Monday, March 01, 2004
Nonprofit supports women as they navigate through a divorce
When Vicki Pagnucci got divorced, she did all the things she was supposed to do. She found good representation, she saw a therapist, she even took her kids to see a counselor. But something was missing. No matter how hard she tried to ignore them, she still suffered from pangs of anger and frustration. Now, 3½ years since her divorce, Pagnucci volunteers at an Evanston nonprofit that offers the support she was lacking.
"I think they could have helped me to know that I'm not alone," she says.
For 14 years divorced women have been coming to The Lilac Tree: Women in Transition seeking knowledge, expertise and support. The organization, the only not-for-profit group of its kind, offers referrals, workshops, support groups and private counseling sessions.
Executive Director Carol Patinkin says women often fall victim to gender bias in the divorce process. "You're talking about women who haven't worked for 10, 15 years and then all of a sudden they're supposed to find work, take care of the kids full time and, on top of all that, deal with all the emotions they are going through."
Linda Forman, a certified public accountant, is one of many professionals and volunteers at The Lilac Tree who has dealt with the pain of divorce. "You can't believe how isolating the experience can be," she says. Divorced 28 years ago, she shouldered the demands of mothering 5-year-old twins throughout the process.
On March 9, Forman will be a speaker at "Adding Things Up," a workshop dedicated to all things financial in divorce. From valuing assets to devising a budget, she will address a wide range of topics that commonly stump her clients.
Among her recommendations, "Become best friends with Kinkos," she says. "Make copies of everything with dollar signs," including tax returns, bank statements and credit card statements.
She also advises: "Make sure everything is written down. In other words, don't depend on a handshake because it's probably not going to happen."
Patinkin estimates 70 percent of the financial planners, counselors and therapists at The Lilac Tree have been divorced. And to Pagnucci, that is a strong asset.
"They're passionate about what they're doing," she says. "And the fact that many of them have already gone through the process gives them that extra bit of compassion."
On March 16, The Lilac Tree will present an evening workshop geared towards women moving beyond the heartache caused by an unfaithful partner. According to Patinkin, the victims of infidelity feel judged, which makes the whole experience that much more painful.
"It just takes some time and support from places like The Lilac Tree to help you to know that the future isn't so bleak," says Pagnucci.
To find out more about The Lilac Tree or any of its services, call (847) 328-0313 or visit www.thelilactree.org. Workshops cost $30. A limited number of scholarships are available for those who need financial assistance.