Partner up and help out at Hilliard Reading Connection !
Hilliard Reading Connection, the newest to our ongoing children’s programs, starts in just a few days! This program brings volunteers to Hilliard Apartments and helps to provide additional one-on-one support to the children as they develop their love of reading.
Upon my first site visit to Hilliard Apartments, I couldn’t believe how convenient the building was (just steps from the Cermak-Chinatown Red Line stop) and how diverse the neighborhood is (nestled at the corner of Chinatown and the South Loop). The building is a piece of architectural history, built by the famed Bertrand Goldberg, who is famous for his historical architecture in Chicago, including buildings such as Marina City.
For me, the most exciting aspect of visiting Hilliard was the warm welcome of the children and staff at Hilliard Reading Connection. The children were eagerly waiting in the social room to get started early, helping to get the books and art supplies out on a lovely Saturday morning. I learned from the staff at Hilliard that these children are always eager to start and reluctant to leave, asking for extra time with the books or using the online reading program to build their skills. They were friendly and welcoming, excited to meet a new volunteer and get started on the activities for the day. I was so inspired by their enthusiasm about reading and learning and couldn’t wait to get our programs started!
Hilliard Reading Connection was developed to provide weekly reading support and enrichment while improving reading comprehension and fluency in its children, and all the programs at Hilliard aim to include increasing youth development programs which educate and mentor young people socially and academically. Chicago Cares is partnering with Hilliard to help provide more one-one-one support, encouragement, and resources to the children in the program. Each project will include reading, art, and computer time with a partner student, providing more support to the Hilliard Program.
I hope you’ll join us on April 20th, our first project date at Hilliard Reading Connection, or any of our upcoming projects at Hilliard Apartments. For more information about this program or upcoming volunteer opportunities, please contact Emily Collins.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As part of our month-long service in honor of Dr. King, children at many Chicago Cares programs participated in special activities. These MLK special projects shared the legacy of Dr. King with a new generation and promoting the ideas of peace, freedom, and love. “I’ve never seen the students so engaged in a book or activity” community partner Whitney Nash at Mercy Housing shared. Together, children and volunteers read books, participated in discussions, created murals and “I Have a Dream” mobiles to honor Dr. King.
To many, the most meaningful part of the activities was learning what dreams these young children have: safe neighborhoods, clean parks, a college education, and an end to pollution, animal cruelty, and violence. Many children spoke with volunteers about ways to make peaceful change in their lives and share these beliefs with their friends, family, and neighbors. We can only hope that these children continue to follow their dreams!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
It’s hard to put 2012 in perspective just a few days after 27 people were gunned down in Connecticut (including 20 six and seven year olds), not to mention the dozens of Chicago children killed by violence every year. We start to feel like violence is all around us. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who held my child a little tighter this weekend and wondered what kind of world I was leaving her. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless when confronted with such evil.
But, every time I feel that hopelessness, I find that volunteering provides a sure remedy. Seeing our volunteers in action reminds me that there is so much good in the world. This Saturday a group of volunteers shepherded dozens of children through the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit. Others cooked breakfast and played bingo with low-income seniors. On Friday, a group from Discover made blankets for homeless shelters. All over the city, hundreds of volunteers came together in service this weekend.
Our volunteers do more than educate our children, reduce isolation and depression among seniors, feed the hungry and clean up our schools and parks. Every time you volunteer, you create community. And that community gets bigger and stronger every time you join a project. They and them become we and us.
We is a powerful word. WE make a difference. They sit at home and wonder why our schools are failing. We get off our butts and read to children from May Elementary in Austin, helping eight year olds learn to love reading. They look at a vacant lot and shake their fists at the trash. We gather together and turn emptiness into a learning garden like we did at Schmid Elementary in Pullman. They shake their heads at a senior citizen holding up the bus. We laugh and cry at senior breakfast, building friendship and community instead of isolation and depression.
As 2012 comes to an end, I thank all of you for your service to Chicago this year. I urge all of you to re-commit to volunteering in 2013 so we can continue to build a stronger Chicago.
Yours in service,
PS We always welcome your support as a volunteer AND as a donor. Please make a contribution to our work. Your $25 donation buys bingo prizes for senior breakfast club or art supplies for an after school program. Without your time and/or financial support, our programs simply would not exist for the over 270 community organizations we partner with every year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last week, an excited group of students stood on the freshly painted sidelines of their new soccer field. As they patiently waited for the ribbon cutting ceremony to begin, you could almost see the plans that they had for this expansive play area, a safe refuge in an often difficult neighborhood.
