August 16, 1922

The Chicago Society of the Polish National Alliance incorporates Polish Welfare Association

November 15, 1923

Quarters open at 308 N. Michigan Boulevard with volunteer Mrs. T. Sakowska as Superintendent. Later, the offices will move to 203 N. Wabash Avenue.

October, 1925

Mary Midura, the first professional employee, is named superintendent. She emphasizes casework service. In1926 PWA joins the Council of Social Agencies. From 1926 until 1931 the professional staff consists of Miss Midura, two caseworkers and one part-time casework aide.

Early in 1931

Bank failures cause decreases in contributions and programs. For three years Miss Midura has no professional staff and often no pay.

March, 1934

Monsignor Thomas P. Bona reconstitutes PWA. Annual card parties, fashion shows and banquets begin to augment membership dues, contributions and charity balls.

June 15, 1936

The new name, Polish Welfare Association of the Archdiocese of Chicago, recognizes that chapters (for male members), Women’s Auxiliaries, and volunteers are closely aligned with parishes. John T. Nering is named Executive Director, a position he holds until his death, at age 90, in 1962.

September, 1939

Conditions in Poland prompt the start of a Relief Fund for Poland. Members are urged to send letters supporting the Neutrality Act. The expiration of the lease prompts a move to the Palatine Building at Milwaukee Avenue and Paulina Street.

February 2, 1942

cured but have no relatives to go to. concentrates on mental patients who are considered boys are leaving for armed forces. Casework The Youth Problems Committee dissolves because most

May 3, 1943

Board members voice a concern over “the lack of a refuge or shelter home for friendless boys and men, also for girls and women.”

January, 1944

Executive Director Nering asks Polish radio and newspapers to announce the need for blood transfusions to save the life of a 4-year old with a very bad kidney condition

December, 1945

December, 1945 A dedication is held at PWA’s new office space in the Milwaukee Avenue (Manufacturer’s) Bank Building.

March, 1948

PWA, with the Archbishop’s Veterans Committee, Archdiocese of Chicago, considers the resettlement problems of displaced persons.

March, 1951

Negotiations begin to purchase a building that would be suitable for an office and shelter home. These plans fall through, but a storefront, two-story-and-basement building located at 1303 N. Ashland Avenue becomes available in the spring of 1954. It is dedicated in January, 1955.

June 7, 1954

Bowing to popular usage, the name Polish Welfare Association is readopted.

January, 1957

Comments at the annual meeting indicate that work at the office is becoming heavier because of the arrival of new displaced persons.

November 4, 1958

The Board reports mention formal work with alcoholics in conjunction with Mayor Daley’s Alcoholic Treatment Center. Turning Point, the intensive alcoholism outpatient treatment center, will not be established for another 28 years.

August 23, 1965

Marie Dovick, who served as Secretary to the Board of Directors without interruption since 1933, is named Executive Director after George Sepanski, successor of John Nering, resigns because of ill health. She will continue in the position until 1968. On her resignation, the Board President, Felix B. Wysocki, holds the reins unti Anthony T. Polinski is hired in 1970

April 7, 1970

The Executive Board formally endorses a program of helping welfare recipients by providing Polish-language explanations and interventions

March 2, 1976

Recognizing that Poles have been moving west along Milwaukee Avenue, Board President Andrew Przybylo, Sr., makes plans to establish a second office on Laramie Avenue. The official opening date is January 10, 1977.

February 22, 1978

Senior Citizens, Catholic Charities, other Polish groups, report mentions outreach to the Mayor’s Office for Theresa Chamberlain’s first formal Executive Director’s schools, and the Jewish Community Center. She stresses English and jobs and talks about meeting with other concerned Polish groups to learn about organizing and leadership. She comments on government agencies that do not have Polish interpreters and indicates grants for which proposals might be written. Later reports show that a clothing and food pantry would start on April 1 and a public relations person would begin informing the public about what the organization does at each of its two offices.

May 30, 1979

After one full year in the position, Theresa Chamberlain determines that the problems of the Polish community include jobs, aid to immigrants, information and referrals, aid to the aged, medical aid, domestic problems, She also formalizes programs to address these problems. counseling, institutional placement, and juvenile delinquency.

