John Barry Elementary is one of the neighborhood schools located in the Hermosa community. The school facility serves 796 students Pre-K through 6th grade. 95% of the student body is Hispanic and 3.2% is African American, and 92% come from low-income households. Recently Barry was appointed a new Principal, Estuardo Mazin, who has stepped into a position that was held by an interim Principal for four years. With a permanent Principal, the school will have more stability and can develop its long-term goals. The dedicated staff truly believes “great things are always happening at Barry” and would like to see the school continue to grow.
After renting out the nearby Portage Theater, the energetic employees from Redbox began filling the lobby with games, snacks and goody bags. As students arrived, the team from Redbox welcomed them with cheers and high-fives, getting everyone excited for what was about to happen.
After getting to know one another with a quick ice-breaker game, the students, teachers and staff picked up some popcorn at the concessions stand and settled into their seats next to the Redbox team, ready to enjoy a screening of The Polar Express.
During intermission, students were invited to the lobby, where the volunteers had set up holiday themed games with enough prizes for everyone. Students enjoyed playing Snowman Beanbags, Pin the Tail on Rudolph and an interactive game where teams used wrapping paper and ribbons trying to disguise one another as sparkling holiday gifts. After a few more snacks, intermission was over and everyone was excited to find out what stop was next on The Polar Express!
In a matter of hours, friendships had formed between Barry students and Redbox employees. The students were loaded up with goody bags, a few more high-fives and then sent on their way. An afternoon at the movies is something that many of us take for granted.
For young kids whose families are struggling with employment and financial burdens, an afternoon of fun, games and a movie theater all to themselves serves to remind Barry students that they are still on Santa’s nice list. We’re so glad that our ‘Volunteer Elves’ from Redbox were there to make it all happen!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“Seventy years ago today, a bright Sunday morning was darkened by the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor…We salute the veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor who inspire us still. On this National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, we also reaffirm our commitment to carrying on their work—to keeping the country we love strong, free and prosperous…we resolve to always take care of our troops, veterans and military families as well as they’ve taken care of us.” -President Obama
There are almost 800,000 veterans in Illinois, nearly 75% of whom are war-time veterans. Reintegration into civilian life can be difficult in the best of times, but a challenging US economy has compounded the problem, resulting in an almost 12% unemployment rate among veterans. Close to a quarter of the country’s homeless population are veterans.
These statistics are sobering. However, there are organizations like Inner Voice on Chicago’s west side, that are realizing the needs of homeless veterans and doing their best to answer the call. Inner Voice runs a transitional housing facility in East Garfield Park, dedicated to honorably discharged veterans. They also built the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) to provide the services veterans needed to transition into civilian life in Chicago. Services for veterans include: job placement assistance, permanent housing placement, GED and adult literacy training, vocational training, case management, and transportation and rental assistance.
Organizations like Inner Voice are fighting a difficult battle. While the needs of the veteran population keep growing, funding in this economy remains a challenge. You can see the needs of the organization as you walk into the building. Handwritten signs point you through a maze of hallways. Overfilled boxes of files are stacked on collapsed shelves. The walls haven’t seen paint in years. The team at Inner Voice focus their time, resources, and efforts on the veterans they serve, leaving little energy for facilities maintenance.
Seeing the difficulties facing veterans, The Home Depot Foundation has made a commitment to invest $30 million over three years to help address veterans’ housing issues. In addition to making grants, they also support non-profit organizations serving veterans by completing volunteer projects that involve repairing or modifying homes to make them more affordable and comfortable for veterans and their families.
Today, around 40 employees from The Home Depot visited Inner Voice to improve their facilities, making it possible to serve Chicago’s veterans in a more comfortable and respectful way. The employees, some of whom are vets themselves, served side by side with homeless veterans; painting walls, building seating and shelving, constructing new signage, and creating two murals that honor military service.
On this, the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we say, “I will never forget.”
Today, a group of volunteers from Home Depot put those words into action at Inner Voice. Each swing of a hammer, each stroke of a paintbrush reminded veterans, “We have not forgotten.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
In today’s competitive job market there is little room for average skills and credentials. In order to get through the door for an interview you need a substantial resume, exquisite references and sometimes; a miracle. For many people across the United States this is an uphill battle, one that becomes even more difficult with limited literacy skills.
According to the National Center for Family Literacy, an estimated 23% of American adults do not show basic reading proficiency. In Chicago, even bleaker estimates show 53% of adults have low or limited literacy skills. This is a substantial population of adults that are unable to read directions, fill out job applications or communicate their needs effectively.