Columbia Explorers Academy is one of the jewels of the Brighton Park community. Columbia serves nearly one thousand students, pre-K through eighth grade. Around 97% of the students are Hispanic and nearly one-third are English Language Learners; just under 10% receive services for special education. Over 98% of the students are considered low-income. Despite these demographics, Columbia Explorers Academy has made huge strides toward success in the ten years it has been in operation.
Under the leadership of Principal Barrera, test scores have steadily risen and the school has become the preeminent location for Brighton Park families to send their children. Student awards pile up by the month, including a recent victory in a rain barrel design contest, multiple selections for the Do the Write Thing anti-violence writing project, and ticket art contest winners in an event held by the Kerry Wood Foundation. They have a renowned track team, winning the city championship five times in their ten-year history. They also partner with the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago White Sox for health programs and a Fatherhood essay contest, respectively.
Columbia must overcome daily challenges to maintain its success. Gang activity is prevalent and students – particularly older students – are pressured to participate. Because nearly all their students are low-income, the school works hard to provide them with the resources they need to be successful. It is the motivation for a safe and nurturing space that drives Principal Barrera and his staff to go the extra mile for their students. “This is an oasis,” says Mr. Barrera of the school property.
In July, during the hottest days of this sweltering Chicago summer, volunteers from Crown Imports spent two days working to create a community park for students at Columbia. They sealed crumbling pavement with fresh, smooth black top, painted line games and a much-anticipated soccer field, assembled new bleachers and created bright landscaping to welcome all members of the community to the park. In addition to all of the outdoor projects, Crown Imports volunteers also made aesthetic improvements with two mosaics, four canvas murals and five sports-themed silhouette wall murals.
Most of the students at Columbia Explorers Academy probably don’t comprehend what it took to make all of this happen. They can’t imagine the logistics that went into the planning, they don’t know what it’s like to seal black top in 100+ degree heat. These students aren’t aware that Crown Imports had to make a choice as to whether or not it was worth spending their time and money investing in the community.
All these students know is that this year, they have a fun, new place to play. A place that was created just for them by adults they don’t even know. A physical reminder that there are people in this city who care about them, who want them to be successful and believe that they are worth investing in. And in the end, isn’t that all they need to know?
To find out how your company can make a difference in Chicago, visit our Corporate Volunteer Programs page.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Meet Sarah Evans, your August Chicago Cares Leader of the Month! Sarah works in film, television, and theater as an actor, filmmaker and writer; she has been a Chicago Cares volunteer leader since March. Sarah has been an amazing leader at Mercy Housing this year.
During one of the first projects she led at Kids Create this spring, Sarah came into the site with a great idea for making recycled plastic masks, bringing lots of fun supplies, including glitter. The next time the Chicago Cares program coordinator visited, the site contact, Whitney joked that she was still cleaning up the “glitter bomb” that the kids created in their excitement over the project! Despite the mess, Whitney was so excited to have such an enthusiastic leader with great ideas for the kids. We can’t wait for Sarah to lead Art Around the World at Mercy Housing starting in just a few weeks!
Chicago Cares: How long you have been volunteering with Chicago Cares and what project do you lead?
Sarah: I have been a volunteer leader with Chicago Cares since March of this year, I lead the Kids Create, Art Around the World and Garden Explorers at Mercy Housing!
Chicago Cares: You are really dedicated to the programs you work with at Mercy Housing! What has been your motivation for volunteering?
Sarah: I volunteer to give back to my city and because there are people who need my help — and I love being able to support my fellow Chicagoans — and also it’s fun!
Chicago Cares: What has been your favorite activity to lead?
Sarah: I think my favorite activity, which was also the funniest, was at Mercy Housing when we made mud pies (with pudding.) I kept telling the kids to get really dirty. They really went all out and got really muddy with their mud pies, adding water to the pudding, trying to be the grossest and dirtiest. Most of the kids didn’t end up eating them, because they were just too gross, but they succeeded in getting dirty that day!
Chicago Cares: If you could make one wish for the projects you lead, what would it be?
Sarah: That the kids will remember one skill I’ve taught them in art and go on to work as an artist. I’ve seen so many talented kids who make beautiful art pieces, and it would be wonderful to know that one of them had become a painter or artist of some kind.
Chicago Cares: What advice would you share with other volunteers interested in a leadership role?
Sarah: Just do it! Chicago Cares gives leaders the tools to succeed and all the programs need the assistance. Leading a program is very rewarding because you build relationships with the people you’re volunteering with and they appreciate your help!
Congratulations to Sarah for being August’s Leader of the Month! If you are interested in learning more about leading children’s programs like Sarah, contact Wendy Neuert or sign up to attend our Children’s Programs Leader Training on Saturday, August 25.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Innovation is one of the guiding values of Chicago Cares, which means that no matter how many projects we already have on the calendar, we’re always looking for new ways to engage volunteers in making a difference in Chicago. Whether it’s opening our calendar to expanded volunteer hours or figuring out ways for people to serve through their unique abilities and interests, we are committed to making volunteer service a natural part of the life of every Chicagoan.
