With Thanksgiving just around the corner, most people are making last minute grocery runs and anxiously awaiting the company of family and friends. However, throughout Woodlawn, neighborhood members had the opportunity to celebrate early as a community and Chicago Cares volunteers were there to help!
Last week volunteers assisted Living Room Café in prepping and cooking food for their Thanksgiving Community Meal. This annual event is an all day affair held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, feeding over 350 community members throughout Woodlawn. Each year, Chicago Cares helps provide turkeys and hams as well as assisting with cooking mashed potatoes and mac & cheese, baking tasty treats, setting tables, and serving meals.
Volunteers helped make Thanksgiving at Living Room Café a grand occasion, filled with laughs, hugs, and plenty of amazing food. That’s the magic of Thanksgiving; it gives us an opportunity to, for just a day, press the pause button on our work life and just hang out and enjoy the company of our loved ones. But what if I told you we could experience that magic all year round? Our hunger program volunteers have been doing just that!
Hunger programs at Living Room Café and the rest of the community agencies we work with are about more than feeding people. They’re about doing so in an atmosphere of dignity, respect and community. Our projects at Living Room Cafe create a fun restaurant style space which, in addition to serving individuals affected by homelessness or poverty, fosters a larger sense of community and fellowship. Volunteers often find themselves coming back to Living Room Cafe outside of the projects with Chicago Cares to serve at neighborhood wide breakfast events and holiday specials, alongside some of the same individuals they were serving earlier in the month. Service strengthens community, and we all can serve; so we can all make Chicago a stronger community.
The spirit of Living Room Café and Chicago Cares volunteers is felt all year long throughout the Woodlawn community. Every first and third Saturday Chicago Cares volunteers cook and serve breakfast for 30-40 community members, in addition to cooking and serving dinner every second Wednesday. Throughout 2012, Chicago Cares volunteers have dedicated nearly 2,500 hours towards meeting hunger needs in the Woodlawn community while serving nearly 1,500 meals.
A donation of $100 through our I Care campaign not only provides Living Room Cafe food to serve nearly 35 clients, it creates an opportunity to keep that holiday magic alive well past this winter. Please consider making a donation to Chicago Cares and helping our hunger programs grow.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.
“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 )
As the National Runaway Prevention Month is in full swing, there are many ways that Chicagoans can get involved to support this cause. One of Chicago Cares’ community partners is Open Door Shelter, part of The Night Ministry. Open Door Shelter is one of the six service agencies in Chicago that provide long-term housing and other services to homeless youth. At these agencies, youth are provided not only with housing, but are able to focus on other daily essentials such as working towards an education, finding a job, and learning everyday skills that they had not previously needed until they became homeless.
In West Town, Open Door Shelter is a youth housing facility that helps homeless youth by providing housing and support 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. Through both programs, youth are provided with the resources to educational, occupational, therapeutic, and supportive activities. These programs provide the residents with stability and consistency, while also helping the youth reach their individual goals.
Currently, Chicago Cares has two ongoing programs with Open Door Shelter that occur every Monday. Cooking at Open Door Shelter is a cooking program for the residents. As part of learning life skills, volunteers come bi-weekly and cook a healthy meal with the residents. Youth and volunteers are then able to sit together while the youth enjoy the meal they just prepared.
When Chicago Cares volunteers are not cooking with the residents on a Monday night, the Job Coaching program is taking place. While the youth reside at Open Door Shelter, they are actively looking to secure permanent housing, as well as employment and medical care. During Job Coaching at Open Door Shelter, volunteers work with the residents in a group or one-on-one setting in order to prepare for finding a job. This ranges from discussing what is appropriate to wear to a job interview, to perfecting their resume, to filling out individual resumes.
Although Chicago Cares has different ways that you can get involved with issues that center around homelessness, these are just two ways that you can get involved during National Runaway Prevention Month in Chicago. The National Runaway Switchboard and the National Network for Youth serve as a valuable resource to find different ways you can raise awareness on these issues and provide service in your own communities. Take a look at their ideas, and also look at the different ways you can volunteer and help with this issue in your own community.
Today’s post is from Human Services Coordinator, Aly Moser.Read 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 )