Meet our Staff – Rita

Meet Friedman Place Director of Operations: Rita

Rita helps landscape the grounds of Friedman Place with volunteers and staff.

Talk about covering a lot of ground. Rita worked with staff and volunteers installing the wonderful landscaping that beautifies the outside of Friedman Place.

Rita Scaletta has been Friedman Place’s Director of Finance and Operations for about 14 years now. Her four main areas of responsibility include making sure the building is in good physical shape, overseeing housekeeping, dining services and ensuring that the organization’s finances are correct.

The native Chicagoan possesses an unusual strong work ethic and love for the residents she serves. Full of energy, always positive, Rita is ready to pitch in wherever and whenever she is needed. “I don’t have a typical work day,” she said. “In order to make sure the needs of residents are met, I cover a lot of ground.” Rita would never say so herself, but her management contributes directly to Friedman Place earning perfect scores on the Annual State Review for three years in a row now!

One moment, Rita might call a repair person if a kitchen appliance in the dining hall isn’t working properly. Another time, she might be interacting with someone from housekeeping. At certain times of the year, she puts on her accounting cap (an Accounting degree from Loyola University prepared her for this task) to review Friedman Place’s finances and work with an outside auditing firm.

Rita is proud of her work ethic which she learned while in the Accounting Department at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. “At Lettuce Entertain You, employees were trained initially by rotating each week through various departments and performing various jobs such as food preparation,” she said. She has applied this same hands-on approach when she came to Friedman Place and has continued it ever since.

Her biggest challenge, she believes, is to make sure the individual voice of each resident is heard when a situation needs to be resolved or a problem anticipated before it inconveniences a resident. This is her way to insure the highest standards of Friedman Place are maintained. Furthermore, she loves spending time with residents, taking one of them out for coffee, for example, or participating in the numerous activities such as playing Uno.  It’s a marvelous way for Rita to become familiar with residents, learning about their backgrounds, perspectives and desires.

Rita was born and raised as a Cubs fan.  Outside of being a great mom to her kids, one of her very best and unforgettable moments was to actually be at Wrigley Field during the World Series and watching her Cubbies take the Series.  She also loves attending rock concerts and most recently saw the “well-aged” Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field.  Rita’s daughters inherited her love concerts and when they were too young to see Britney Spears on their own Rita chaperoned them through a very energetic crowd! Her daughters are turning out to be chips off the old block too in other ways.  Together with Rita as a partner; they have opened a pet care service offering a host of services for just about any kind of pets.

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Meet Our Volunteers: Susan

Susan is one of Friedman Place’s longest volunteers – for nearly 11 years, she has come to Friedman Place weekly to engage in a variety of activities with the residents. She always arrives early and the residents excitedly wait to greet her with big smiles and lots of hugs. Her volunteer work varies from playing cards and crosswords with groups of residents to reading to residents one on one. Over the years at Friedman Place, Susan has created a special bond with many of the residents. These relationships have flourished over simple things like a shared love of peanut butter or reciting poems. One resident she reads to in particular has a booming voice and loves poetry. He has been known to recite “The Bells” by Edgar Allen Poe on Halloween with his bellowing voice and listening to it is a favorite Halloween tradition of hers.

She is a lifelong resident of Chicago and enjoys watching and attending Volunteer, Susanbaseball games with her husband. Having grown up on the north-side, she prefers the Cubs, but but will attend a White Sox game from time to time as well. Susan attended UIC, where she received a degree in social work, and she speaks Hebrew and Spanish. She and her husband have one son who lives in Israel and while it is difficult to be so far from her son and three grandchildren, she is thrilled to be able to visit them twice a year.

For Susan, volunteering at Friedman Place runs in the family. When she was a young adult, her father volunteered at The Kagen Home (Friedman Place’s former name). He would put on music shows for the residents and bring in cassette tapes for everyone to listen to. Susan cherishes the warmth she feels from our Friedman community and this is what keeps her coming back week after week.

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Community Woven Tapestries

My Mind’s Eye Sees What My Regular Eye Cannot: Community Woven Tapestries

Resident weaving

Weavers at Friedman Place teamed up with textile artist and educator, John Paul Morabito, to create a series of woven tapestries that tell the story of our residents’ unique exploration of color and blindness. Color is among the most visual phenomena. Among the elements of form, color stands out as the least tactile – red and blue feel no different to touch. What, then, does it mean for a blind community to explore color? For people with blindness, color is as nuanced and varied as it is for those with sight. The weavers at Friedman Place have different levels of visual impairment; some have no sight at all, while others have limited sight. There are those who lost vision later in life and those who have been blind their entire lives. Reflecting this, color might be an experience remembered or a phenomenon only understood through language and cultural signifies. Stripped of its visual effects, color still retains its emotive qualities which the weavers have articulated in a series of five striped tapestries.

Weaver at loom

Monthly community discussions were held to serve as an incubator for the exploration of the dialectal relationship between color and lived experience. This began with a call for personal associations with particular colors. When asked about the meaning of yellow, the resident called out associations; the sun, bananas, lemons, traffic lights, Easter, butter, pineapple, etc. Building off this free association, six themes were developed. During initial discussions these themes were formal, material, and exploratory. However, as the project moved forward the themes became increasingly community oriented, reflecting the collective nature of the project and the values of the weavers. Throughout history and across cultures, weaving has been a community effort and is as much about humanity as it is about material.

Exploring eight themes, the tapestries were woven collectively by the community at Friedman Place. Building off the surrealist drawing practice of exquisite corpse, different weavers would come to each loom adding their own interpretations of a given theme onto what was previously woven. The resulting striped cloths hold that narrative in every line of thread. Weaving by its nature is indexical, the sedimentary build-up of weft records time as it constructs the cloth. Accordingly, these stripe compositions become material documents, commemorating a time, a place, and the people that make a community. The themes of the eight community woven tapestries are: My Personal Color, Rainbow/Kaleidoscope, Disco Ball, The Colors of Music, Flags, Party/Friendship, Water As Life, and Memorial.

These tapestries will be on display at Friedman Place from October 17 – October 31, 2018 from 9:00am – 6:00pm. All are welcome to our Opening Event: Celebration of the Arts on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 from 5:30pm – 7:30pm. The opening event will be the first time our Community Woven Tapestries will be on display for the public.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit                      NEA Logo

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