Aurora Womens Empowerment Foundation Makes Grant Possible

Blanca Vargas, VNA Health Care, CMA Pathway Program Participant

AURORA, IL, USA, July 18 2022 – The Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation (AWEF) has awarded VNA Health Care a two-year grant to support its Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Certified Medical Assistant (MA) Pathway Program, helping improve employee retention, engagement, and advancement of frontline medical staff. Specifically, the grant is being used to help pay for the education expenses for a cohort of eight women to become Certified Nursing Assistants or Certified Medical Assistants, all of whom currently work at VNA in areas such as registration and scheduling. The program enables individuals who are seeking to improve their career progression to undertake training and coursework at one of three area community colleges, while working in their original position.

VNA Health Care was founded in 1918 and serves more patients living in suburban Chicago than any Community Health Center in Illinois. VNA serves 75,000 individuals a year and VNA’s Aurora clinics serve approximately 42,000 individuals each year, including 30,000 Aurora Residents. VNA has a focus on increasing equity among populations at increased risk of health disparities and provides care for an underserved population that identifies as 64% Hispanic, 13% Black, and 4% Asian. Over half of VNA staff are bilingual.

“We have a great respect for healthcare workers and believe female empowerment through professional education can lift individuals and communities,” said Linda Pilmer, Board Secretary, Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation. “It was easy for us to get behind VNA’s program to invest in their employees’ professional development for numerous reasons, including the fact that many of those participating in the CNA/CMA Pathway Program not only serve the Aurora community but live in Aurora as well. They are true leaders, stepping up to assist others, and we want to support them in a meaningful way.”

Linda Pilmer

Linnea Windel

A 2021 study by UCLA Latino Policy & Politics initiative found that in one year, from March 2020 to March 2021, the number of Latinas in the workforce dropped by 2.75%, the biggest drop in labor force size of any demographic group. The exit of Latinas and any female demographic from the labor force complicates economic recovery as many crucial sectors, especially healthcare, continue to face significant labor shortages.

“VNA’s CNA/MA Pathway Program is a solution for our entry-level staff who are seeking career advancement that not only strengthens the woman and her family in addition to VNA, but also provides an opportunity for her to be a role model for girls and other women, including those we serve, who may consider VNA a rewarding option for their future career,” said Linnea Windel, President & CEO, VNA Health Care. “We are grateful to the Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation for helping us launch this employee enrichment and development program, a program we plan to offer for many years to come.”

VNA has recently begun the development and distribution of a weekly, bilingual, digital show that highlights the organizational mission and services and those that put this into meaningful action every day. The “VNA Today” show airs on VNA’s website, Talking Cities Aurora, and Facebook and more. Said Chrissie Howorth, VP of Philanthropy & Communications, VNA Health Care, “Through this medium, we will also be able to highlight the women going through the Pathway program and learn how it strengthens them, their families and the community they serve, in addition to raising awareness about the importance of empowering girls and women within a healthcare setting.

To learn more about VNA’s extensive lineup of healthcare services and programs, as well as rewarding career opportunities, visit

Chrissie Howorth


The Aurora Women’s Empowerment Foundation mission is to elevate and empower Aurora-area women and future women by making grants to tax-exempt nonprofits engaged in meaningful, measurable work that helps women over the hurdles of inequity and exclusion, propelling them forward with life-changing programs and services.  For more information about grants made by AWEF, including our grant guidelines and online application, visit

VNA Health Care is a humanitarian, not-for-profit organization that provides comprehensive primary care and community health services for people living in suburban Chicago and beyond. VNA strives to improve health equity and reduce health disparities with high quality, accessible, and compassionate care delivered in VNA health centers, community settings and patient homes.  VNA Health Care serves more patients living in suburban Chicago than any Community Health Center in Illinois and provides care for more than 75,000 patients each year across 16 clinics. For more than a century, VNA has provided care to those in need. VNA serves a large, diverse population, and serves those with or without insurance. To learn more about VNA’s extensive lineup of healthcare services and programs, as well as rewarding career opportunities, visit