June 28, 1981

Polish Political Refugee Program, receiving federal and state support, is begun, especially to assist Poles displaced as a result of the Solidarity Movement.

September, 1984

Rev. Edward Pajak shepherds PWA through a period of crisis and resolves to preserve services in Polonia.

June 18, 1985

The Board approves Mary Oldiges as Executive Director, as well as the sale of the Ashland Avenue building, the profit to be applied to a mortgage for 3834 North Cicero Avenue. By September, Mary Oldiges will have helped increase the shelter fund and produce the first copy of  The Link.

July, 1986

Mayor Harold Washington. Day shelter for homeless men is formally opened by

May 5, 1987

Executive Director Richard Reeder implements a response to the new legalization program in the U.S. by hiring immigration counselors to assist the 5,300 persons who came to us under the national amnesty program.

February, 1988

Senior Center opens in the new southwest-side office located in Brighton Park... the 50,000 Polish elderly comprise the largest ethnic group of limited-English-speaking elderly in the city. Plans are also underway to begin a special counseling program for battered women and their children.

January, 1989

Newly hired Executive Director Karen Popowski accepts the challenge of creating a Learning Center, which saw an enrollment of more than 8,300 adults in 500 classes, and provided more than 300,000 hours of classroom instruction in English and civics classes within the first three years.

March, 1990

Chairman of the Board Lawrence Leck spearheaded the organizing of the first of several Polish-American conferences on community self-help in Gdansk. For the newly democratic Poland, nonprofit social services could now be established.

October, 1991

Our offices are jammed with people who have won a visa in the lottery program. In the next 5 years, more than 50,000 newcomers from Poland will comprise Chicagoland’s largest group of new legal immigrants.

August, 1994

Lt. Governor Bob Kustra presents an award to our three-year old substance abuse outpatient treatment program as the exemplary treatment program in the state.

January 1995

PAA Immigration Services as the only Polish agency was accredited by the National Board of Immigration Appeals

March 4, 1996

PWA becomes Polish American Association. Only our middle name changes to better reflect the strength of the organization. Also on this date, a Web site begins to provide information to the geographically and linguistically isolated.

November 6, 1996

Chairman Thaddeus Makarewicz and Executive Director Karen Popowski receive the Cavalier’s Cross for Merit of the Republic of Poland, one of Poland’s highest civilian honors.

August 22, 1997

A celebration of the 75 years of service. PAA now serves 3,000 individuals each month in one of 31 programs provided by a staff of more 100 professionals.


PAA is one of the local non-for-profits receiving the Federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) grant from the city of Chicago Department of Community Development. Most of services are beneficial for job seekers, for laid off workers, and for numerous employers.

October 2000

Polish American Association opens its new southwest side office at 6276 W. Archer Avenue, made possible by a grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs.  The new and larger facility enables PAA to provide additional services to area residents.

July 2001

PAA pilots a new centralized, computerized client service database to efficiently track the thousand of clients served monthly at the organization’s four locations.

November 2001

The first issue of PAA’s Polish-language newsletter Ogniwo is published.

February 2002

Paczki Day-annual fundraising event has begun.

August 2002

PAA celebrates its 80 years of serving the diverse need of Polonia.  The organization now serves approximately 3,500 clients monthly.

October 2002

Computer lab was open in the South Side office.

December 2003

PAA’s Annual Gala (previously named Holiday Gala) organized from 1989 was extended by the one new component, the Silent Auction.

July 2004

PAA began offering Basic Computer Literacy Courses helping students familiarize themselves with a basic knowledge of MS Word, Internet and e-mails.

August 2004

The Summer Day Camp organized by PAA’s Youth Development program created a project, an artistic performance called Stop Violence at the Free Street Theatre sponsored by Mayor Daley’s Region I KidStart YouthNet


Thanks to incredible generosity of Edward and Jane Bleka and Quantum Foods, PAA once again has a van to transport tons of food  each week to its food pantry; it is used for homeless day shelter and many other programs. Bleka is also generous donor of steaks to Food Pantry for many years

October 2004

PAA releases a report, based on Census 2000 data, identifying a profile of strengths and needs in the Chicago-area Polish community to government, business and civic leaders with the intention of helping planners and policy makers in the public and private sectors to reach and provide services to the Polish community.


