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 )
Green lights. Green socks. Green ribbons.
No, this not a list of my favorite things, or my favorite color. These are the different ways that I am going to participate in the Green Light Project to bring attention to National Runaway Prevention Month.
Every November, the National Runaway Switchboard partners with the National Network for Youth to create National Runaway Prevention Month. This initially started as a week of awareness in November 2002 as a way that various leaders on the issue could come together and hold numerous conferences and discussions on the issues that runaway youth encounter[i]. Over the years, this time expanded into an entire month as a way raise awareness about the issues that runaway youth face, as well as educate others as to how we can prevent youth from running away.
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away in a year.[ii] Even though housing is the number one need among runaway youth, there are several essential needs that are not met when a youth is homeless. Health and wellness are jeopardized, education falls into the background, and risky behavior is often increased when a youth becomes homeless. There is also a highly increased risk of being subject to physical and sexual ill-treatment once youth become homeless. As a way to manage this issue, there are several homeless facilities strictly for youth. However, the city of Chicago only has 266 beds for homeless youth, even though there are 10,995 unaccompanied youth in our city.[iii] More and more youth are being turned away from these shelters as a result.
Throughout the month of November, the National Runaway Switchboard and the National Network for Youth encourages everyone to get involved with raising awareness about runaway youth. One way to learn about this issue is by volunteering at various Chicago Cares’ programs that frequently work with this population.
On bi-weekly Wednesday nights, our volunteers cook dinner at La Casa Norte. La Casa Norte is social service agency that provides comprehensive services to members of the Humboldt Park community. The largest facility at La Casa Norte is the Solid Ground Supportive Housing Program. This facility is Chicago’s first bilingual, male-intentional supportive housing program for homeless youth ages 16-21.[iv] While many of the residents are at work, in class, or working on their homework, our volunteers cook a healthy meal for the male residents that they can enjoy when they come home for the night.
Chicago Cares also works with Open Door Shelter in West Town. Part of The Night Ministry, Open Door Shelter is a youth housing facility that helps homeless youth by providing housing and supportive services for youth ages 14-20, and their children. Open Door Shelter has a 120-Day Interim Program, as well as a Transitional Living Program, which is an 8-bed facility. Every Monday night, Chicago Cares runs alternating volunteer opportunities with the 16 participants in the interim housing program. During the cooking project, volunteers and the youth residents cook dinner that they then eat all together. On the alternating Monday evening, the residents work with our volunteers on a job coaching program. During the project, residents work on different job readiness skills, such as resume building, mock interviews, and other techniques to help them find employment while residing at the shelter. These programs help the residents develop different life skills that will be needed when they leave Open Door Shelter.
Whether you decide to volunteer at our programs, or wear a green lapel, there are numerous ways that you can share this information and go green during this upcoming National Runaway Prevention Month.
At Chicago Cares, we believe that every person can have a positive impact on their community through volunteerism. Often, truly embracing this belief means that we need to learn more about specific communities to discover how to engage all people in meaningful service.
A few weeks ago, our staff was delighted to welcome representatives from the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS). The mission of NADS is to ensure that all persons with Down syndrome have the opportunity to achieve their potential in all aspects of community life.
Julia and Michelle serve as self-advocates and are excited to share stories about how volunteer service has helped shape their lives. Along with their mothers, Julia and Michelle provided an informative presentation on Down syndrome, answered our questions and helped us to understand the challenges they face on a daily basis.
After their presentation, we asked Julia and Michelle to answer a few questions for the blog so that our volunteers could get to know these two amazing young women.
1. How old were you when you started volunteering?
Julia: I was in Girl Scouts from K-6th grade and Religious Ed. from K-9th grade. With both of these groups, I helped in doing service projects. From age 15 to present , I help in assistant teaching religious education to a kindergarten. classroom. At age 16 to present, I am doing an internship at a nearby pre-school. I began self-advocating last year, sharing my story with students and residents.
Michelle: I was involved in many volunteering projects and events through my school, Girl Scout Troop, and Religious Education classes. I started volunteering with service projects when I was six years old and when I was 12 years old I began volunteering at the Public Library with the summer reading program.
2. Where is your favorite place to volunteer?
Julia: My favorite place to volunteer is in the hospital doing presentations with my mom.
Michelle: I liked being a greeter at the check-in tent at the Chicago Air & Water Show Sponsor Area. Giving speeches at meetings about Down syndrome and the National Association for Down Syndrome is one of my favorite volunteer jobs.
3. How do you feel about yourself after you complete a volunteer project?
Julia: I feel very proud after I complete a volunteer project.
