Meet Reverend Don Baker, a distinguished senior residing at The Merion in Evanston, whose legacy of impact spans over four decades. In 1971, he founded Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.), a program aimed at supporting marginalized youth, leaving an indelible mark on the lives of over 15,000 at-risk individuals. Now in his 70s and retired, Reverend Baker continues to touch lives, this time within the vibrant community of The Merion.
Having called The Merion home for nearly two years, Reverend Baker has seamlessly transitioned from a life dedicated to youth advocacy to a role as a mentor for the team members at his senior living community. Although officially retired since 2011, his passion for uplifting others persists, manifesting in his commitment to guiding and inspiring the younger associates at The Merion.
Several team members affectionately refer to Reverend Baker as “family.” Drawing on his wealth of experience, he imparts wisdom to those he mentors, encouraging some to pursue further education and explore opportunities for personal and professional growth. Helen, one of the associates mentored by Reverend Baker, recalls their initial connection when he expressed a genuine interest in her Ethiopian culture. What began as a cultural exchange has evolved into a reciprocal learning experience, with Helen teaching him about her language and heritage. “He inspires me and others here to be better people,” Helen shares.
The benefits of intergenerational activities, such as Reverend Baker’s mentorship, extend beyond personal growth. Studies show that these interactions can have significant health benefits for seniors, fostering a sense of purpose and reducing depression.
Beyond his mentorship role, Reverend Baker has become the go-to confidant and spiritual guide for many of his fellow neighbors at The Merion. Holding informal sessions, he addresses their concerns and provides a listening ear for spiritual questions. Reverend Baker’s influence also extends to his involvement in his local church, just a short drive from his residence at The Merion.
Retirement has not slowed Reverend Baker down; in fact, it has given him the opportunity to delve into personal projects. Currently, he is dedicating time to the creation of two books – one chronicling his impactful work, and the other detailing his life journey. His commitment to continual growth and community engagement remains unwavering, showcasing that a life dedicated to service knows no bounds.
In Reverend Don Baker, The Merion has not just gained a resident; the community has welcomed a catalyst for positive change – a testament to the enduring power of mentorship and a life well lived.