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Family Alliance founder stepping down after 30 years

(Monica Maschak –
Family Alliance founder and CEO Carol Louise admires a carol-themed Christmas tree in the elderly care facility in Woodstock on Dec. 11. Louise opened the company 30 years ago and will retire at the end of the month to work part time for the company in a managing position.

WOODSTOCK –As Carol Louise mulled over quitting a steady job to start what she saw as her “mission,” she sought the advice of one of her four sons.

Louise, the soon-to-retire founder of Family Alliance, a day care center for the elderly, had worked her way up at a nursing home from staff nurse to head nurse to administrator. She’d learned about an adult day care center in Rockford and thought the local community could benefit from a similar service.

But she had doubts about whether it was the time to be making such a drastic move.

“I said [to my son], ‘I wonder if this is a good idea. I’m leaving a good job with good pay and starting at zero,’” Louise said. “He said, ‘I think you should do it. You never know where it’s going to take you.’”

Louise listened. She stepped away from her steady job at age 40 and founded Family Alliance in 1982, first running the center with a $1,000 anonymous donation at a church that let her use its facilities for free.

“I thought, at the time, if we ever saw a $100,000 budget, things would be wonderful,” Louise said.

When she retires at the end of the year, Louise will leave behind a staff of 48 that operates with a $2.2 million budget.

It’s been a steady ascent from 30 years ago.

After running the program by herself as a volunteer in the beginning months, Louise bid on a senior counseling program from the county’s mental health board, which was looking to spin the program off on another agency.

The upstart Family Alliance was awarded the program and the funding that came with it. The center moved to a rented building on Throop Street in Woodstock and employed a handful of people.

Louise moved her operation to Eastwood Drive eight years later, but it eventually outgrew that building, as well.

In 1997, the current Family Alliance facility was constructed at 2028 N. Seminary Ave. They built an addition for a memory loss program six years ago.

Family Alliance hasn’t stopped growing since Louise decided to pursue her mission.

“We kept listening to the community, asking what their needs were,” Louise said.

Kim Larson, former director of Adult and Child Therapy Services, will take over for Louise in January.

“I’ve known [Louise] through different committees and have just thought very highly of her and this organization,” Larson said.

Louise said she’s excited to spend more time with her family, including 10 grandchildren.

But she hasn’t completely finished her mission – she still will work on a part-time basis in marketing.

“I think you have to follow your dream – your mission – whatever it may be,” she said. “Especially if you’re out there to help others.”

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