Michelle: I feel great and have fun volunteering.
4. Does having Down syndrome cause any challenges in your volunteer activities?
Julia: Taking my time and planning things out and keeping a routine schedule helps me learn more. It may take me a little longer, but I do learn.
Michelle: Some projects are hard so they take me a little longer but I ask for help.
5. What do you wish more people understood about Down syndrome?
Julia: We are all given special gifts and we are most lucky to have them both on the inside and out.
Michelle: I think people should understand that people with Down syndrome are like other people and they want to have good lives. People with Down syndrome have an extra chromosome but they are not all the same.
6. What do you hope for as you become and adult?
Julia: As I grow up, I would like to continue working with small children and help my aunts out at their pre-school.
Michelle: I want to keep learning things and get a job when I am done with school. I want to be a stagehand and give people playbills at theatres.
Thanks to Julia, Michelle and everyone at NADS for educating Chicago Cares on Down syndrome and helping us continue to grow in service!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
A few weeks ago, members of our staff were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. On Tuesday, April 24, I attended two sessions, “One Person Can Make a Difference” and “Women Forging Peace,” both of which were inspiring and eye-opening.
Panelists included Nobel Peace Prize winners and leading peace activists from across the globe. Seeing people from different cultures and walks of life interact in respectful, appreciative, and collaborative dialogue was refreshing.
The Summit was purposefully focused on youth this year. Being in a room filled with engaged students was very powerful. Through the excitement, though, the ultimate question, “What can I do about it?” loomed at all times. Thankfully, there is an answer.
Professor Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1997, shared it loud and clear when she was asked how to get involved and be a part of making a difference, “Volunteer!”
Jody started as a volunteer and worked her way into a life of full-time peace advocacy. Jody recommended to everyone listening that they start by finding an issue they care about. Then, find an organization that does something for that issue and volunteer with them. Finally, continue to learn and grow and share what you learn with others.
Here’s your chance. Follow the theme of the summit and “Speak Up, Speak Out” by volunteering with Chicago Cares.
Find a project that you feel makes a difference in your community. Go to that project, volunteer your time, volunteer your energy, volunteer your mind. Be open to learning from the people who work at the organization, from the clients you are spending time with, from your volunteer leader, and from your fellow volunteers. Then do it again and talk about your experiences. Share what you’ve learned, share how it made you feel, and continue to ask questions.
My hope for peace and equality is one of the many things that drives the work I do at Chicago Cares. I hope I can help you find what you are passionate about. Come be a part of building the future of our community. Volunteer.
Today’s post is by Wendy Neuert
Director of Human Service & Community Service Partnerships
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Yesterday marked National Teacher Day, an important part of Teacher Appreciation Week.
As an organization that builds education programs, we have had the honor of getting to know some of Chicago’s best teachers. We witness, firsthand, the inspiration that dedicated educators provide to students throughout our city, on a daily basis.
Our staff took a moment to reflect on the teachers that helped shape our paths during our years in school. What we discovered, is that it is often the things that seem to go unnoticed that have the greatest impact. Here are a few of our stories.
“Mrs. Huffman, my 5th grade teacher, taught me to dream big and care for others. She not only inspired me to go out of my comfort zone and try new things but taught me the importance of being an active and compassionate citizen.”
Senior Coordinator, Education
“My fondest teacher memory was of my high school French teacher, Madame Crachiola. Her classroom was off the main hallway and I would have to pass it before going home for the day. Every day I would stop in and say goodbye to her and we would just have a little chat. It was just enough time for me to let off some steam and process my day and I always left her classroom a little lighter and ready to take on the rest of my post-school day. Taking the time to recharge and re-energize with thoughtful conversation has been a lesson that I carry with me through today.”
Coordinator, Human Services
“I will always remember my 8th grade teacher Mr. Stallings. He challenged me to work beyond my abilities and skill level. For a long time this was very frustrating, but he was persistent and always believed in his students. The self-confidence that I gained from his class still affects me to this day.”
Coordinator, Corporate Volunteer Programs
“After several pop quizzes in French class included the word ‘restaurant’ our French teacher, Madame Ver, asked the class why we kept getting the spelling wrong in French. Many excuses later, she taught us the spelling in French was the same as in English! Moral of the story: don’t complicate simple things-life is complicated enough by itself.”
Thank you to all of the teachers who gave their time and talent to help ensure that each of us would grow up to be well-rounded citizens. Your service to the community is one of the guideposts that has led us to our present work and continues to give us hope for the future.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As part of our National Volunteer Week celebration, each department at Chicago Cares has spent some time working on a ‘Thank You Project’ to share with our amazing volunteers. We’ll be highlighting one of these projects with you each day over the next week. Today’s thank you project is from our education team.
