It’s hard to believe, but Chicago Cares’ Serve-a-thon will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year on June 15. When I reflect back on the communities served and volunteers mobilized since 1994, I’m humbled by all that Chicago Cares—and those who have rallied with and around us—have been able to achieve.
This summer, our children need us more than ever. Many of the city’s neighborhoods have been challenged by violence, and these problems are often magnified in the summer when children no longer have the structure or support of their schools. While many things need to be done to solve these challenges, volunteer service is central to the answer. That’s why Chicago Cares will leverage Serve-a-thon as a natural platform from which to launch expanded programming during the critical summer months and beyond—providing at-risk youth with a safe and structured learning environment, and Chicagoans at large with an outlet to come together and make a difference through action.
Information is forthcoming about all of the ways to get involved but, for now, I encourage you to take the first step by registering for the 20th Annual Chicago Cares Serve-a-thon, showing your commitment through action and financial support.
Together, let’s be the solution!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 )
Youth in Service doesn’t exist to host Senior Breakfast Clubs on the weekend. Youth in Service doesn’t exist to plant a vegetable garden for a malnourished community. And Youth in Service doesn’t exist to bag lunches to donate to a food pantry to feed hungry families.
We do not serve to see the genuine grins on the faces of the people we are helping. We do not serve because we want to change someone’s day for the good.
Yes, we do all of these things. Yes, we love all of these responses.
However, the youth groups that serve through Youth in Service serve to BE the change, not just to make a change. Our youth that serve want to be the change in our community that makes a lasting impact on our world and paves the way for generations to come.
Our groups of youth, aged 8 to 18 years, who volunteer through Youth in Service, are the future of our world. With each seemingly small project, we strive to engage, educate, and empower our volunteers to continue serving the community by illustrating the powerful impression each person has in helping the future generations of Chicago and the world.
One project at a time, Chicago Cares Youth in Service is able to work with youth volunteers to serve many issue areas: seniors, homelessness and hunger, children’s education, persons with disabilities, environmental issues, and anything they can imagine. Allowing these youth to take the lead and work together is truly empowering and makes a difference on how they view the world and how they view the meaning of service.
I have been fortunate enough to work with students from Mather High School this past month and will continue doing so for the rest of the school year. From day one it was clear that they want to help others, but weren’t really sure how. After serving at their first Youth in Service project last Saturday, the students are better able to relate to people unlike themselves and better understand the needs of our community.
Help continue bettering Chicago and the world by starting with this amazing generation by making a donation through the Chicago Cares I Care campaign. Invest in small project, like a $150 Senior Breakfast Club that not only provides a fun and nutritious meal for senior citizens, but also teaches youth the importance of service.
Written By Danika Marcano
HandsOn AmeriCorps Member
Youth in ServiceRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Have you ever wondered how a Chicago Cares program starts? All programs start with an idea about how Chicago Cares volunteers could serve an organization and their clients. Next is a site visit where Chicago Cares staff meet with community partners to discuss their needs and figure out how Chicago Cares volunteers can help address those needs through an ongoing program. From that point, all programs need help from donors and volunteers in order to get them started. Children’s programs in particular require a large amount of support to get them off the ground.
At a visit with a potential children’s education site, we may learn that the community partner is unable to offer any structured programming to students, and we are able to meet this need by developing an academic or extracurricular program to encourage and inspire children as they grow into young adults. Or, we might be able to free up a couple hours of the activity director’s time twice a month by leading the after school activity for that day, so that he or she can concentrate on a grant proposal or developing a new program for clients.
For all of our children’s programs, we rely on volunteer leaders to facilitate the programs we develop and volunteers to provide individualized attention for the children. What we also rely on are the generous donations from volunteers, our corporate partners, and foundations. This funding helps purchase cooking supplies for Healthy Start, books for Read-with-Me, or a volleyball net for Sports League. It helps us purchase watercolors for Young Artists, magnifying glasses for Science Sleuths, and even helps us program coordinators travel to and from the sites we work with as we continuously meet with our community partners to learn how we can make our impact even greater.
Funding to Chicago Cares is far reaching. A donation’s impact does not end at the project it funds. Donating through our I Care campaign is a great way to support the programs where you volunteer. Chicago Cares projects are part of the after-school and wraparound services provided to students that have shown an increase in student attendance, academic success, social development and improved attitudes and behaviors. Chicago Cares is proud to be even a small part of the great successes our partners have had from enrichment programs and partnerships at their sites.
This year, Chicago Cares volunteers logged over 5,500 hours serving more than 1,000 children at our community partners. From tutoring to reading to art and games, Chicago Cares volunteers provide essential individual attention, support, and encouragement at a variety of programs. Please consider making a contribution to children’s programs at Chicago Cares so that we can continue to turn our site visits into successful ongoing education programs.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None 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 )