Author Archives: Admin

My mom, and CCHCC

July 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

I write this message with the heaviest of hearts. My beautiful mother – Marja-Liisa Lennhoff Eskelinen – died on Saturday evening, the 4th of July.

My family is all down in TX, and it is heartbreak on top of sorrow that I was not able to be with my mom when she died. The coronavirus pandemic has made travel complicated, treacherous, and at times, impossible. So many families around our nation, and the world, are going through the same thing – grieving at a distance, and unable to bask in the light of love that is sometimes possible and necessary at the end of life.

I want to tell y’all a little bit about my mom, and about her love for CCHCC and the work that we do. This is not an obituary for my mom, but a bit of a celebration of a beautiful life, and how that life contributed to the beautiful organization that we all have built – CCHCC.

Marja-Liisa Lennhoff Eskelinen
My mom was a World War II baby, born on May 31, 1939 in Finland. Her father was a scout on horseback for the Finnish military, which was fighting Russia at that time. My mom’s father was killed when my mom was 2 years old. From then on, my mom had a very hard life – poverty, abuse when sent to live with another family, various illnesses including encephalitis, and more. But she was tough and resilient. She was a survivor.

Eventually, my mom was able to travel to the United States, the ward of a Finnish lady who was a domestic servant for a rich family in White Plains, NY. That Finnish lady is who I knew as my grandmother (she adopted the name “Mary Lake” to try to seem more American) when I was growing up. My mom arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15. She entered nursing school and worked as a domestic servant with her foster mom. Eventually, my mom became a nurse and worked at the White Plains, NY hospital, where she met my dad, Miguel Lennhoff. I treasure my mom’s gold pin that she received upon becoming a nurse.

My dad was doing his medical residency in White Plains, NY, where he arrived from Mexico. He grew up in Mexico after his mom fled Austrian Nazis. That’s a whole other story that I won’t get into now.

My parents fell in love and got married, and then had to move to Mexico so that my dad could finish his medical school. Both of my parents spoke English as a second or third language. That was the language they had in common. But then, of course, my mom had to learn Spanish when they moved to Mexico. And she did.

My parents had three children while in Mexico. I am the middle daughter in between two brothers.

Our family moved to San Antonio, TX in 1974, when I was eight years old. We had the privilege of immigrating legally. We also had white-skin privilege. Racism was rampant in San Antonio at the time, especially against Mexicans. When schoolmates found out that my brother and I were from Mexico, they referred to us as “wetbacks”. They were parroting what their parents said. I had a heavy accent in English, having learned English from two parents who spoke the language as a second or third language. I was put in Speech Therapy to get rid of my accent. When my mom found out that I was put in Speech Therapy – which was so humiliating that I never even told my parents – she called the school and gave them the what-for. She explained to them (actually, she yelled, with cuss words) that I had an accent, not a speech impediment. This got me out of speech therapy… It is often a bewildering experience to be an immigrant, even though our path was considerably easier than that of most immigrants, because of our privilege. My family has deep sympathies with immigrants and understands that immigration is often about survival.

We grew up in a trailer park in San Antonio, TX. We made friends with other kids, and our home became the place where kids from all walks of life came to hang out. They loved and appreciated my parents because both my mom and dad were kind, and they were always interested in our friends and our friends would sit and have conversations with my parents over coffee and some baked goods that my mom had made. So many neighborhood people – whether kids or adults – landed at our home and always found acceptance, kindness, and baked goods.

My mom was no longer working as a nurse, but spoke four or five languages, and volunteered with the PTA, helped neighborhood families in various ways, rescued animals, and learned to drive a tiny Honda stick shift. She wasn’t great at driving a stick shift, but she was great at everything else.

Oh, I should also mention that, while growing up in the mobile home in TX, our home became the de facto community clinic, with people showing up with all kinds of scrapes, injuries, allergic reactions, mental health crises, etc., and on two occasions, my dad was called to the swimming pool in the neighborhood to help resuscitate a kid who had drowned.

My mom was an avid reader and she had an excellent political analysis. She had a love for justice that was based on love for people and compassion. Us kids grew up watching the national and world news, hearing our parents’ commentary along the way. They always favored justice and love and abhorred injustice in all of its forms.