PAA closed its office at 3425 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, where The Turning Point Program Homeless Outreach Case Management was operating. This program was experiencing declines in funding. The following year this program was ended.


PAA was awarded a grant of the New Americans Initiative (NAI) program, a collaborative effort across Illinois, to begin an intensive outreach campaign to educate Polish immigrants about the benefits of citizenship and encourage them to begin the naturalization process. NAI program is helping immigrants to apply for US citizenship at workshops.

May 2005

PAA were pleased to announce that its new website was updated, and running, and featured more current and comprehensive content, improved navigation and more interactive approach. PAA is grateful to the Chicago Society for providing some of the funds to help with the redesign of its website.

March 2006

To economize on rented space and increase its capacity, PAA purchased a building adjacent to its main office.

May 2006

After 17 years of dedicated service to the organization and its clients, Karen J. Popowski retired as executive director. Under her capable leadership, PAA advanced significantly to serve more clients -14,000 annually and 3,500 monthly, with a wider range of services (31 programs). PAA is grateful for the role Karen has played in the organization’s growth and success.

May 2006

PAA’s board and staff were pleased to welcome Joanna Borowiec as the organization’s new executive director. Magdalena Dolas was appointed to fill the new role of senior director to serve and engage the community more effectively.

June 2006

25th Anniversary of the PAA Employment program, which over the years provided employment services to 18,000 people and placed almost 6,000 of them in jobs.


PAA received a generous bequest from long time donor Felix J. Lyczko to establish a scholarship fund for young people of Polish ancestry, and anticipates officially launching the Gene Charles Lyczko scholarship Fund.


The booklet for students of Basic Computer Literacy Class created by PAA staff in 2004 was edited and published.

September 12, 2007

Polish American Association reopens its Southside office at 6276 W. Archer Avenue. In October of 2006, a car drove into PAA’s South Side office building causing major damage to its structure, but thanks to south side staff who tirelessly continued to serve the clients in need, the office remained open throughout the entire reconstruction period.

May 2008

Magdalena Dolas was appointed by Board of Directors as an Acting Executive Director after Joanna Borowiec resignation.

June 2008

15th Anniversary of the PAA Certified Nursing Assistant Program.

September 2008

At the ceremony at the annual Taste of Polonia, PAA received $25,000 grant from Jewel-Osco in support of Food Pantry program and homeless day shelter. They desperately needed help in times of crisis.

October 2008

PAA marks the 20th anniversary of its Program for Victims of Domestic Violence and its enormous impact on the hundreds of lives and how it has brought empowerment, wellness and safety to the Polish American women who know that they can turn to PAA for help in times of the worst life crisis.

October 2008

PAA’s Second Annual Food Drive and Solicitation Campaign-helps PAA combat hunger. More than ever PAA’s Food Pantry program needs help because number of hungry families drastically increased. Distribution of food was limited to those who reside within 60641 zip code.


PAA reopened its Housing Resource Center, providing unbiased, bilingual counseling and seminars to help clients attain the American dream of purchasing their own home. In addition, the Center offers education and counseling in regard to landlord-tenant rights and responsibilities, conflict resolution, lock-outs, evictions, retaliation, discrimination, gaining access to affordable housing for special needs populations like senior citizens, and persons with disabilities.


A successful “Register to Vote” Campaign, whereby over 200 Polish residents were registered for the first time, a commendation for the Polish translation of the USCIS publication: “Welcome to the US: A Guide for New Immigrants”

January 2009

PAA again was involved in Point-in-Time Homeless Count, as a lead agency at the Northwest side of Chicago. The Point-in-Time homeless count is conducted every 2 years to gather data on the number of the homeless as a basic for federal funding, for service and resource planning, and to raise public awareness about homelessness.

June 2009

PAA citizenship program recorded a CD with questions for the new naturalization exam (October 2008, the new citizenship exam was implemented). It is being distributed among clients for a donation of $10.

July 2009

PAA received new funding to provide Women Infant Children (WIC) program. WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program for low-income women, infants and children up to age 5 that serves to safeguard the health by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care.


PAA marks the 20th anniversary of its Seniors Program. Originally launched in 1989, PAA’s Senior Program was expanded in 2006 with the help of a grant from the United Way.


A struggling economy, long delays in receiving payments and the rate of unemployment created a ripple effect, which made the services provided by the PAA in demand more than ever. PAA was able to serve a record breaking 15,300 clients throughout the year. Four programs: SNAP -Social Services for Food Stamps, Seniors for Benefit Enrolment, WIA for people w/w work related needs and for Rentals and Foreclosures received an economic stimulus package.

August 2009

First Annual Back-to-School Party and Family Picnic was held at the Mountain View Adventure Center.

September 17,2009

PAA’s Immigration Services along with The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services District Office organized a very special Naturalization Ceremony. The ceremony was attended by USCIS Directors Ruth Dorochof, Stacy Summers and a few guests from USCIS Washington DC. There was Color Guard Presentation by U.S. Marine Corp and a Polish singer sang the national anthem. On behalf of PAA the Keynote Speaker was Caroline Shoenberger former City of Chicago Commissioner, Supervisory Attorney of the Chicago Legal Clinic-Immigration Program and CCC Law Department Professor. This special event was held at the Polish Museum of America.

September 2009

PAA former Board Chairman involved in PAA for many years and long time generous donor Father Edmund J. Siedlecki passed away.

November 2009

The Officers and Directors of PAA were proud to announce the appointment of Gary Kenzer as their new Executive Director Kenzer has been a professional in the non profit world for ever 25 years holding executive leadership roles in several international humanitarian and community based organizations in Chicago and in the Midwest.

December 2009

PAA welcome to the new email newsletter. This newsletter is to communicate to PAA’s friends and supporters (more than 2,000 people) about the amazing programs and services we offer and our accomplishments.

Also, PAA have introduced a way to support our programs through this newsletter and on our web site with a highly secured link to PayPal.

December 2010

PAA has received ARRA grant to open a new program helping Renters Impacted by Foreclosure.PAA counselor has been providing Polish and Eastern European clients with foreclosure counseling and education on topics such as: foreclosure prevention; laws and timelines; loss-mitigation options; short sale and tips to avoid scams and fraud.

February 2010

50 volunteers traveled to Springfield Illinois to advocate for responsible funding of human service programs. Several meetings were held and also scheduled with legislators to discuss these important issues.

March 2010


April 18, 2010

PAA’s Chairman’s Brunch, one of most important annual fundraising events was held at the Elysian Hotel. Dr. Maria Siemionow, a world-renowned scientist and micro surgeon performed the first face transplant was an honor guest speaker. Solidarity Award for Lifetime Giving was presented to Geraldine Gedroic Lichterman, former PAA’s Board Chairman in appreciation of her generous support the mission and work of the organization. Chairman’s Brunch event was organized for the first time in 1989.

August 17, 2010

The Chicago Cubs and Pepsi were pleased to announce Polish Heritage Night at Wrigley Field.


Polish American Association is proud to announce the availability of scholarships through the Lyczko Scholarship Fund. Scholarships are designed to support and encourage outstanding academic achievement among Polish youths.

October 2010 -February 2012

Received first grant from the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago for a 17 month project to reduce the incidence of smoking in the Polish community.

October 2010

First 5 year grant partnership entered into with haymarket Center and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA)

January 2011 -D ecember 2011

Received first grant from the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority as part of their Say It Out Loud Campaign to eliminate the stigma of speaking about ones mental health issues.

February 11, 2011

10th Anniversary of the Senior Club South Side office

October 23, 2011

20th Anniversary of the PAA Outpatient Addiction Program

November 2011

For the firs time we had a sold out crowd to the PAA's Annual Gala honoring John J. Pikarski, Jr. one week before the event. It was very succesful event.