Photo provided by Infant Welfare Society

The Oak Park River Forest Infant Welfare Society, a longtime community organization that aims to ensure the health and well-being of underserved children, took a major step toward securing a home of its own, recently purchasing a former U.S. Bank office building at 28 W. Madison.

The 103-year-old nonprofit announced in late February that it has “quietly raised funds to support a building purchase, as we sought to control increasing rent costs, address limited space and pursue key initiatives outlined in our current strategic plan.”

Peggy LaFleur, executive director, tells Wednesday Journal the organization has spent roughly the last 20 years at its rented location at 320 Lake St.

The new location, a 14,250-square-foot, 2-story brick building, will enable the organization to expand, she said, offering more space for its community meetings and other programming it provides for clients in Oak Park, River Forest, Austin, Cicero and Berwyn.

She said the organization continues its fundraising efforts to pay for the buildout and development of new programming. They are shooting for a target date of late 2020 to relocate to the new space.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the support of generous donors who enabled us to take this step,” she said in a press release. “This is more than a building and future home. It is a strategic asset that will allow us to evolve our vision of unlocking the potential of every child, by creating a Pediatric Care Center that serves as a fully-integrated medical, dental and behavioral health home and further addresses health disparities through new and innovative programming.”

The building, located at the northwest corner of Madison and Humphrey, includes a 38-space attached parking lot and nine metered parking spaces, along with more parking on Madison.

Debbie Blanco, president of the nonprofit’s board of directors, said in the press release that the organization is “experiencing a resurgence of interest from women and men who want to help ensure that children in our community and surrounding areas are equipped to live happy and healthy lives.”

“This building acquisition enables us to contemplate broader programming options leading to more opportunities for member and volunteer involvement. It’s an incredibly exciting time in our existence.” Blanco said.

David King, president of David King & Associates, helped the organization find the new location. Oak Park Apartments is overseeing management of the property.

LaFleur said the new building, which is about three times the space the organization now occupies, will help facilitate new programming for nutrition services, literacy and other healthcare services.

The organization serves about 3,400 kids a year and accommodates about 10,500 visits. Their clients come from Cicero, Berwyn, Melrose Park and Austin, along with Oak Park, River Forest and other nearby communities, LaFleur said.

“We’ve had a core of community oriented individuals that helped us buy this building outright,” she said. “It points to the fact that people are interested in our mission. It’s a big step for us.”

* This story was updated to correct the spelling of Peggy LaFleur’s name.

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