40 Years of TLC Service
A History of The Learning Center and House of Connections
by Thomas Vonderhaar
In 1983, lay members of St. Luke Parish in River Forest, IL, and Sisters of the Sinsinawa Dominican Congregation established the House of Connections (HOC) in the former convent of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Chicago. It served as a resource in the North Lawndale and Little Village communities for adult education, social services, and legal assistance.
Dolores Lynch, OP (1939–2003), became the first director of HOC. For 16 years, HOC served the community in multiple ways, with adult education growing in significance as the chief need for the people in the area. Marilyn Derr, OP, began her service in 1989, and she continues to this day as an adult education instructor.
In 1999, the HOC Board of Directors engaged in a strategic planning process which resulted in clarifying the main focus of the HOC: adult literacy education. Supportive services and the involvement of the community were retained as essential elements of our educational goals. The purpose was defined in future terms as educating adults for effective personal lives, productive employment, and positive contribution to the community. A name change reflected the center’s clarified focus and history—The Learning Center/House of Connections (affectionately known as TLC). Monice Kavanaugh, OP (1938–2022), became the first full-time executive director in 1999. She was a guiding force for TLC for over 20 years.
During the planning process that year, the value of volunteer tutors was noted, and a plan for significantly increasing tutor numbers at TLC was created, and the organization received its first Secretary of State Adult Volunteer Literacy Grant in 2000. Since then, enrollment has more than doubled; student retention has improved; and reading, math, and English comprehension scores have risen. Volunteer tutors have made the difference. We are fortunate to attract and retain high quality tutors.
In June 2005 with the merger of Blessed Sacrament and St. Agatha Parish, TLC joined the youth center and the food pantry/social services program in retaining essential services in the community. The organization moved into and renovated the former parish rectory. TLC is proud to provide a respectful, beautiful, peaceful, and professional atmosphere for adult learning.
Over the years, TLC’s holistic approach to service has included computer classes, mental health clinicians, nutrition classes, healthy meals and fresh produce deliveries, a music program, coat drives, book drives, and free bus passes. Student testing fees have been paid by TLC, and field trips have been taken to museums, theaters, and cultural sites.
The Sinsinawa Dominican community has provided a generous amount of time to support the mission of TLC along with a bountiful amount of financial support. In the last 10 years, over $168,000 was granted to TLC. On the advent of our 40th anniversary, TLC/ HOC is forever grateful to the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. Their so-freely given gifts of time and treasure allow TLC to continue to espouse these values:
Adults can learn.
Adults have a right to quality education.
Education is liberating.
Education is empowering.
Inclusive education creates a path to justice and peace.
For more information about TLC/HOC, visit our website at tlcchicago.org. A video celebrating TLC’s 40th anniversary is available on YouTube.