Forest Park resident André Hines has a Ph.D. and runs a six-site health care organization with about 120 employees. With those credentials, some people might think that she would live in a more upscale community. She chose instead to follow her heart.

“I have a heart to serve,” said Hines, who is the CEO of Circle Family HealthCare Network, a 501(c)(3) not for profit agency on the West Side of Chicago that provides a full range of medical and behavioral health services to more than 60,000 patients a year. “The work that I do, in my opinion, is a mission. It’s not just another job. My heart is to serve where the needs are the greatest.”

She credits her mother, an ordained minister who moved her family to Chicago from Gulfport, Mississippi in the 1970s, for instilling in her the desire to serve. Hines was working as a receptionist in a health care facility while struggling as a single parent earning a minimum wage salary. That’s when it dawned on her that she could be “counting pennies” the rest of her life. That realization motivated her to go to college.

She and her young son lived on grits in the years when she started college.

“In the months when we had extra money,” she recalled, “we’d have butter with our grits. After we got through those years, I couldn’t eat grits for a long time.”

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration from Roosevelt University, followed by an internship, a master’s degree, and two post-graduate fellowships, she received a Ph.D. from Central Michigan University last year.

Now Hines leads Circle Family, which has three community health centers: one on 4909 W. Division St. near Cicero, one in Rock Church at the corner of Parkside and Central and one in Austin High School. There is also a behavioral health facility in Humboldt Park and a mental health residential facility in Albany Park.

Hines is especially proud of Circle Family’s mobile health vehicle which is staffed by a physician, counselors and case managers who bring the network’s services to 22 communities. Many of the stops are at homeless shelters.

What attracted her to Circle Family was that it not only served those with the greatest needs, but also was unashamedly Christian in both its vision and practice.

“The mission of [Circle Family] is in line with who I am,” she said. “We begin our weekly staff meetings with devotions. I wanted to work at a place where we can feel comfortable praying.”

That’s one reason why Hines has a heart for Forest Park. She can drive to her church, Living Word Christian Center, in five minutes. She attends Pastor Winston’s church because she feels that he applies the gospel to everyday life.

Her dedication to Forest Park first began with a search for a good school for her son. When he was in grade school, Hines couldn’t afford to live in this community, but she was able to get the money to send him to St. John Lutheran School.

“I always knew that when ‘I grow up,’ I want to live in Forest Park,” she said with a smile. She said the village, with its “small town charm,” is a safe place for a single woman, and at the same time, its “big city access” allows her to drive to her office at 5002 W. Madison St. in Chicago in minutes.

Hines has some clear ideas on health care reform and those who resist it. She wrote in Circle Family’s latest newsletter:

We live in a system designed to separate us into the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ Health Care Reform is attempting to create a community where those who have help those who have-not … I believe God is using the Government(sic) to provide avenues to greater healthcare for everyone and particularly the poor.

If there are struggles in the life of André Hines, Ph.D. and CEO, they clearly do not arise for want of a direction and mission in her life.