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March 2023

New Beginnings

In January 2023, The Community House turned the page on its first century of service and begin an exciting new chapter. Befitting such an auspicious and historic milestone, The Community House is playing host to a variety of celebrations and functions to recognize its humble beginnings, commemorate this once in a lifetime milestone and look towards a new and exciting future. To launch The Community House’s second century of service, The Community House Foundation hosted its 7th Annual Bates Street Society Dinner and Awards Celebration on Saturday, February 11. It was a smashing success.

During the evening, The Community House Boards of Directors, and yours truly, took this very, very special occasion to announce an exciting and incredibly important change – now incorporated into The Community House 2.0’s existing vision and mission.

For those of you unable to attend the 2023 Bates Street Society Dinner, I’d like to share an excerpt of my remarks with you:

“As I shared with many of you last year in preparation for us turning the page on The Community House’s first 100 years of charitable and dedicated service – staff and leadership spent the year busy reflecting, studying and assessing what current community programs and services are still viable/impactful (post-COVID) and what new programs and services may now be required of us in today’s society? While continuing to climb out of COVID, we took a measured look and solicited feedback from those that we currently serve (now totaling 272 zip codes) and welcomed/solicited feedback from others yet to be served.

Through ongoing analysis, we confirmed that nearly 1.3 million charitable nonprofits feed, heal, shelter, educate, inspire, enlighten, and nurture people of every age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status, from coast to coast, border to border, and beyond. They foster civic engagement and leadership, drive economic growth, and strengthen the fabric of our communities.

We learned, it’s easy to see a nonprofit’s mission in action when our families or neighbors are direct beneficiaries—such as when nonprofits provide food for the hungry, life-saving care, tools to survive or shelter.

It’s harder to recognize the full impact of the indirect benefits nonprofits provide us. For example, the mission of the “Friends of the Baldwin Public Library” might be to promote reading, but taxpayers also benefit when the nonprofit raises funds to buy books and equipment. Nonprofits play a fundamental role in creating more equitable and thriving communities.

In the nonprofit world, missions, not markets, are the primary magnets attracting essential resources—from donors inspired by organizations’ audacious goals; from board members, who not only volunteer their time and expertise but also often serve as major funders; and from employees, who accept modest paychecks to do work they care passionately about. But missions are typically better at providing inspiration than direction. Sometimes both.

It is in the spirit of both that The Community House is called upon to expand and deliver new programs and services to improve the health of our neighbors, our city, and beyond holistically through improved health literacy, health behaviors, nutrition, and exercise. Adding to the unprecedented urgency, there is a national wellness and mental health crisis in our country, our communities, in our own backyards. There is a battle going on. All hands are needed on deck.

Our planned expansion of programs and services aim to decrease the risk of developing chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breast cancer, heart disease, and depression. Lifestyle, good health and wellness. We are particularly alarmed at current statistics related to depression, loneliness, eating disorders and suicide - especially amongst our young people and seniors. Greater action is needed. Our schools, our hospitals, our centers of health & wellness need our help. We want to help.

When it comes to increased rates of youth suicide and suicidal ideation, numbers don’t lie. Since 2007, suicide rates have more than doubled among individuals 10 to 24 years old. The National Vital Statistics Reports collected data about suicide rates among young people, showing that the suicide rate went from 6.8 per 100,000 in 2007 to 10.7 per 100,000 in 2018. That’s an increase of 57.4 percent. This report also found that 42 states saw significant increases in youth suicide rates, with most seeing an increase between 30 to 60 percent. 

All this data was collected before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which has had an even more detrimental effect on students’ lives, thrusting them into remote learning environments and isolating them from friends and family. With these alarming trends, the need for a modern districtwide suicide awareness, prevention, screening and case management program has never been so vital. 

In order to deliver these crucial services and underpin our existing programs and services, The Community House will need to expand its campus to professionally serve all those wishing to take advantage of our new life, health & wellness programs, existing classes, summer programming and camps and early childhood education. Even our 100-year-old building is deserving of some gentle help and wellness.

In our effort to make the right decisions on hosting these new programs and services, we have consulted with healthcare and dietary professionals, educators, fitness experts, governmental agencies, city planners, architects, and others to formulate a plan to physically expand our services, our impact, our campus. Never before has the modest Community House dared to take on such a daunting capital project or secure the necessary outside funding from a new generation of selfless visionaries to help take us over the financial finish line. We will need time, talent, and treasure like never before to achieve success. We dare to be great. We must not be deterred.

I wish to thank Saroki Architecture, architect, founder and past Pillar Victor Saroki, wife and co-founder Michelle and their very talented son and architect Alex, who have put in countless hours studying, researching and designing this amazing life, health and wellness center to host a myriad of new and vital programming and services for our community, and who are expertly shepherding this vital project through the rigorous approval process to build. I thank the Saroki family for believing in The Community House, and for their belief in our goal, our expanded mission to reach, educate and care for others in our communities longing for good health and wellness – a better quality of life.

We have come to believe, that advocating, welcoming, and connecting others with trained professionals on our beautiful campus, in a safe environment, utilizing the beautiful grounds and facilities gifted to us by selfless visionaries a century ago remains in line with our founding principles and mission – perhaps like never before. We will never discard our core services or principles, that is who we are, but, like any sound business, 100 years old, we must evolve with the times and with the needs and realities on the ground.

While lifestyle, health & wellness have been added to our mission, it is the impact we wish to make that will be the true measure. We must not sit idly by. If you would like to learn more, and I hope you do, please feel to reach out to me. I’ll be waiting for your call. If we can save one life…

For more information about our vital expansion to our existing programs or services or for booking gathering and meeting space for Spring 2023 and beyond, please go to or call 248.644.5832.

William D. Seklar is President & CEO of The Community House and The Community House Foundation in Birmingham.


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