My greatest regret in life, and what my mom had to say.
Both of my parents were World War II babies – both their families devastated and diminished (killed) by the war, for different reasons. Our nuclear family felt almost miraculous – the fact that my parents survived to be able to create a family was nothing short of amazing. My greatest regret in life is that my path in life took me away from where my family lives down in TX and that I have been so far away. I wish that TX and IL were closer together! Even with regular trips to TX to see my family, it has always hurt me to be so far away, even though I love my life here in IL and with CCHCC.

The last time my mom visited me here in Illinois was in the early 2000s. She visited CCHCC, met my co-workers and friends, came to events, witnessed our work with clients and our community organizing work, and got a sense of our community.

After she got back home to TX, my mom wrote me a beautiful letter. She blessed my life and work here. She wrote me about the beauty, power and importance of CCHCC’s work, and about the quality of the friendships I had made – most through CCHCC. She told me that if friendships and the ability to have a positive impact are a measure of a person’s life, then, by all accounts, I was living a beautiful life and she was proud of me.

I am not saying this as a “humble brag”, but as a way of explaining that my mom’s blessing eased my greatest regret of not living closer to my family. I know – I know – that my parents wished that I was closer to home with them. But they both have felt that I have been so fortunate to have landed at CCHCC, and they value and support our work at CCHCC.

Fighting for justice and helping make concrete improvements in people’s lives.
I am so profoundly grateful to be a part of CCHCC and all we have accomplished. This year marks my 23rd year at CCHCC. I’m deeply grateful to all of you who participate in and support CCHCC’s work – whether it is our direct client services and/or our advocacy and community organizing work.

Honoring my mom
My mom – Marja-Liisa Lennhoff Eskelinen – was a survivor. She was fierce and tender all at the same time. She was compassionate. She was opinionated. And she was funny in a subtle kind of way. She loved justice and she loved people and animals. And I know that she loved CCHCC, this beautiful grassroots organization where I have found my other home.

I will do my best, always, to honor my mom’s life and also to honor CCHCC – all that we have been, all that we are, and all that we will be and do in the pursuit of justice.

If you feel so inclined, and if you have the ability to do so, please consider making a contribution to CCHCC in honor of my mother. CCHCC will be named in my mother’s obituary.

Donate to CCHCC.

With deepest appreciation,

Claudia Lennhoff
Executive Director
Champaign County Health Care Consumers

CCHCC condemns Trump Administration’s U.S. Supreme Court Filing to Overturn the ACA

July 1, 2020

Unbelievable, unprecedented, and inhumane. In the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic that is gripping the world and our nation, the Trump administration submitted a last-minute late-night filing urging the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last week on Thursday night, June 25, 2020.

It is unprecedented in our nation’s history that the federal government, much less the president’s administration, would go to court to oppose and urge that a federal law like this be overturned and nullified. Normally, the role of the administration and federal government would be to support the law.

But, of course, we are talking about the Trump administration, which has repeatedly demonstrated that it has no regard for the nation’s health, or the institutions, policies, regulations, and laws that aim to protect our nation’s health. Efforts to overturn the ACA, especially when accompanied by no plan whatsoever to provide some other form of coverage, demonstrate that these moves are not about health policy, but about the ugliest and most dangerous of politics.

About the Trump administration’s Supreme Court filing
The Trump administration submitted its last-minute filing on Thursday night for the ACA case that will be argued this fall in the Supreme Court. The Trump administration’s filing comes on the same day that the federal government reported that close to half a million people who lost their health insurance amid the economic shutdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 have gotten coverage through (By the way, that number does not include individuals who have gotten coverage through state-run exchanges or through Medicaid.)

Amazingly, the Trump administration’s legal brief makes no mention of the virus or of American’s reliance on the ACA during the pandemic.

In the case before the Supreme Court, Texas and other conservative-led states argue that the ACA was basically rendered unconstitutional after Congress passed tax legislation in 2017 that eliminated the law’s unpopular fines for not having health insurance, but left in place its requirement that virtually all Americans have coverage.

After failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 when Republicans fully controlled Congress – thanks to the activism of millions of Americans, including those in Champaign County – Trump has put the weight of his administration behind the legal challenge.

Read More.

“Let It Be” music video – to benefit CCHCC and Promise Healthcare

June 26, 2020

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) and Promise Healthcare are the beneficiaries of a creative and beautiful musical tribute, put together by local musicians and singers, which is available to be seen and listened to today.

Donations from those who view/listen to the tribute will benefit both organizations. CCHCC’s Executive Director, Claudia Lennhoff said “We are deeply grateful to everyone involved in this amazing project. They donated their talents, their time, and their resources to put together a beautiful and moving music video that provides some solace in these challenging times, and that lets community members know that CCHCC and Promise Healthcare are here to help our community, and that together, as a community, we will get through these difficult times.”

The musical message:
Champaign-Urbana Illinois has a great treasure its music and art community. In the face of change and pandemic, a remarkable group of 41 singers and 15 musicians have come together to elevate the spirits of their cities and beyond, with a recorded musical message and video: “Let It Be”. All proceeds from the recording will be donated to Promise Healthcare who work diligently to provide affordable and accessible high-quality health care and Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) who help provide quality affordable health care for all and environmental health and justice.

How to make your donation:
A fund has been established with the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois and additional donations for these organizations can be through the Community Foundation’s website or to the Community Foundation at: 307 W University Ave, Champaign, IL 61820.

In order to ensure that the donation is dedicated to this project, donors should write in “CU Sings”, or CCHCC (or Promise Healthcare) in the “Designation” section of the donation form.

Or, you can donate directly to CCHCC.

Read more.

43 years of grassroots organizing for health care access and justice!

June 17, 2020

The novel corona virus pandemic has upended everything – everyone is trying to adjust to a “new normal.” Like everyone else, Champaign County Health Care Consumers has also had to find ways to adjust, while continuing to serve our community, and rising to the challenge of helping to meet an increasing demand for our services – more people need us now, and their needs are more complicated and challenging. Your support makes it possible for us to rise to the challenge of this moment, and to improve the lives of our community members.

No Annual Awards Dinner to celebrate our 43rd year. In the interest of everyone’s health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic, Champaign County Health Care Consumers has canceled our 2020 Annual Awards Dinner, which would have been held in May of this year. This year’s Annual Dinner would have marked our 43rd year, and would have been an important social and fundraising event for our organization. We very much miss the camaraderie and joy of being able to gather with our friends and supporters at our annual celebration.

Although we cannot gather for our annual celebration, CCHCC staff are still working very hard every day to serve our community during the coronavirus pandemic. We have had an increase in the number of clients we are serving as a result of community members losing employment and income, and needing extra resources during our state’s Shelter-in-Place order. And, clients turning to us are also in greater distress and have more complicated situations and require greater support from CCHCC’s staff – our Community Health Workers. More community members are turning to us for help in accessing public benefits for the first time in their lives, unaccustomed to navigating the public benefits systems.

Fortunately, CCHCC is a dedicated, dynamic, and nimble organization with highly skilled and experienced staff.


Read more.

How to apply for Unemployment benefits in Illinois

June 1, 2020

If you have lost work, you can apply for Unemployment benefits in Illinois. If your job loss is due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive additional unemployment benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program.

If you need to apply for Unemployment benefits, and/or if you’ve tried to applied but have had problems with the online portal, please read through this entire message to find information about how to apply online, or by phone, and when to apply – there is a filing schedule based on the first letter of your last name. To see the filing schedule, please see the bottom of this message.

Rental Assistance and Unemployment
Many of the rental assistance programs available right now require proof to show that you have filed for Unemployment benefits. Whether or not you receive those benefits, having proof that you have filed for Unemployment can help you apply for rental assistance. For Rental Assistance programs in Champaign County, please visit here.

Applying for Illinois Unemployment
During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) has set up a process to help individuals gain unemployment benefits, should they experience loss of employment due to the pandemic.

If you visit the home page of IDES you will find several links. However, if you scroll down to the News and Announcements section, you can see updates from IDES. The IDES shared an announcement on May 6, 2020, that can help you understand how to apply for unemployment. Here is the link for the information.

Read More.