What would you like to do with the rest of your life? How can you learn to manage and understand your finances? Where can you go to discuss literature, poetry, or short stories? If only someone could help you discover your lost spirituality. Where can you meet other like-minded, educated women to discuss things that are important or of interest to you?
The Women's Exchange was started in 1983 by Joanne Ausperger and grew out of the Winnetka Congregational Church. Joanne was challenged to do something with social capital - start something where participants will go out and do good in their community. The first classes were Life Planning, and Financial and Social engagement. In 1983 many women were coming to understand that wife and mother was perhaps not all that they could be. Joanne was a pioneer in opening one of the first women's centers to offer direction.
In 2011 the current director, Deb Guy, took over. Her background was in the school system, first as a teacher and then as a guidance counselor at the high school level. Deb has been a long time participant and supporter of the center and was a natural to take over. Her enthusiasm and passion are integral to who she as a supporter of women's concerns. She has seen first hand the transformations that occur at the center and is amazed and touched by them.
She told me of two women who were coming out of a class together when one asked the other what type of work she had done. They discovered that they had both been French teachers and they immediately began speaking French and have since become friends. Another woman attended a class and complained to Deb afterward that it was useless and a waste of time. Ten months later she called Deb to apologize and offered to take her to lunch. It seems that the woman had finally done some of the things she had learned in her class and was astounded to see that they worked for her.
Their flagship class is Life Planning, an eight week course that helps you identify your next phase in life. Where are you now, where do you imagine yourself in ten years? Are you interested in service work, leaving work, being a full-time grandparent, or a full-time volunteer? Do you want to change jobs or careers. Discover your gifts or aspirations by taking this signature class.
They offer a financial series where women may learn for the first time about long term life insurance, what are the differences between whole life versus term, or how annuities, stocks, and bonds differ. Deb says we all know bits and pieces of finance but after taking this class you will know if you need or want to hire a broker to help with the next step. No one is being sold anything - only being asked proactive questions. The class is popular because financial information changes all the time.
The Women's Exchange offers approximately 100 new classes a year including workshops, one-time classes, and salons. The Workshops run once or up to ten weeks. One class has been going on for 18 years with the same teacher! One time classes can be as diverse as:
- Right Sizing Your Home - What you Need to Know (salon class)
- Organize Your Photo Workshop
- LinkedIn Workshop
- Photo Editing Online
- Freud and Jung: a Fascinating Friendship (Friday Salon at 4pm)
- Creating Optimal Well-Being
- Put Your Best Face Forward - Refresh Your Make-Up Routine
- The 7 Things Parents Can do to Raise Daughters with Healthy Body Esteem
There are numerous book groups, with one of the most enduring being the Short Story Group. That group meets on alternate Fridays and covers one story at a time - you are free to attend all or just one. It's one of the longest running classes because not everyone has the time to read a full novel for most book groups. Another popular class, "Journal to Self" meets on Mondays and is comprised mostly of moms with younger children.
Then there are the popular salons - evocative of Gertrude Stein's Parisian get-togethers at her home. They are held on Friday afternoons and go from 4:00 - 5:30. Wine and nibbles are served and over 90 minutes you'll listen to a discourse on something that interests you. It's all very comfortable, relaxing, and welcoming.
Women are drawn here from 24 different Chicago communities and the mean age is 50-55 - although it ranges from the 40s to the 80s. They are all educated and curious with diverse life backgrounds and the women come for many reasons. Some have recently learned they will be divorcing or are suddenly widowed. Others may have retired and are ready to learn a new skill or hobby, are new to town, or just wanting to discuss books or poetry.
Classes offered here are incredibly well priced. The center runs on a shoestring budget and relies on the classes and donors for support. But Deb Guy doesn't dream small and is exploring lots of exciting ways to get the word out about the Women's Exchange. The center is at Harkness House, annex to the Winnetka Community House where all classes are held. Some will soon be off site - perhaps at a coffee spot.
Deb told me, "books, films, poems, life stages, dreams, just a whole lot of things can be taken apart with a good facilitator." Where are you in your life? Ready to explore a different adventure or just moved to town? Are you full of ideas, just curious, or lonely? Where do you go to satisfy the hunger for a deeper conversation? A warm cup of coffee and a transformative conversation can give you a lot of strength and resolve. We are so blessed to have the Women's Exchange here for over three decades. Check out all they offer!
The Women's Exchange, annex to the
Winnetka Community House (to the right of the front entrance on Lincoln)
630 Lincoln, Winnetka IL
Interview with Deb Guy and two Women's Exchange board members by Val Haller of Valslist.com:
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Margaret Goss is a full-time real estate broker since 1998 working in the North Shore communities of Winnetka, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Glencoe, Northfield, Glenview, and Evanston.
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