Advisory Board Celebrates 130 Years Supporting Silver Cross

For 130 years, the volunteer members of the Advisory Board, founded on July 6, 1891 as the Board of Lady Managers, have been doing whatever they could to support Silver Cross Hospital.

They held linen showers (gathering material for blankets and bedding for the maternity and pediatric wards), selling trolley passes and tag days, the earliest of which helped raise $1,000 for the hospital’s new maternity ward.

In November 1902, the group organized a party at the Joliet Correctional Center. It drew the elite of Joliet, Chicago, and Springfield, all of whom paraded in a grand march. The infamous roundhouse was transformed into a banquet hall, with 24 box seats selling for $500 a piece, enough to offset the base cost of the event. That amounted to more than $90,000 in today’s dollars.

In recent years, Silver Cross has been the beneficiary of more than $1 million in donations, including the hospital’s first chapel, and just in the last year, a pledge of $50,000 to support a cardiac room in its new cardiovascular unit.

The Advisory Board was the initial fundraising arm of the Will County Union of King’s Daughters (now the Will County Union of King’s Daughters and Sons.) By 1895, they had raised enough money, the then-royal sum of $37,500, or about $1.2 million in 2020 dollars, so that Silver Cross Hospital could open its doors with 33 beds on Thanksgiving Day just off U.S. 6 and Walnut Street.

Advisory Board’s Long History of Support and Fundraising

“In those days, the East Side was Joliet’s ‘Silk Stocking District,’” said Donna Zanzola, historian for the Silver Cross Advisory Board. “And residents there decided they wanted a hospital east of the river.”

Among the initial supporters of the hospital was Harlow Higginbotham, a New Lenox resident who was a partner in Marshall Field’s, a banker, and the organizing force behind the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. He was a colleague and friend of most of Chicago’s leaders, including George Pullman, Marshall Field, and the Palmers.

Zanzola, formerly Silver Cross Director of Volunteer Services, said he was a driving force in organizing the 1902 prison bash as well, gathering some of his elite Chicago friends, as well as the Illinois Secretary of State at the time

To help keep the hospital running, the women of the Advisory Board would hold monthly teas and card parties, where attendees brought more donations of materials, or whatever was needed at the time.

The Advisory Board also provided moral support for the nursing students who lived in a section at the hospital.

“The students couldn’t be married, could not socialize much,” said Zanzola, a University of Illinois history major. “So, the ladies would have regular teas for them.”

In 1941, with only $15 in the group’s coffers, the Advisory Board was able to raise $6,500 for a new maternity floor with a four-day tag sale.

One consistent source of donations through the Advisory Board has been The Encore Resale Shop, founded nearly 60 years ago in a house and bounced around to different spots five times since to its current location, 710 Cedar Crossing, on the Silver Cross Hospital campus in New Lenox.

In just over 30 years, Advisory Board volunteers have raised $1.4 million through the Encore Shop for patient beds and mattresses, robotic surgical equipment, emergency department stretchers, patient safety equipment, blanket warmer cabinets, a bariatric motorized wheelchair, glidescope, non-invasive ventilator, and scholarships for numerous Silver Cross employees.

“Our Advisory Board volunteers remain committed to their mission to provide funding for new equipment, special projects and scholarships,” said Terry A. Karales, RN, who handles publicity for the Advisory Board.

Donors Make the Difference

“We are proud and pleased to welcome our long-time donors and patrons and look forward to meeting many new customers in the future to continue our tradition of giving.

“Please visit the Encore Resale Shop at 710 Cedar Crossing, New Lenox, on the campus of Silver Cross Hospital, located across from the Emergency Department entrance. Our hours of operation are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Zanzola said the Advisory Board, which now has 55 members, is able to do all this through the generosity of its donors, many of whom are regulars who are willing to part with some high-end goods to help the hospital.

“We get diamond earrings and rings,” she said. “And we have wonderful antiques for our annual Antique and Collectible Show. We have very nice items and great donors.”

Donations can be dropped off at the shop or in the collection bin on the south side of the Silver Cross Hospital.

For more information, call 815-300-7642.

Silver Cross Hospital

1900 Silver Cross Blvd

New Lenox, IL