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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

March 2020 – Lowering Prescription Drug Prices – this is a fight we can win in IL!

March 2020

Dear Friends,

Prescription drug companies are charging Americans prices that are three, four, or even ten times higher than what they charge for the same drugs in other countries. They also subject Americans to unjustified annual price hikes far above the rate of inflation. As a result, across the United States, seniors and families are struggling to afford the prescription drugs they need to stay healthy. Three in ten adults reported not taking their medicines as prescribed at some point in the past year because of the cost.

The soaring price of prescription drugs is crushing Americans at the pharmacy counter, driving up health insurance premiums, and creating unaffordable costs for taxpayers who finance Medicare and Medicaid.

It is time to put an end to the vicious price-gouging practices that are hurting health care consumers! Congress is stymied in its efforts to get any real legislation passed, but state legislatures are stepping up to take on the fight to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, and Illinois can lead the way!

Please consider supporting and joining in CCHCC’s community organizing and advocacy efforts to get sensible Rx pricing legislation in IL passed. The time to do this work is now! CCHCC will be working hard to educate and mobilize our community to advocate for legislation to benefit consumers. State representatives and senators will need to hear from their constituents so that Big Pharma doesn’t have the last word on prescription drug pricing.

Let your voice be heard! Join CCHCC for the upcoming Town Hall Meeting on Rx Drug Prices, with State Senators Scott Bennett and Andy Manar on Monday, March 9 at 5:30 p.m.
Illinois legislators have been working with consumer organizations, including CCHCC, to propose a broad package of legislation aimed at lowering prescription drug prices and eliminating predatory practices by the pharmaceutical, insurance, and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) industries. Please join CCHCC at the upcoming Town Hall to share your concerns and find out what you can do at the grassroots level to help pass sensible state legislation. Here are the details:

WHAT: Town Hall Meeting on Rx Drug Prices
WHO: IL State Senators Scott Bennett and Andy Manar, and CCHCC
WHEN: Monday, March 9, 2020 at 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Illinois Terminal Building – 4th Floor – 45 E. University Avenue, Champaign

Consumers need relief from the cost of unregulated, ever-increasing drug prices!
Here are the facts:
• One in four Illinois residents have difficulty affording their prescriptions;
• One in eight report that they or a family member have cut pills in half or skipped doses due to
high drug costs; and,
• Health plans attribute 22 percent of premium costs to prescription drugs

After early success, Illinois is working to pass more Rx pricing bills.
Last year, the Illinois State Legislature created a new committee to take on the challenge of prescription drug pricing. It is the Prescription Drug Affordability & Accessibility Committee. The Rx committee has already had some success with the passage of IL’s SB667, which will cap the price of insulin in Illinois. This bill was signed into law by Gov. Pritzker earlier this year.

HB3493 – Creation of a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB).
Now, building on the success of the insulin bill, advocates and legislators are working together to support passage of HB3493. HB3493 will create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) – an independent non-partisan board responsible for reviewing and limiting prescription drug prices. This board would: a) monitor drug companies that charge high prices; b) use state buying power to pressure drug companies to lower prices; and c) give Illinois residents a voice on Rx costs.

CCHCC is dedicated to working with our state legislators to help advance legislation that will benefit Illinois consumers.

Local consumers need help now – that’s why CCHCC established our Rx Fund.
Even as we work on legislative initiatives to reduce the costs of prescription drugs, we help local consumers on a daily basis to pay for their prescription drugs through our Rx Fund. Our Rx Fund is a fund that helps cover the costs of co-pays or the full costs of prescriptions for low-income consumers who could not otherwise afford to fill their prescriptions.

Please consider making a contribution to help support CCHCC’s work to make prescription drugs affordable for our community members. Our Rx Fund helps bridge the gap so that local consumers can get the prescriptions they need, and our community organizing and advocacy efforts will help support legislation to make the costs of prescriptions more transparent and affordable for everyone.

Thank you for your support!
We appreciate your financial support and your involvement in our advocacy efforts. Together, we are building a stronger, healthier community – together, we will win the fight to make prescriptions in Illinois more affordable!

Donate Now!

Claudia Lennhoff
CCHCC Executive Director

Raffle tickets on sale, and save the date!

It is that time of year again! The leaves are falling… The temperatures are dropping… (And it’s Open Enrollment…).  But your chances of winning a raffle prize are getting warmer! That’s right, folks – it’s time for the Champaign County Health Care Consumers’ (CCHCC) Annual Raffle!

You can purchase your Raffle tickets here:

All proceeds from the raffle will be used by CCHCC to support our free client service programs, including our Rx Fund to help individuals cover the costs of their prescriptions. CCHCC provides free case management services to hundreds of clients per month, helping them get access to health care, and applying them for health insurance and other benefits and services.

Raffle Drawing and Save the Date for our Holiday Party

The drawing for Raffle prizes will take place at the CCHCC Holiday Party on Friday, December 6, 2019, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Save this date for our Holiday Party!

You don’t need to be present to win for the Raffle Drawing, but of course you’re invited to the party!

Thank you for shopping with, and supporting CCHCC!