Silver Cross Observes 125th Anniversary during November
In the early 1890s, a group of determined, community-minded Will County women decided Joliet needed a hospital east of the river.
The group, known as the Will County Union of King’s Daughters (now the Will County Union of King’s Daughters and Sons) began raising money through community donations, bake sales, trolley pass sales, any way they could to make the dream come true.
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. The imposing limestone structure stood just off U.S. 6 and Walnut Street.
Through 21 presidents, two world wars, two pandemics (1918 influenza and COVID-19), and the ratification of 11 Constitutional Amendments (including the 19th, giving women the right to vote), Silver Cross has delivered on its promise to care for the community.
Over the decades, the hospital has grown to a 650,000-square-foot, 300-bed facility on a 130-acre campus in New Lenox that also includes an Ambulatory Surgery Center, Endoscopy Center and Silver Oaks Behavioral Hospital. The hospital also operates several off-site physician offices through Silver Cross Medical Group.
The hospital also partners with leading academic providers including the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago – RIC), UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Loyola Medicine for neurosciences and stroke care.
Despite the challenging year faced by hospitals around the world and locally, 2020 has had several bright spots for Silver Cross. In April, the hospital earned its 11th Straight A for Patient Safety by the Leapfrog Group; in May, the hospital celebrated the 1-year anniversary of its open heart surgery program, which recently surpassed 200 patients; and in June, Silver Cross was named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by IBM Watson Health.
“There’s no doubt 2020 has been difficult for our community, our country and the world,” President/CEO Ruth Colby said. “But it’s also been illuminated by incredible displays of generosity and caring. Here at Silver Cross, we’ve received hundreds of donations of personal protective equipment, handmade masks, delicious meals, cleaning supplies and well-wishes that brightened us all as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.
“The month of November is National Gratitude Month, and we have so much to be grateful for: our community for rallying around us; our Silver Cross family, medical staff, volunteers, donors and Board of Directors for their commitment and dedication; and, most of all, our patients and families for trusting us with their care. One hundred twenty-five years after opening our doors, I’m proud to say we’ve never wavered from our commitment to deliver exceptional care to every patient, every time. Thank you for your support, we look forward to the next 125!”
About the King’s Daughters and Sons
Silver Cross Hospital was named after a variation of the Maltese cross adopted by the King’s Daughters when the group was founded in New York in January 1886 to begin “a sisterhood of service.” The limestone emblem that once adorned the original hospital can be seen in the vestibule of the current hospital.
Over the years, the King’s Daughters continued to fund various initiatives including the construction of the replacement hospital, which opened in 2012, through fundraising events such as trunk shows held throughout the year outside the hospital’s Seasons Dining Room.
Today, the King’s Daughter’s main focus is to support Silver Cross Hospital’s acute dialysis program donating $480,000 over the past 30 years. They also support other community organizations such as Operation Christmas Child, Royal Kids Camp for foster children, and the American Heart Association’s Little Hats Big Hearts Project.
Karla Farr, Co-President of King’s Daughters, said the group has been a big part of her life. Her grandmother was a member, as was her mother and several other relatives.
“They instilled in me the beauty of the organization,” Farr said. “It just came naturally. For me, it’s always been like family. They are my besties. They have been there when I needed someone to talk to; someone to listen. We got each other through raising kids, the ‘terrible twos’ and all of that.
“But then it’s also about doing something good for others, for the community. To raise money, we used to have garage sales, trunk sales, craft sales. And the crafts had to all be handmade. So, we got together at times in our circles to make crafts and other items for the hospital.”
Rita Larson joined King’s Daughters about 20 years ago. Now serving as Co-President, she was working in the Volunteer Office at Silver Cross Hospital and got to know the ladies of the King’s Daughters. She thought they would be a good group to join.
“I was looking for a group to be part of; I like doing things for others like they do. They like to laugh and have a lot of fun,” she added.
They still do, Larson said, but like many service organizations, their numbers have dwindled to around 30 from more than 100 at one time.
That aging and dwindling membership, as well as COVID-19 this year, has cut into their activities, Farr said. But they still have those friendships. And that legacy of 125 years of giving.
Farr and Larson said it’s wonderful Silver Cross Hospital turned 125 this year. And though the King’s Daughter’s motto, in part, urges looking “forward and not back,” Farr can’t help but think how those women who started it all in 1895 would react.
“I think they’d be very happy,” she said. “They’d be amazed at the jewel Silver Cross has become.”
Tradition of Generosity
In addition to the generosity of the King’s Daughters and Sons, Silver Cross is fortunate to benefit from two other active auxiliaries: Childerguild and the Advisory Board.
In 1891, the same year Silver Cross Hospital was incorporated, the Board of Trustees chose 15 women from the membership of the Will County Union of King’s Daughters and Sons to form a Board of Lady Managers. The name was later changed to the Advisory Board, and the group was charged with keeping an eye on hospital needs, including refurbishing and beautification. They hosted cakewalks, card parties, concerts, horse shows, and theater events to raise funds. They also worked with the Silver Cross Nursing School providing monthly teas and scholarships for the students. As a more permanent means of raising funds, the Advisory Board opened its resale shop, the Encore Shop, in late 1961.
Over the past 30 years, the charitable group has donated over $1.2 million to Silver Cross for the purchase of a variety of patient care equipment, transportation vehicles, and computer technology.
Childerguild was founded in 1910 by a group of women whose mission was to support the Women’s and Children’s Services at Silver Cross Hospital. Since those early years, many women have contributed their time and talents donating more than $4 million to support the Hospital through the Childerguild Gift Shop and the annual Childerguild Ball (this year cancelled as a result of the pandemic).