One of the ways we’re accomplishing that goal is by creating new project models in our ongoing programs. Here are just a few of the freshly designed projects that we’re unveiling this summer and fall. Whether you’re new to our site or a seasoned Chicago Cares volunteer, we think these projects will help inspire you to make Chicago a stronger community!
If you’re a Pinterest Pro, this project is for you! Volunteers will meet at the Chicago Cares office and be given the names of different ingredients commonly distributed at local food pantries. Once the star ingredients are distributed, volunteers will use the time to find simple, healthy recipes that feature their listed ingredients. These recipes will then be distributed to guests as they receive their groceries at various pantry programs. When you sign up for Recipe Wranglers, you’re supporting healthy eating habits for individuals and families throughout the city who are facing the struggles of food insecurity on a daily basis. It’s also a great way to meet new people who share you’re interests in providing hunger relief in Chicago.
If Recipe Wranglers piques your interest but you’re worried about how to fit it into your schedule, check out Tasty Bytes! This virtual volunteer opportunity will allow you to participate wherever you are, whenever you are available! Just like Recipe Wranglers, volunteers will be given different ingredients and asked to find simple and healthy recipes for. After completing the recipes on their own, volunteers will send in the recipe slips to the volunteer leader. These recipes will then be distributed to clients as they receive their groceries at our various pantry programs. This program is completed on your own time and not at the date and time mentioned on the Chicago Cares calendar.
Get Up & Go
Too tired to volunteer after work? Then get your day off to a great start by volunteering AND exercising before you even walk into the office! At Get Up & Go, volunteers will run with residents from the Lakeview YMCA and Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet encourages residents of the Lakeview Y to run 3 times per week and offers financial literacy classes to the residents who attend multiple runs. This opportunity is open to runners of all skill levels (and walkers too), so whether this is your first run or you’re an experienced marathon runner, join us to promote physical and financial fitness with our neighbors who are rebuilding their lives, one step at a time!
Math Adventures / Reading Adventures
Each week is a new, fun-filled adventure with students from May Community Academy! Through creative activities, games and crafts, you’ll help build a strong foundation of literacy and math skills for kids in 1st – 4th grade. Volunteers are supporting the work of teachers and staff at May, providing positive role models, supporting social development and engaging students in a variety of learning styles.
You can find these and more than 200 other group volunteer projects each month on our project calendar!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Finding the right volunteer opportunity usually comes down to something as simple as personality. Choosing a project that matches your interests and character traits will help you find a service opportunity that gives back to others and renews your energy in the process!
Here are a few suggestions to help you find the perfect summer project to fit your mood and interests:
You know that art is more than just a pretty picture. Use your gift to help others at programs like Therapeutic Art at Rainbow House or Arts & Eats at Hansberry Apartments. If you’re more of the performing type, check out Drama Club at Chicago House.
The Green Thumb
Summer in Chicago is the perfect time to practice your gardening skills! Whether you’re a horticulture pro at home or a wishful apartment dweller, dreaming of a plot of your own, you can get your gardening fix at Drake Gardens or the unique Garden in the Sky at Gary Comer Youth Center.
Your closet is already color coded and your pantry is freshly labeled, so take a break and show off your skills at Library Maintenance at Wentworth Elementary or by sorting clothes at the Bottomless Closet Clothing Drive.
No matter what your area of interest or personality, we’ve got over 200 volunteer opportunities every month to help you give back and feel great!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This year, Chicago Cares has had the opportunity to partner with Mercy Housing in many incredible ways: we started two new ongoing children’s programs, hosted Cbeyond for a corporate volunteer event, and facilitated the World’s Fair activities for Celebration of Service.
A few weeks ago, corporate volunteers from Cbeyond committed their afternoon to Mercy Housing, providing hours of work in the community garden. Volunteers worked in the warm spring sun to build two new planter beds, clean out existing beds and prepare the garden for their amazing community garden.
During summer months, students and residents tend to the garden, selling much of the produce to neighbors and local businesses. In addition to the hours of help provided by Cbeyond volunteers, “Mercy Housing saved more than $2000 in mulch and other garden supplies; money that can now be spent on more books and school supplies for the 30 students participating in after-school programs at the site,” said Resident Services Manager Whitney Nash. Cbeyond will return to Mercy Housing in October, working to improve the community center where the after-school programs meet.
Cbeyond volunteers are just a few of many volunteers who’ve impacted the children at Mercy Housing this year. Individual volunteers spent every Thursday evenings at Read-with-Me and Kids Create, reading books and creating unique art projects with the after-school students at Mercy Housing.