For many children, reading time in the classroom can be very intimidating. As an after school provider and past ESL teacher, I have encountered many children and adults who dread reading aloud, lacking confidence in their reading skills. Often teachers do not have the resources or time to dedicate to low-achieving readers, so those students fall even further behind. As Chicago Public Schools face a $370 million shortfall in this fiscal year, school officials plan to cut about $86 million in programming efforts. Unfortunately, most of those program reductions include after school and literacy initiatives.
Now, more than ever, our children need support and assistance with literacy skills. Studies show that a child’s reading scores dramatically improve when parents or other adults are involved in helping them learn to read. Children also need comfortable spaces for literacy learning, where books are easily accessible and comfortably enjoyed. Chicago Cares is taking action to promote literacy in both of these areas!
Chicago Cares Business Shares program and Annual Events help to renovate over 50 Chicago Public School libraries and hundreds of classrooms every year! Ongoing education programs also serve 10 Chicago Public Schools with evening and weekend literacy-based programs for children. Read-with-Me programs are one of our most popular with school administrators, and are a fun and rewarding experience for many of our volunteers.
Read-with-Me offers students an opportunity to read books with adult volunteers, and then complete art projects related to the book. As students read aloud, volunteers help them comprehend what they’ve read, work on pronunciation, discuss lessons learned and give positive encouragement. By helping a child learn to read, you are building the foundation for future success.
Celebrate National Literacy Month by volunteering at a Chicago Cares Read-with-Me program!
Today’s post is from Senior Manager of Education, Alisha Flores.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last weekend, volunteers across the country joined together to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with service to their communities. At Chicago Cares, we were honored to be able to offer over 60 service projects throughout the National Week of Service and Remembrance, highlighting issues of education, hunger, homelessness, senior services and the environment.
Our largest project was held on Saturday, September 10, with nearly 400 volunteers in attendance. It was wonderful to have so many hands ready to serve the students, faculty and staff at McClellan Elementary school in Bridgeport.
With the tremendous support of the White Sox Volunteer Corps, volunteers were able to revitalize the entire school in just 5 hours:
- All 21 classrooms, the gym and the 3 school hallways received fresh paint
- 16 murals were created to inspire students as they walk through the halls
- 2 playlots were updated with new line games, maps and a kickball diamond to stimulate physical activity
- 2 outdoor murals were painted and hung on the fences surrounding the school, welcoming the community and showcasing McClellan school pride
Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers who helped make McClellan Elementary a more beautiful place to learn!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Integrating our experienced Chicago Cares PSMs into leadership for this program was the Service Events Department’s proudest accomplishment for the fall of 2009. Your leadership made it possible for us to grow in this way and make an impact all over our city. This coming fall will be filled with opportunities to take part in this incredible process. We’ll be partnering with the Chicago White Sox on September 11, continuing our long-term partnership with Medline on October 2, and hosting several projects as a part of Kraft’s National Make a Delicious Difference Week, October 4 – 9. Chicago Cares continues to build new partnerships so we need the continued support of our experienced leaders. If you are interested in leading a project, please check the Leader Calendar for projects titled “Business Shares” and email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up.
Leaders, thank you so much for all of your help. We’re looking forward to another incredible season of service with you this fall.
Completing service hours had been requirement for Christine in high school and it wasn’t until after participating in the Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon that she realized how much fun and purpose-filled volunteering could be. “Volunteering makes me appreciate what I have and gives me the opportunity to meet new people,” says Christine. She now volunteers with Chicago Cares and the Susan G Koman Breast Cancer 3-day regularly.
Christine particularly enjoys leading one-time large scale projects through the Business Shares program. “It’s amazing to see the amount of work that can get done in a single day if you just have people to do it.” She likes the ease and organization of Chicago Cares’ projects, “It’s easy to search online to find the perfect opportunity,” she says. “It lets me do something I love without having to do a ton of work to prepare for it.”
Christine also enjoys projects that get children from the school community involved; it’s a powerful experience to see the corporate volunteers and youth work together towards a common purpose and goal. One of her favorite moments was at a Business Shares project in her home town of Melrose Park, watching volunteers mentor and guide students in their work. The excitement of the youth and the dedication of the volunteers are what keep her coming back to lead time and time again. She hopes that the kids at her projects will grow to love volunteering and act on service like she does.
“It is not hard to be inspired to continue to volunteer after seeing children’s reactions when they see a newly painted mural in their lunchroom or see the look on their face when they realize that those people are there to work on their school because they care, not because someone is paying them.”
Thank you, Christine, for all that you do with Chicago Cares Business Shares! You are a true inspiration to children, volunteers, leaders, and the Chicago Cares staff!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )