The Center: History, Mission, and Vision


“Let me live in a house by the side of the road
and be a friend to all mankind.”—Sam Walter Foss

Since 1932, The Center has offered a unique spiritual and God based ministry open to all who wish to share in our many programs and services. Our founder, the Rev. Paul T. Sanders, and his wife Elizabeth, humbly began this dream and journey on nine acres of cow pasture with a mission to be of service to all.


Sandy, as he was affectionately called, had a deep love and appreciation for the hills, farms, woods and friends of this area. An old barn was turned into the first lodge and many folks found retreat, solace and comfort here. It was a place where the weary could find peace. From those early days The Center grew—as those who found help here came back to give of themselves. Much of what we do has its beginnings in those very early days. As you walk our grounds or participate in one of our programs, please realize most that you see here was built and nurtured by ordinary people with extraordinary spirit. This beautiful place, born of a dream, with its warm fellowship of people, still unfolds today. It is a testament of the human capacity to fully embrace love and service to all. We invite you to look into our programs, and of course we offer you a heartfelt welcome into this fellowship.

The Center’s mission

is to give people of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages the space to dream, grow, and become fully alive—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.


The Wayside Chapel

The Wayside Chapel is the touchstone of The Center and a long-standing community tradition. The Chapel offers a peaceful, tranquil refuge where people can worship and reconnect with God. Our chapel is always open to those who seek a quiet sanctuary for meditation and prayer. Services include Vespers at 8:30am and 12:30pm each Sunday and many special, often innovative services associated with the Christian holidays. The Center has ordained staff members including Rev. Nancy Nemeth, Pastoral Director of The Center, who provide leadership for these services and for individual pastoral counseling.

Weddings at the Wayside Chapel

The Center is widely known as a beautiful, nature-oriented site for weddings. Nestled in a picturesque woodland setting, the Wayside Chapel offers an exceptional opportunity to celebrate a wedding ceremony rich in detail and memories, either indoors or outside in the romantic Chapel Garden. The chapel is denominationally unfettered and accommodates many interfaith weddings of people who are solid in their belief that marriage is indeed an act of the spirit under the eyes of God.

The Children’s Farm

All creatures big and small, our Lord, our God made them all.”

The Children’s Farm at The Center offers a rare and wonderful learning place where kids experience farm animals of all types, how they live, what they eat, how they feel and sound. Here, chickens lay eggs, sheep grow wool, cows give milk and horses eat hay harvested right from our fields. At the same time, children see crops grow and begin to understand the importance of farms and farmers to their own survival. Imagine – milk doesn’t have its origins in a cardboard or plastic carton!

barn chives (1)

We offer a host of enriching farm programs, where children can handle the animals and experience the life of the farm.

Farm programs include the SAGE Program (Sustainable Agriculture, Green Education), Group Tours (Schools and other groups), Junior Farmers (Farm Life on a real working farm!), Family Tours, 1-4 p.m. weekends (Open March to November), Special Events (Exciting things year round!), Volunteering at the Farm (Seeking animal-loving nature enthusiasts), and Summer Camps (opportunities for children from 3 to 17).

Children’s Camp Programs

“Our overnight camp programs are dedicated to children and the joys of summer

and to cultivating skills that will last a lifetime. Two-week sessions offer horseback riding, animal care, nature hikes, cookouts, campfires and craft projects, while teaching children about cooperation, team building and respect for nature.

Summer Camp opportunities for Children Ages 3-17campfire 2

Since 1936, we have provided an opportunity for young people to live and learn and grow at our farm and woods.

During the summer months, we offer a variety of camp options for you to choose from.  Programs differ in content and length and range from our one-week day camp to our twelve-night, residential camp. Here are the offerings:

Junior Farmersa farm and animal based experience for young children, Farm Explorersa five day experience that mimics our residential camps in a daytime-only format, Farm Camp, one of our favorite and longest running programs, offered to children entering grades 4-7, Ranch Camp, an exciting, rustic, adventure on horseback, Outdoor Adventure for Teens, which uses the farm animals and horses as well as off site experiences such as hiking trips, overnight campouts and adventure challenges, and Senior Outdoor Leadership, which is designed to give participants an out-of-doors, leadership experience like no other.

The Farm and Nature Discovery Preschool & Kindergarten

Our school program is for children in preschool & Kindergarten.

“We are dedicated to the development of the whole child!”

The Center’s School is a lively hands-on learning community that helps children become creative learners using natural resources. We are DCFS licensed and the most highly-qualified teachers enjoy working with us.preschool 4

We feature low teacher-to-student ratios and offer bright and lively classrooms. We encourage social and emotional growth, and cognitive and language development. For more information or to arrange a tour, please call School Director Danielle Bell at 708.361.8933.

The Log Cabin Center for The Arts

The Log Cabin Center for the Arts encourages creative expression and offers enthusiastic support to students of all ages, through professional instruction and an inspiring natural environment. Kids' Art The Center 2017 (1)Classes include watercolor, pen and ink drawing, pottery, basket making, weaving, jewelry making, wood carving, poetry, calligraphy, folk arts, teen art, leathercraft, lapidary, family art and children’s art and pottery.

Social Services

The Center has served many generations with confidential, neutral counsel from our trained and ordained staff. Among our social services is the Pathway to Sobriety program for men, which provides residential aftercare treatment for alcoholism and substance abuse during the early phases of recovery. Additionally, The Center holds weekly support groups and retreats for both men and women, based on the Alcoholics Anonymous program.

To Sum Up . . .

The Center has as its mission to help people develop balance in their lives. Our program is a highly diversified collection of human services, sited in a beautiful and convenient location. The common desire of the Staff, Board and Volunteers – to be of service to people – is the basic element to everything done at The Center. The unifying spirit that holds all our diverse programs together as a whole is the personal goal of those who give The Center its leadership…to walk in the footsteps of the Master as exemplified in the Sermon on the Mount. Preference of faith is not a factor here, but the basic motivations of all faiths are the center-point for everything done here. This was true as The Center was founded in 1932. It is equally true today.

—David F. Sanders, Executive Director

Center History Gallery: