House of Peace Shelter and Chicago Platform Tennis Charities Take Off

Dynamic duo Denise Murphy of Lake Forest and Julia Sierks of Lake Bluff didn’t intend to launch an entire movement.

They simply attended a meeting together two years ago to learn about the House Of Peace shelter. The paddle tennis-playing friends were interested in donating to a worthy organization.

Murphy, a mother of 3 young children and the Lake Forest High School girls tennis coach, wanted to honor her recently deceased father. Sierks wanted to find a community service opportunity for her husband and 3 older children.

But they fell in love with the concept presented at that meeting—renovating an architecturally elegant 1904 building in Lake County and helping to break the vicious cycle of domestic violence through culturally sensitive programming for nearby Latina women and children. They decided to champion the cause, cementing a partnership that is even more powerful off the court than on.

Thus was born the movement that culminates in the next few weeks with the official opening of the House Of Peace Shelter and the Chicago Platform Paddle Tennis Charities Tournament that will raise money for the shelter.

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Sierks’ and Murphy’s passion for the project quickly attracted others—friends, Lake Forest High School athletes, college students home for summer break, families of students in Murphy’s tennis camps, Eagle Scout Gerry Stemo of Grayslake who made 12 beautiful trundle beds, and more. Donations flowed in and volunteers labored on-site doing construction and decorating work. Anyone and everyone was welcome to participate. The final product—a three-story home for at least 16, with warm, light-filled rooms, colorful quilts and original art on the walls—reflects the love poured into it by donors and volunteers.

The House Of Peace is beautiful! This welcoming haven should be the perfect venue to accomplish its important mission: helping women and children heal from domestic violence and develop skills to live independently and fully.


It’s a unique model for at least two reasons, the partners explain passionately during a recent tour.

“This is the only domestic violence facility in this region that is sensitive to Latino social norms,” Sierks says. “Culturally specific programming means the women feel comfortable with staying and not returning to the offender.”

Murphy adds, “Also, we will allow boys over age 12 to stay here with their mothers. If there is ever a way to break the cycle, it’s going to start with that 12-year-old boy!”

Their passion for this project first pulled in support from the paddle tennis community in September 2010, when 32 of Chicago’s top women paddle players adopted the House of Peace as the beneficiary of their “Fall Brawl.” Soon many of those women were traveling to Lake County from as far away as Oakbrook to provide additional support. Becoming the official charity benefiting from the annual tournament, which coincides with the opening of the shelter, couldn’t be more appropriate now.

Following their passions on the court and off have led Murphy, Sierks and now the Chicago Platform Tennis community to help launch a most worthy charity. To learn more or donate directly go to


Paddle tennis player? Check out our article on where to shop and eat after your matches around the North Shore and Chicago.

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