Volunteers logged more than 160 hours of enrichment to the children, providing encouragement, support, and individual attention that the children so deserve. Because of these programs, staff members at Mercy Housing are able to focus their after-school classes on reading, writing, and math skills knowing that the art component was covered by Chicago Cares.
While our ongoing school programs ended on May 31st, volunteers have the opportunity to attend Garden Explorers at Mercy Housing this summer, where they’ll help the students tend the garden and then participate in a garden-related activity.
We hope you’ll come see for yourself how great our partnership is with Mercy Housing this summer or fall!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Today marks the last day for many Chicago Public School students, bringing 8 weeks of rest and relaxation over summer break! This year, Chicago Cares volunteers had an enormous impact on hundreds of students in CPS, serving more than 7,000 total hours at 23 different locations. Thank you!
As a department, we have so many great memories from this year: taking the cooking students from Bethel to The Kids Table, painting with shaving cream at Fuller, and Imagination Theater at both Brennemann and Burr. We’re so proud to provide essential programming to our schools and agencies that range from homework help to sports leagues, and art clubs and cooking classes that provide important encouragement, support, and assistance to help students be the best they can possibly be.
We’ve heard a lot of fantastic feedback from our community partners this school year, but one theme that was continually repeated by all our partners is the way that Chicago Cares volunteers are important mentors and motivators for their students during this critical time of personal development. Regardless of the type of program, every interaction with a volunteer promotes positive attitudes, strong role models, teamwork, encouragement, and helps provide a safe environment for students to grow and learn.
Thank you so much for making such an incredible impact this school year! Many of our ongoing education programs take a short break until August, but we still have many opportunities to get involved in the next few months. Come out to volunteer at some of our new programs: Art and Games at San Jose Obrero Mission, Paint and Play at St. Angela, or Mini Camp at HGS. We are also looking for great new volunteer leaders to start in August; if you are passionate about working with kids and volunteers, please check out our website for more information about becoming an education leader.
Have a warm and happy summer!
Today’s post is from our Education Team;
Emily, Martha and Alisha.
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Things are buzzing here at Chicago Cares! We’ve just completed an awesome Serve-a-thon that saw over 5,000 volunteers working together to improve the lives of Chicago Public School students and now we’re gearing up to welcome service leaders from around the country as Chicago hosts Turning Point 2012: The National Conference on Volunteering and Service (NCVS).
A program of Points of Light, NCVS is the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and government sectors. If your organization deals with volunteers in any capacity, NCVS is an opportunity you don’t want to miss! Here are just a few of the ways that you can take advantage of the resources that will be offered right here in Chicago.
Excellence in education is at the core of all volunteer programs. We know that when students are taught about their community needs and challenged to help address those needs through service learning programs, we are building a foundation of civic-minded adults for the future. These conference sessions will help you discover how service learning curriculum can help us meet the needs of our students and our communities.
Faith Based Volunteer Programs
Working for the common good and caring for others is a sustaining theme for most world religions. Whether you are interested in finding out more about interfaith dialogue, building bridges between faith communities and corporations or using federal programs to help those in need, there are many workshops designed specifically to address the needs of those in faith-based volunteer programs.
Conference workshops are great but sometimes you just need something a little different. Books and Brew are book club-style sessions providing participants with an opportunity to have intimate conversations and discussions with featured authors on new and relevant books for civic engagement practitioners. If you love staying up to date on all of the latest reads about community service, this is a great opportunity to encounter some new material and share lively discussions with others in the field.
The Social Media for Social Good Preconference will cover basic and intermediate levels of social media topics including an introduction to core tools, evaluation, implementation and strategic application. With a mix of presentations, panels and small group workshops, participants will benefit from learning best practices, hearing from other organizations using these tools effectively, and have a chance to start building some plans of their own.
The generationOn Youth Summit is a FREE opportunity on Sunday, June 17, which will convene 250 young people for an afternoon of civic dialog and service-learning. Panel discussion with notable youth leaders, leadership development skill building activities and a service project to benefit the local Chicago community! Registration is required for this event and space is limited, so be sure to sign up today!
On a Budget
If you’re like us and serve at a nonprofit, then you’re probably on a budget. Conferences are great but sometimes lack of funds can prevent you from attending. Well, NCVS wants you to be able to join the conversation too! The session, Civics and Service, Helping to Drive Economy through Action, will bring together well-known speakers to discuss how civic engagement can help build a stronger economy, a more highly skilled and versatile workforce and more a productive nation. This session is free, but registration is required.
No matter who you are or what you do, there is something for you at the National Conference on Volunteering and Service. We hope to see you there!
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