. I feel lucky to have started my volunteer career during this 125th anniversary year and am looking forward to hearing keynote speaker Gitte Pedersen, founder of Genomic Expression, address the Kick-Off Celebration at 11 a.m., Saturday, April 22 at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg. Her life story—growing up in Denmark, co-founding a sequence-based diagnostics company aimed at improving the chances of cancer patients by personalizing their treatments—is sure to be an inspiration.