One Hope United Names Lake Villa Campus for Ermit L. Finch
ABOVE Ermit L. Finch (right) is joined by his wife, Jonni Miklos (left), and One Hope United Board Chair Theresa A. Dear (center) at the ceremony to dedicate the Lake Villa campus in his name.
Finch lived on campus from 1948 to ’51 and became first former client to serve on One Hope United’s Board.
One Hope United has named its Lake Villa, Ill., campus after a former resident and current board member Ermit L. Finch. The Board of Directors hosted a ceremony to dedicate the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa on Friday, April 26, attended by the Board, staff of the campus, friends and family of Finch, and Lake Villa’s Mayor James McDonald.
Finch took up residence at One Hope United campus (then Central Baptist Children’s Home) in 1948, following a harrowing childhood in Arkansas. (Watch The Impact of Ermit Finch video below.)
Finch was born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1934 to a furniture salesman and homemaker. Both parents contracted tuberculosis in the 1940s and went to sanatoriums, after which he saw his father once a week and communicated with his mother, who was sent to New Mexico, only by letter. Her death in 1945 precipitated his father’s death less than 30 days later.
After a short time living and working on his uncle’s farm, where Finch acquired the nickname “Cotton”—the farm’s signature crop—for his white hair, Finch transferred to an Arkansas orphanage where the conditions were difficult and the discipline severe. Finch, small for his age, was bullied, and boys were frequently whipped and denied meals.
A change in leadership to Dr. Louis B. Snider vastly improved Finch’s quality of life, and Finch eventually came with Snider’s family to Lake Villa, Ill., when Snider took a position at what is today One Hope United. Finch has fond memories of life on campus, which included group meals, singing, riding horses, and tending to chickens. “The expansiveness of this place, and the lake—it was paradise,” he recalls. “This was a growth time. It felt good. You liked yourself. Somebody else liked you.”
“Ermit personifies One Hope United’s vision: For every child and family, a life without limits,” said President and CEO Charles A. Montorio-Archer. “His story speaks to the potential in each of us to overcome hardship and trauma when we have the right support. I’m thrilled to recognize him with the dedication of the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa.”
The support Finch received at One Hope United led Finch to academic and personal success. While on campus, he learned to read and graduated from Antioch High School, where he played tuba in the marching band. He went on to attend the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, returning to the campus in the summers to live and work. He would raise his own family and lead a successful business career in heating, air conditioning and residential construction.
“Ermit’s undefeatable, unbreakable, and unstoppable spirit has been an unending source of inspiration at One Hope United,” said Board Chair Theresa A. Dear.
In 2003, Finch revisited the campus and resumed his connection to the place where he spent the happiest years of his childhood. He joined the Board of Directors of One Hope United in 2004, the first former resident to do so.
“It was a blessing to be exposed and to have the opportunity” to live and thrive on the campus, Finch said at the ceremony. “I’m wonderfully honored.”
One Hope United has operated the Ermit L. Finch campus since 1948. Today it is home to the CARE Residential Program, which serves as many as 50 young boys and teenagers between the ages of 9 to 18 years old who don’t have a biological or foster family to live with. The campus also includes a Therapeutic Day School, attended by young men from the campus and the surrounding communities.