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Mary Black

Inside Kovler Center: International Cuisine with Mary Black

Mary Black is one of the most beloved and well-respected members of the Marjorie Kovler Center family. Since 1990, she has been dedicated to helping survivors of torture rebuild their lives, primarily as Kovler Center's occupational therapist. For Mary, occupational therapy is concerned with how survivors occupy themselves everyday in ways that are meaningful while dealing with the residual effects of torture and displacement from family, home, and culture. According to Mary, occupational therapy offers ways of “doing work with your hands to help promote wellness.”

One of Mary’s most popular projects is the twice-monthly cooking group that takes place in Kovler Center's kitchen. It started about eight years ago when she and two participants made cookies to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Today, cooking group has grown to fill the dining room with as many as forty participants (adults and children), friends, and community members chatting, dancing, singing, and enjoying cuisine from around the world. One or two survivors plan a delicious, authentic meal from their home country and serve as head chefs, teaching the rest of the group how it’s done. While the cooking group tries to use as many seasonal vegetables as possible from the community garden, what really makes the group thrive is the selection of ingredients by the expert chefs, which often requires trips to specialty markets to pick out just the right spice or the best type of meat. The feast is served family style and begins with introductions all around and an explanation of the significance of the meal, often evoking personal stories of family and home.

Mary says it’s a meaningful experience for everyone involved. “Cooking is a universal ritual that everyone shares even when you don’t have a lot of resources,” she explains. It empowers survivors, brings pride to the hosts, and instills in everyone a sense of community in a new place. As in much of occupational therapy, something seemingly mundane “can make, slowly, a difference.”

Cooking group

Cooking Group is only made possible because of supporters like you. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to help continue Mary's healing work. For only $100 you can support one cooking group session and dinner for about forty participants. A gift of $200 will sponsor the group for a month. A donation of any amount, however, will support Mary in doing what she loves and help defray the cost of ingredients, tending the community garden, and maintaining our kitchen, while helping survivors create new community.

Thank you for your support!

Mary Lynn Everson, MS, LCPC

Senior Director, Marjorie Kovler Center



Please consider a gift in support of survivors of torture

We believe



"Without Kovler Center, I don't know what would have become of me."

These words from one survivor echo the sentiments of so many more. Help us continue to provide essential services by making a tax-deductible donation.





Watch the latest video about our work!


New Resource for Attorneys

Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center and the National Immigrant Justice Center Pro Bono Roundable: Working with Survivors of Torture.

Click here to link to the March 14th Webcast and Training Powerpoint listed under Asylum Trainings.


Kovler Building

A Permanent Home for Marjorie Kovler Center

At the end of 2012, a dream came true. Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center now has a permanent home where survivors of torture will always have a place of hope and healing. We are grateful to longtime volunteer David Goldberg, MD, and former director Mary Fabri, PsyD, who established the Aurelia and Morris Goldberg Building Fund with an extraordinary gift, and we thank the many friends who made gifts to the fund. Because of their generosity we were able to obtain a loan of $146,000 which we intend to pay off in five years.

We are also grateful to the Jesuits for providing us the opportunity to purchase this historic building, and we are mindful each day of the work of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus who lived here and consecrated their lives to serve the community through education, law, and social justice. We feel privileged to have this building in our trust, for the hundreds of survivors who feel safe, secure, and at home here in this welcoming Rogers Park community. 

Whether you support our services or our building fund you are helping survivors heal.

 Make your donation here.





Learn More: Andrea

When Andrea's husband was kidnapped by Guatemalan soldiers in 1984, she fled the country in fear of her own life, leaving behind two young sons. She never saw her husband again, and the experience haunted her. At the Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center, Andrea—and her sons who followed her years later—accessed counseling for the anxiety, fear and depression that the experience caused. Like many of the clients of this special facility for the survivors of torture, Andrea also received legal and other social services—and today she is pursuing justice for her husband's legacy, one of more than 45,000 Guatemalans who have become "disappeared."


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If you want to learn more about Marjorie Kovler Center please come for a tour of the Center. Tours are given Mondays through Wednesdays, during regular Center hours, by appointment.

Please contact Judith Weinstein, Associate Director of Development, at to schedule a visit.