Local News

Retiring Pillars CEO reflects on nonprofit work

Ann Schreiner[]

It’s been a privilege and honor for Ann Schreiner to serve as president and CEO of Pillars, the largest nonprofit provider of mental health and social services in the western and southwestern suburbs, and after a distinguished tenure with the organization and its predecessors, she is retiring Dec. 31.

Her retirement comes as Pillars is merging with Community Nurse Health Center in La Grange, bringing mental health, social services, dental and medical care under one banner. The name of the new organization will be unveiled in January.

Schreiner, 64, has been Pillars’ leader since 2011, after being named interim president and CEO before becoming president and CEO in 2012. Prior to that, she worked as a clinical social worker and in various other leadership capacities at Pillars’ predecessor organizations from 1979 through 1987 and again from 1991 through 2017. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from American University and a master’s degree in clinical social work from the University of Chicago.

Schreiner announced her retirement earlier this year, prior to the merger announcement, explaining she felt it was time to move on. Angela Curran, current president of Community Nurse Health Center, will become president and CEO of the new organization.

“When it hit the 40-year mark after I got my master's, I started the thought process [of retiring],” Schreiner said. “I felt that it was possible to retire because this organization is in such good shape. I’m leaving it in such great hands, and the transition to a new organization is a wonderful next chapter. Angela’s leadership, along with her team, will take it to great places.”

Based in La Grange Park, Pillars serves several communities including Berwyn, Broadview, Brookfield, Burr Ridge, Cicero, Clarendon Hills, Countryside, Darien, Hinsdale, Hodgkins, Indian Head Park, La Grange, Lyons, McCook, North Riverside, Oak Brook, Riverside, Stickney, Westchester, Western Springs, Westmont, Willow Springs and Willowbrook.

Schreiner has been at the helm during many significant milestones at Pillars, which serves about 10,000 people a year in all of its various programs. In addition to the Community Nurse merger, of which she is very proud, Schreiner also had a hand in Pillars becoming a federal Head Start grantee, allowing the organization to receive money directly from the government and distributing it to various other local programs that provide Head Start and early education services.

And while she doesn’t take credit, Schreiner said she’s seen a “tremendous change” in the way society regards sexual assault, mental health, domestic violence and drug abuse during her career.

“This isn’t a personal accomplishment, but I’ve watched our domestic violence and sexual assault programs just get stronger and the services enhanced further. We work very hard to reduce the stigma,” she said. “Most importantly, I’ve seen [many entities] come together to support the health of the community. Federal and state governments, local municipalities, private foundations, private donors and grant-making organizations have formed a tapestry that supports our services, which are essential to the health of the community.”

Zada Clarke, chairwoman of Pillars’ Board of Directors, said Schreiner has been a staunch advocate and supporter of the board and the organization and she has the respect of many in the Chicago-area nonprofit and social services industries. Clarke said she will greatly miss Schreiner as a colleague and friend.

“The organization will lose Ann as an incredible resource and leader, but I knowshe has many things that she wants to do,” Clarke said. “She helped establish the Living Room in La Grange, which helps clients get immediate mental health help and avoid emergency rooms. She also worked on male ally programs, which train men on college campuses to change the way they think about sexual assault. She also instituted same-day assessments for addiction services.”

When reflecting back on her career, Schreiner said developing relationships with clients and colleagues and witnessing the growth of younger therapists have been among her proudest moments.

“It’s truly been my privilege to partner with individuals and families as they’ve faced tough challenges,” she said. “We worked together to develop new skills and coping mechanisms to meet those challenges head on, and to witness individuals feeling successful and being back in charge of their lives and feeling healthy is incredible. It’s such great work.”

Schreiner said she does not have any concrete plans after she retires, but she is looking forward to her future, whatever that may be.

“I can’t imagine anyone being more fortunate than me. I will miss this, but I’m also looking forward to the next chapter. It’s bittersweet,” she said. “This organization will always be near and dear to my heart, and I will help in any way I can if called upon.”