Students at Chicago Cares education programs want to thank you for:
… celebrating our hard work this fall by throwing us a Halloween pizza party!
… helping us practice all summer for our “Make a Change!” play.
… coming every Thursday night to help me with my homework.
… working with me every Monday night to help me learn my letters.
-Chicago Youth Programs
… teaching me how to cook and encouraging me to try new foods.
-Bethel New Life
… reading with me!
-S.O.S Children’s Villages
… teaching me to express myself through art.
-St. Joseph Services
… teaching me how to play chess!
-Burr Elementary School
… helping me make a Valentine for my mom.
… letting my family come to cooking classes and try new recipes together.
-Pilsen Community Academy
… all the great books I now have to read at home.
-Brunson Specialty School
… coming every Thursday night and helping me make cool art projects to bring home.
… reading a story one-on-one with me every week.
-House of the Good Shepherd
… helping me make art out of recycled bottles.
-American Indian Center
… teaching me the science of making ice cream from scratch.
… encouraging me to participate in improv and drama games.
… teaching me how to make healthy versions of my favorite foods.
… showing me that learning about science is fun.
… taking us on a field trip for bowling and pizza.
.. playing basketball with me and teaching me new sports.
Thank you for building safe, creative and fun spaces for Chicago Public School students after school hours! From the Chicago Cares Education Team; Alisha, Emily and Martha.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
When the issue of homelessness comes to mind, many of us tend to imagine the same images; vets struggling with chemical dependency, seniors whose mental illness is left untreated. What often goes unnoticed is the high percentage of homeless youth. According to the Chicago Coalition for the homeless, out of the 93,780 Chicagoans recorded as homeless in the 2010-2011 school year, 10,684, or 11% were homeless youth.
Homeless youth are defined as unaccompanied young people from the ages of 14-21. Patterns of youth homelessness have shown that youth initially ran away as a result of physical or sexual abuse in their home, substance abuse in their home, or long-lasting family issues. Populations of homeless youth that are commonly misrepresented and overlooked are pregnant or already parenting teens, as well as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) youth.
Even though housing is the number one need among runaway youth, there are several essential needs that are not met when a youth is homeless. Health and wellness are jeopardized, education falls into the background, and risky behavior is often increased when a youth becomes homeless. There is also a highly increased risk of being subject to physical and sexual ill-treatment once youth become homeless. As a way to manage this issue, there are several homeless facilities strictly for youth. However, the city of Chicago only has 189 beds for homeless youth, even though almost 11,000 youth are homeless. More and more youth are being turned away from these shelters as a result.
As a way to bring attention to this growing issue, the National Runaway Switchboard teamed up with the National Network for Youth to create National Runaway Prevention Month every November. This initially started as a week of awareness in November 2002 as a way that various leaders on the issue could come together and hold numerous conferences and discussions on the issues that runaway youth encounter. Over the years, this time expanded into an entire month as a way raise awareness about the issues that runaway youth face, as well as a time to educate others as to how we can prevent youth from running away.
Throughout the month of November, the National Runaway Switchboard and the National Network for Youth encourages everyone to get involved with raising awareness about runaway youth. With tips for parents on how to talk to their children, to ideas for youth volunteering with their peers; these two organizations show how there are numerous ways to get involved during this month of prevention. On our next Runaway Prevention blog, we’ll tell you more about specific ways that Chicago Cares is responding to the issue of youth homelessness locally.
You can always get involved by exploring the many opportunities that Chicago Cares has working with the homeless and housing insecure in our city.
Today’s blog is from Human Services Coordinator, Aly MoserRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Make A Difference Day is celebrated annually on the fourth Saturday in October and connects people with opportunities to serve, increases the strength of communities and promotes civic engagement.
In Chicago, you can celebrate Make a Difference Day on October 22 by volunteering your time at one of more than 35 projects throughout the city. The Mayor’s Office is hosting a special Make a Difference Day event at Douglas Park, where volunteers will participate in environmental revitalization efforts and be treated to a complimentary lunch.
Of course, there are many wonderful service opportunities in Chicago, so here are a few areas where you can Make a Difference!
Education: Help chronically homeless adults build valuable job skills as a Math or English tutor at The Renaissance Collaborative. Or, work with younger students as they use fun, interactive games to practice building character and good citizenship at Henderson Elementary.
Hunger and Homelessness: Share a Meal at Interfaith House, a housing facility that provides quality respite care for ill or injured homeless adults. You can also increase your impact by volunteering at The Greater Chicago Food Depository, where in addition to providing on the ground service, volunteers earn $5.00 for every hour served, which is donated to other local food banks.
