MEET BERWYN’S ENTREPRENEURS: ANNA PADRON SIKORA OF PILLARS COMMUNITY HEALTH
Name: Anna Padron Sikora
Hometown: Cicero/Berwyn, IL
Current Residence: Riverside, IL
All About Anna:
I was born in Chicago in 1976 as a first-generation Latina. My father is from Cuba and my mother is from Mexico. My parents met in high school in Chicago and moved to Cicero in 1978. I grew up going to Catholic schools, Our Lady of Charity in Cicero and then Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westchester. I met my husband while we were in high school, so we grew up together. Now we have two beautiful boys, Sam who is 11 years old and Mateo who is 8 years old, and a new labradoodle puppy named Cookie.
The Business Side: I believe that I was always meant to be a social worker, even before I knew what that meant. When I went to undergrad at Northern Illinois University, I took a few Psychology classes, learning about family systems and human development. I loved it so much, I went on to get my Master’s in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. While I was finishing my last year at Loyola, I met a woman named Pat Seghers who was speaking at the university. I found her to be fascinating in that she was so smart yet so connected to her audience. She worked at the Fillmore Center, which was the name of our agency in 2000. I had heard wonderful things clinically about the Fillmore Center and I was moving to Berwyn around the same time. I met with Pat and the next thing I knew, she was setting up an interview with me for a social work position working with children and families through a new grant that the Fillmore Center had received. Through Morton School District 201, the communities of Berwyn and Cicero had just been awarded the Safe School Healthy Students Initiative, a SAMHSA grant that was developed in response to the school shootings that were occurring across the country.
I began my professional career providing therapeutic and case management services to high risk children and their families in the community, schools and homes. I have been with Pillars Community Health ever since. I have been able to work with a wide range of clients from birth to older adulthood, providing both crisis and therapeutic services. Most of my clinical work has been in Spanish and I have been fortunate that Pillars Community Health and its predecessor organizations have encouraged me and supported my professional development as a bilingual/bicultural leader within the agency and in the community. I will celebrate 19 years of services with Pillars Community Health in July and I still love helping clients, staff and the community every day. There is still a lot of stigma around mental health and social services. We try to normalize everyone’s experience and encourage them to connect to the supports that can improve their quality of life.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN 3 WORDS.
Loyal: A value that was passed on by my family. I feel very blessed to be working at Pillars Community Health and serving all the communities; however, I have a special place in my heart for Berwyn and the Latino community. We are dedicated to what we choose to care about in life.
Passionate: I get very excited when talking about the things I care about.
Optimistic: There is always a positive to every situation. We have to believe in hope.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Professionally: Helping people heal psychologically. Sometimes it’s through processing past experiences and traumas, sometimes through mental health education and sometimes by just sitting and listening with kindness. Watching people transform, grow and find their peace in mental health wellness is amazing. Personally: My family, my husband and my boys inspire me, as well as my larger community of family and friends.
WHAT IS SOMETHING PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU?
I love Hamilton, I have seen it twice and listen to soundtrack every morning.
I love Berwyn! I have personally and professionally grown up in this community. I have chosen to work at Pillars Community Health because of the relationships I have made through the years in Berwyn. We work closely with the school districts including District 100, District 98, and Morton High School District 201, the Berwyn Police Department, other social service agencies like Youth Crossroads, Berwyn Health Department, Pav YMCA and MacNeal Hospital, just to name a few. For me, relationships are the key to everything as a therapist, as a community partner, as an employee, and beyond. We have to trust each other in order to work successfully together. You have to be open to listening to the needs of the community help residents connect to appropriate resources.
WHAT’S ONE QUESTION PEOPLE ALWAYS ASK YOU ABOUT YOUR PROFESSION?
Why do you do it? I am able to do my job because I have love and support in my life, both personally and professionally. I can help others do their best because I see and hear stories where there is more hope than despair. People have suffered in their lives and come to Pillars Community Health to change their narrative. They no longer want to suffer alone; they want to write a different narrative of hope and healing. Someone trusted me enough to share their story with me and together we can find hope! That’s why I became a social worker and why I come to work every day to Pillars Community Health.
WHERE IS ONE OF THE MOST INTERESTING PLACES YOU’VE BEEN?
Cuba. My husband and I went for our 40th birthdays a few years ago, and it was life changing. To see and experience the culture was humbling. I think that because of my personal and professional desire to understand people’s journeys, I was so interested in their stories, why some people have stayed and why so many have left. We stayed in Havana a few days and then went to a beach town for a few days. It was a fascinating experience to talk to the people and walk through the streets where life is so simple and so complex at the same time.
IF WE WERE TO HANG OUT, WHAT WOULD WE DO?
I love good food and good conversation. We would probably go sit outside now that it’s (finally!) nice out and take our time ordering yummy food. We can go to Capri or Lalo’s in Berwyn, Freddy’s in Cicero or Emilio’s Tapas in Hillside. We can talk about life, work, travel and all things that matter to us.
WHAT’S YOUR GO-TO KARAOKE SONG AND WHY?
“Sweet Dreams” by the Eurythmics. I know all the words! It brings back happy memories of different weddings, events and times in my life.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPRESSIVE THING YOU KNOW HOW TO DO?
I seem to have a very good memory, which is very helpful when working with clients and supervising staff that are also working with clients. I remember detailed narratives of the hundreds of clients that I have worked with or have supervised over the last two decades. I care very much about the clients that come to us and value the courage that it takes to get to us. I am very intentional about treating each person’s narrative with respect and dignity. It’s also helpful in my personal life to remember important dates and birthdays.