What is your support group name?
Gluten Intolerance Group of Chicago.
Who is the support group leadership team?
Deirdre “Dee” Lee and Lori Welstead
When do meetings/events occur?
We host events quarterly on evenings and weekends, and typically events have a seasonal theme.
Why did you start this support group?
Dee: When I was diagnosed with celiac disease over 6 years ago, I was shocked to learn that there wasn’t a significant support system in Chicago. I told my doctor it was my aspiration to start one. I later met Lori, who was recently diagnosed, through her efforts to establish a group for people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders in the Chicagoland area. As this group grew, the extent of the demand for support in the community became clear. That led to exploring the support provided by GIG, and we formed our Branch with the objective of expanding our reach and providing even more resources to the gluten-free community in the Chicago area!
How large is the group?
Our Branch has over 150 members and is rapidly growing.
Are there any great local GF places to dine for the families and kids?
The Little Beet Table
Da Luciano (Have a separate kitchen for gluten-free diners!)
Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery
What are some of the events planned for the end of 2018 and/or start of 2019?
We are hosting a Gluten-Free Halloween Happy Hour and have begun brainstorming a 2019 Weekend Getaway to Madison, Wisconsin! We both recently traveled there and discovered the incredible variety of gluten-free options, including Alt Brew (a dedicated gluten-free brewery) and Madison Chocolate Company (a 100% gluten-free Chocolate shop), which we want to introduce to our members.
What are the largest challenges as a group leader?
The biggest challenge of being a Branch leader is finding time to schedule and plan all of our ideas for events, and ensure they are a wonderful experience for the group!
What is your favorite thing about being a group leader?
Our favorite thing about being Branch leaders is the positive impact we can make toward improving the lives of those living gluten-free and having the opportunity to share that adventure with some really amazing people!
What is something unique about your group?
Our goal is to promote the gluten-free lifestyle, be advocates, and to build-up the confidence of our members. We always say that we don’t want to sit in a room and cry about our celiac disease, but instead to celebrate all the great possibilities for gluten-free living in Chicago! Also, we have started a tradition at every event where we partner with gluten-free businesses to provide a swag bag filled with samples, coupons, and other GF goodness! It is a fun way to engage with the gluten-free community, bring some great products to the group, and allow our members to feel a bit like a celebrity.
Dee and Lori can be reached at GIG.Chicago@gluten.org. Also check out their facebook page: www.facebook.com/gigofchicago