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Executive director of PADS Lake County dies

PADS Executive Director Cathy Curran HighlPark PADS Crisis Services walk HighlPark. | Sun-Times Photo

PADS Executive Director Cathy Curran of Highland Park at the PADS Crisis Services walk in Highland Park. | Sun-Times Photo

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Updated: December 24, 2012 1:18AM

Over the past decade, Cathy Curran was a tireless worker for PADS Lake County as executive director, and on Wednesday afternoon she died suddenly after feeling ill at work.

Suzanne Christensen, PADS director of administration, said Curran, 61, was in a meeting at the agency’s office at 3001 Green Bay Road on the Lovell Federal Health Care Center campus in North Chicago at about 11:15 a.m. when she complained of chest pains.

Paramedics were called and Curran was advised to get to a hospital. “It was business as usual,” Christensen said. “She was dealing with the clients, dealing with the staff, behind her computer. She walked out with paramedics. She said she had no numbness, no tingling. We got a call two hours later that she had died.”

“She was a wonderful person,” said Joel Williams, Community Development administrator for Lake County. He sent out a letter to other partner organizations Wednesday afternoon.

“Cathy was an amazing and inspiring woman who did an incredible amount for PADS and the homeless in Lake County,” he wrote.

Williams said he had worked with her numerous times over the years during homeless person counts and other activities. PADS received grant money from his office.

“She did a lot for so many people who were in great need. She’ll always be remembered for the impact she made on their lives,” he said.

“I’m shocked,” said Waukegan Township Supervisor Patricia Jones, who saw Curran at a legislative breakfast in September.

“Homelessness was the primary agenda item,” Jones said. “I knew Cathy as a champion for the homeless but it wasn’t until I became a PADS volunteer at my church (Shiloh Baptist) that I realized the intensity of what she did. She had a vision, a passion and a true commitment to the least of these.”

Curran, who became executive director in 2002, had been working to make the organization more than just a crisis center. Back in 2011, there was a name change to reflect that mission. It had been known as PADS, which stands for Public Action to Deliver Shelter, Crisis Services Inc., and was changed to PADS Lake County.

“The new name better reflects our identity. We’re more than crisis services,” she said.

The organization has the Safe Haven, a program for 15 individuals who have been chronically homeless where they have shelter, health assessments, medicine, and job training. In addition, the organization provides housing for 10 veterans and emergency family housing for 42 people at the Waukegan site at Building 5 of Naval Station Great Lakes and Lovell Federal Health Care Center. From Oct. 1 through April, PADS Lake County coordinates with a number of churches across the county to provide shelter and food for the homeless during the winter.

Curran, who was named executive director of PADS Lake County in 2002, arrived from the Helping Hands shelter in Springfield. Under her leadership, PADS opened a year-round shelter for families at 8th and Lincoln Street in Waukegan and transitional and permanent shelter programs for veterans and people with mental illness.

“She was an amazing lady and she took us amazing places,” said Curran’s co-worker, Christensen. “It’s very hard to absorb and believe. She was all business, doing everything she possibly could to help the homeless.”

Maureen Murphy, associate vice president of Catholic Charities Lake County, remembered working with her on the partnership to end homelessness in 10 years plan.

“She really hanged the face of homeless services in Lake County,” she said, “She just got a new grant from the Health Care Foundation to provide homeless people with medical care,” she said, which meant everything from setting up the appointment, getting the medicine and scheduling follow-up care.

“She worked tirelessly on behalf of the homeless. She was just a wonderful person. She had a wonderful heart and a wonderful vison for the homeless,” she said.

Curran also had a sense of humor, like the time this summer when she tore an envelope and chili powder was inside and caused a skin reaction. It turned into a hazardous material call that was covered by the Lake County News-Sun and she called the paper to thank them for taking her picture as she waved just before entering the decontamination tent for a scrub down.

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