Volunteers make a difference at Bookamania

Volunteer Chicago Public School Bookamania

Volunteers work with Chicago Public School children at Bookamania 2011.

by Ruchi Ray, Intern, Leap Learning Systems 

I cannot wait to tell you about a successful volunteer event Leap Learning Systems has had in the past! Each year, Leap Learning Systems partners with After School Matters and Chicago Public Schools to implement a career and college readiness program in the Austin community.  Participating students volunteered at the Harold Washington Library’s Bookamania event on November 19, 2011. This event was a free celebration of children’s books for children ages 3 to 10 and their families. Our students had the opportunity to help and interact with the younger children and their parents. 

I can say that for some of these teens, this was their first trip to the main library.  Not only were the ASM teens thankful for the opportunity to work with the children, socialize with other teens from around the city, and give back to their community, they also felt very accomplished after the overall experience. Leap is always curious to know feedback on the turnout of volunteer events like these; here is one from Ms. Robin Willard from Harold Washington:

 “Last year our Events staff estimated that there were approximately 7,000 guests on Saturday – the largest crowd we have hosted in Bookamania history – and we know we could not have made it as successful as it was without the help of volunteers, such as those from Leap Learning Systems.  It was a pleasure to work with the many teens who came from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to represent Leap with their mentors and program facilitators”. 

–      Robin Willard, Young Adult Specialist, Chicago Public Library 

This semester, the students in the Beverage Industry: Products and Profits After School Matters program will be involved with a service event for young children.  We focused this session of ASM on Dairy.  The teens will provide literacy support and activities based on their knowledge of the Dairy industry to students at Goldblatt Elementary School.  The students will also participate in a fundraiser on April 1 at the Oberweis Dairy Store in Oak Park.  They will be marketing, advertising and working the all day event.  Come out and support the students of ASM! 

Leap Learning Systems is committed to delivering cutting-edge language and literacy development programs to educators, students, and their families across Chicago and beyond, particularly those in underserved communities. We look forward to future endeavors in similar After School Matters programs.

Interested in helping further Leap Learning’s mission? Visit OneGoodDeedChicago.org for more information and search volunteer opportunities.


Metro Achievement Center celebrates special bond between mothers, daughters

midtown metro valentine's lunch

A mother and daughter celebrate their special bond at a Metro Achievement lunch

by Helen Gerety, Service Initiatives Coordinator, One Good Deed Chicago

“A mother must be physically strong, emotionally stronger, and spiritually strongest.” This is the message that Pascale Burns, mother of four and Midtown Educational Foundation advocate, shared with more than 200 mothers on Saturday, Feb. 18.

The day marked Metro’s 12th annual Mother-Daughter Day Luncheon, where people from Chicago’s underserved communities gathered together to honor each other with the Valentine’s Day –themed lunch, “Mothers are Stronger Role Models than Pop Culture.” I was lucky enough to spend the day at this event. As One Good Deed Chicago’s Service Initiatives Coordinator, I often get the chance to attend the events of our Success Coaches partners and see their work firsthand.

midtown lunch zumba

Mothers at the event do a Zumba-style dance exercise.

The event began with a call to action. Local priest, Father John Waiss, reminded not just daughters to honor their mothers, but mothers to also honor their daughters.

“Mothers, honor your daughters by picturing what qualities you want your daughter to possess and then acquire them yourselves,” he said.

Mothers and daughters separated for part of the day; Daughters wrote love letters to their moms, while the parents had a chance to discuss what makes a strong and successful mom.

The day came to a close when daughters rejoined their mothers for lunch and presented them with hand-crafted love letters. When mothers were asked about how Metro has impacted their daughters, one was especially thankful. She remarked “Metro taught my daughter how to become a young lady.”

The event reminded me of the important relationship that I share with my own mother and the significant role that she played in my development as a self-confident and independent woman. I am thankful for the work that Metro is doing to build and support similar relationships between the mothers and daughters in Chicago.

In addition to hosting an inspiring event like this, Metro for girls, along with its brother site Midtown Center for Boys, is celebrating 12 consecutive years of 100 percent graduation and college enrollment. Midtown Educational Foundation helps close the achievement gap for Chicago’s urban youth by providing one-on-one tutoring, high school prep, and college counseling.

If you are interested in contributing to Midtown and Metro’s success, become a tutor! Visit the profile of Midtown Educational Foundation, the sponsoring nonprofit organization for Midtown and Metro, on OneGoodDeedChicago.org to learn how.

This February, Step Up to LOVE and ignite girls to fulfill their potential

By Kristen Field, Program Manager, Step Up Women’s Network

The New Year brought many resolutions that often have fizzled by now. Reflecting on my direction for the New Year, I challenged myself to take a different approach. Establish a theme for your year that inspires you. For me, it’s doing “everything from a place of love.” This theme is fitting for the month of February, where we often see hearts everywhere, celebrations of love, and cheers to Valentine’s Day.

Working for Step Up Women’s Network allows me to take my passion to give back and use this theme of love to make a difference. Step Up Women’s Network creates and implements impactful after-school and weekend programs that empower teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound, and career-ready. As a nonprofit membership organization of dynamic women coming together for this mission, Step Up is also able to propel professional women through connections, collaborations and continuous development.

I LOVE what I do! The main focus of my job is inspiring others to join Step Up’s mission to connect you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you. How could I ask for more in a job?