Health and Wellness: Groceryland South is a great place to make a difference if you love to shop! One of the four grocery centers across Chicago that cater to the specific dietary needs of people living with HIV, volunteers will be provided with a client grocery list and use the food pantry to shop for their items. Healthy Start is an interactive program that teaches healthy cooking techniques and kitchen safety to students in 6th-8th grade.
Environment: Winter is coming, which means that many of our environmental projects need your help to get ready for the change of seasons! Urban Gardens with Openlands provides volunteers with the opportunity to learn new skills as they help support community gardens throughout the city. While volunteers at Ginkgo Organic Gardens provide nonprofit organizations with fresh produce they might not otherwise be able to afford.
Senior Services: The Women’s Wellness and BINGO Group is an opportunity to have fun playing games with low-income seniors, while sharing important health information through lively discussions; October’s health topic is breast cancer.
We hope to see you this Saturday as we all work together to Make a Difference in Chicago!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The goal of World Homeless Day is to draw attention to the needs of people living without homes or in situations where their housing is insecure due to rising rents or job loss. By highlighting this important issue, we can reduce the stigma associated with homelessness and provide opportunities for the local community to respond.
According to a recent analysis by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless; 93,780 Chicagoans were homeless in the course of the 2010-11 school year. This is a 5.5% increase from the 88,923 who were homeless during the 2009-2010 school year. This estimate is based, in part, on rising enrollment of homeless students in Chicago Public Schools, which identified a record 15,580 homeless students in 2010-11, 97.9% of them children of color.
One of the most difficult things to overcome for many is the stigma attached with homelessness. While it is true that there are mental health and/or substance abuse issues that must be dealt with for some individuals; there are people, including many families, who have found themselves homeless due to unemployment or underemployment. We all know that finding work right now is difficult, but if a person has been labeled homeless, or cannot provide a permanent address, getting a job can seem like an impossible dream.
You can help us meet the needs of homeless Chicagoans by spending just a few hours a month volunteering. There are amazing organizations across our city who understand the complex issues involved in homelessness and are providing hope to thousands through programs that provide in real, meaningful ways.
Preparing a hot meal, organizing a food pantry, tutoring adults who are working to build skills that are vital to employment; there are many opportunities for you to serve.
You can make a difference. You can help bring people home.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This month the Chicago Cares education department welcomes a new community partner to our roster, Rainbow House. Rainbow House is an organization that helps families dealing with domestic violence in the city of Chicago. Since 1982 this organization has been serving families with individual & group counseling, prevention education, legal advocacy, referrals and community outreach. Rainbow House services mostly Latino women and children living in the Little Village Community, a vibrant Mexican-American neighborhood on the city’s west side.
October is domestic violence awareness month. The impact of domestic violence extend far beyond the victim. Family members, including children and seniors are also affected. Domestic violence reaches into the workplace, our homes and social settings. About one out of every four women in America will be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives. In August of this year, it was reported that the city of Chicago’s domestic violence help line received more than 29,000 calls in 2010. “Though the calls to the Help Line and to the Chicago Police Department have declined slightly, local law enforcement are still receiving an average of 541 domestic-related calls for assistance each day,” said Jennifer Welch, deputy commissioner, Division on Domestic Violence, DFSS.
According to the Department of Family Support Services, more than half of female victims of intimate violence live in homes that include children under age 12. Rainbow House recognizes the importance of helping children through its early education program that addresses the physical and emotional needs of children exposed to domestic violence. Rainbow House not only offers therapy and family counseling, but they also incorporate art therapy and non-directive play therapies. Many times these sessions allow mothers time to participate in counseling and support services, and that’s where Chicago Cares volunteers come in!
Our new Therapeutic Art program at Rainbow House launches October 18th. Volunteers will work on art projects with students affected by domestic violence. Art projects are designed to allow students to express themselves, building self confidence and creativity. Sign up soon for upcoming dates, space is limited.
We also have many volunteer needs at similar art programs going on across the city. Look for these programs on our search page:
- Art Club at HPSS
- Art Time at Guggenheim
- Kids Create at Mercy Housing
- Art Time at San Miguel
- Eco-Art at McCormick
- Photo Art at Brunson
- ArtSmart: Green Edition at S.O.S.
- Eco-Art at Brunson
Get help or find out more about domestic violence in your community.
Illinois Department of Human Services Domestic Violence Helpline 877-To End DV (877-863-6338).
This post is shared by Senior Manager of Education, Alisha FloresRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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