Meet the AFS Board: Mike Arnow

On January 3, 1882, Aurora Family Service was founded as the Associated Charities of Milwaukee.  This year, we are celebrating our 130th year of building stronger, healthier families and communities.  Meet some of the inspiring leaders who are forging the future of Aurora Family Service.

Mike Arnow is the longest-serving member of the Aurora Family Service Board of Directors.

Mike Arnow’s family moved from Lithuania to Chicago, where his grandfather worked as a tailor on the city’s west side.  Mike and his two sisters grew up in the Rogers Park neighborhood, where his father was a policeman and his mother worked in a ceramic pottery studio.

After 37 years of living and working on Chicago’s North Side, Mike moved his family to Wisconsin.

In 1981, Mike started his own practice as a CPA and financial advisor. Today, he is the senior director of financial planning at SJA Financial Advisory, while his wife Laura runs his original practice, Arnow & Associates.  Mike and Laura reside in Fox Point with two children in college:  Robert at St. Olaf’s University and Rachel at Lawrence University.  With over 20 years of consistent service to the Board, Mike has served Aurora Family Service longer than any other director.

How did you become involved with Aurora Family Service?

“I worked with many psychiatrists in my accounting and tax practice.  Eventually, I was asked to join the board of Milwaukee Mental Health Consultants, which later merged with Family Service of Milwaukee, and ultimately became Aurora Family Service.  I have been on and off the board ever since.”

“This organization has been blessed with visionary leadership.  The challenge is to build on the momentum and heritage of this leadership.  We have an extremely strong board that works in concert with community advisory groups and program leaders.  We have achieved amazing levels of collaboration.”

What is the #1 challenge facing Milwaukee families today?

“As long as there’s an ‘urban,’ there will always be an urban poor. And the poor aren’t getting more poor, but their needs are getting much greater.  There’s not just one challenge that’s greater than any other.  Our rates of poverty, bankruptcy, unemployment, domestic violence, and divorce are not momentary problems.  They are constants that we need to anticipate and accommodate.  As long as there’s a disadvantaged population of any kind, we need to be able to respond.”

How has Aurora Family Service evolved to meet our community’s needs?

“We have remained sensitive, conscientious, and committed to the most urgent needs of families in crisis.  For example, we have taken infant mortality very seriously, and risen to the challenge of creating a whole new approach to preventative prenatal care.  Senior care is another example of a program that is evolving to meet the needs of a rapidly aging population.”

“We haven’t gone far from our original programs, but we have built stronger connections with other organizations, the city and the county to better provide for the needs of our community.  These reciprocal arrangements allow us to do what we do best, without trying to reinvent what others do better. ”

“The affiliation with Aurora Health Care was difficult to imagine at first. But we’ve come to understand the benefits of a more holistic approach that we can now provide.  We have built a synergy between emotional, financial and physical health.  And our opportunities are stronger than ever.”

What are your family’s most cherished traditions?

“My wife and I created new family traditions for our children.  One of our strongest traditions is sitting together to share dinner as a family unit and talking about our day.  More than the holidays, these family meals were the glue that kept us together.  After all, it’s hard to lose track of your children when you see them every day.”

What is your vision for the future of AFS?

“Aurora Health Care is on the leading edge of medical home and accountable care concepts.  With these concepts in mind, we are able to pull together very strong social service programs that treat not just the symptoms of a crisis, but the wellness of the family as a whole.”

“For example, think about diabetes. It makes no sense to treat a child’s diabetes without consulting the whole family.  We need to talk to Grandma about changing what food she prepares for the child, and we need to talk to the parents about the importance of regular exercise for their children.”

“We can’t move fast enough to take advantage of these new synergies.  Every time we collaborate with Aurora Health Care colleagues, the outcomes are bigger and better for Aurora Family Service.   Eventually, I hope this allows us to extend our work into the entire Aurora footprint. ”

“We’ve seen such success with the integration of social services and health care. They work so well together to create whole people and whole families.  I look forward to expanding outward to wherever Aurora has a presence.”

Aurora Family Service helps families overcome challenges, changes and crisis to live well again. We achieve stability and strength for families through counseling, parenting, elder care, financial, career, health and community services.  For more information, visit our website, follow us on Facebook, or call 1-414-342-4560.

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