On January 27th, our Teen Programs Manager, Whitney Capps, asked me to chaperone one of our Pathways to Professions field trips with our Step Up teens to The Big Ten Network. I of course was thrilled! Pathways to Professions is a Step Up program that inspires Step Up juniors to explore new careers through field trips to Step Up member companies. During our time at The Big Ten Network, Step Up teens toured the facility, met with individuals who had positions in advertising, sales, on-air, human resources, executive leadership, and so on. The women at The Big Ten Network gave their time to mentor for an hour or two, coming from a place of love, to impact a girl’s life. That’s all it takes.

While we were all in the studio, I paused to look around and take this day in. These young, eager minds wanting to learn as much as they possibly can about what career they may have in the future and women who have “made it” sharing their stories with the next generation of young women. Truly inspired to be part of something so amazing, something so necessary.

What inspires me even more, is that every week, throughout the year, Step Up Women’s Network provides opportunities for women to mentor girls in our dynamic afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs. Do you want to be a mentor for Step Up teens and a member of Step Up Women’s Network? For more information and calendar, go to www.suwn.org and contact me at kristenf@suwn.org

Do something “from a place of love” this February and invest in the future success of girls through mentorship and financial support. YOU are the match that will ignite a girls dream

Instituto Honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Clothing Drive

By Gabriela Alvarez, AmeriCorps LENS Member

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the AmeriCorps LENS (Latinos Empowered through National Service) Program at Instituto del Progreso Latino came together to give back to their community on Jan. 16. We hosted a clothing drive for the families of Instituto and those in our community.

This event took place at the new Instituto site, which houses the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, located at 2520 S. Western in Chicago. The drive took place in the community room, which ran from 12PM-4PM. Families that participated in the clothes drive were allowed to take five items per person in that family. Each family that came through the doors for the drive was given a complimentary Walmart and Chase Bank reusable tote bag.

In order for this event to take place, the AmeriCorps Members had to take action. Fliers had to be made to get the word out and drop boxes were to be placed at three Instituto sites for donations. Donations of clothes, coats, shoes, purses, and winter accessories were all accepted. All types of clothes were donated, including women’s, men’s, children’s (boys and girls), and baby clothes. When we finished gathering and sorting, we had tons and tons of clothes, shoes, coats, etc.

One Warm Coat, One Good Deed Chicago, Our Lady Tepeyac Parish, and San Jose Obrero Mission were recognized as the official partners with us for this event. So many clothes were left and our partners were more than happy to accept the donations that were not taken by participants. We were very excited and pleased to provide this service because we knew this would put smiles on people’s faces.

As soon as 12 o’clock hit, people started entering. When they asked for help, we did not hesitate in assisting them. A man came in believing he would leave empty handed, but he ended up leaving with a pair of shoes and a few shirts, and a smile on his face. It was a great feeling seeing so many people walking into the room. Many people left satisfied.

The clothing drive turned out great! By the end of the night, 58 families -a total of 190 individuals- left with more than they thought they would have. Families were more than pleased with what they left with. I asked an individual what her take was on this event and she replied, “I believe what AmeriCorps is doing is something great!” She had a big smile on her face which put one on mine. Not only did I feel great at the end of the day, but the other AmeriCorps Members felt great as well. We helped out so many families and we still want to continue doing so.

Instituto del Progreso Latino is a 34-year-old community-based organization driven by the belief that education is power. This core belief fuels Instituto’s mission to contribute to the fullest development of Latino families in Chicago through the creation of leading programs in workforce development, education, and citizenship.  Instituto is also a One Good Deed Chicago Success Coaches partner.Visit Instituto online at www.idpl.org and on Facebook.

Sweet Success: Visiting a Youth Guidance culinary program

I dropped in for an extra-sweet visit to Roberto Clemente Community Academy last week to see Youth Guidance’s Project Prepare culinary program in action.

The students there were working on their holiday projects: gingerbread houses! It was great fun to watch them build the houses (complete with gelatin-sheet windows) and deck them out with loads of frosting and candies. But the visit was more than just sugar-coated fun: I was there to check out the programming at one of our Success Coaches community partners.

Youth Guidance has been working in Chicago for more than 80 years – yes, 8-0! – and currently reaches more than 14,000 students in the city. According to Jaime Rivera, director of Youth & Workforce Development, the Project Prepare program was implemented at Clemente in 1990 with funds from a federal grant. At that time, high dropout rates were plaguing the school. Students just couldn’t see the link between school and what comes after, Rivera said.

“It’s got to be concrete for them,” Rivera said.

So Youth Guidance set out to pave the roads between high school and career, showing students a clear way to success.

More than 20 years later, Youth Guidance has plenty of success stories to share. Graduates from Clemente have gone on to win scholarships, attend prestigious culinary academies and become professional chefs.

One of those successful students was on hand to help the students make their gingerbread houses. Marcos mixed up the frosting in an industrial-sized kitchen mixer, then helped the students make their structures.

Rivera remarked on Marcos’ success: “That is about as concrete as you can get.”

Youth Guidance is currently looking for volunteers from a variety of professions to be guest speakers, conduct mock interviews, critique résumés and more for Project Prepare programs in schools across Chicago. For more information or to apply, click here.

Happy Holidays!


Celebrating Small Business with ACCION Chicago

Pamela Jones, ACCION client and owner of the International House of Sauces & Seasonings, Inc. Pamela and her assistant provided samples of delicious chicken wings, stir-fry, and dipping sauces.

One Good Deed Chicago was honored to be part of an evening celebrating small business success — the 2011 Taste of ACCION on Nov. 14.

ACCION Chicago is an alternative lending organization dedicated to providing credit and other business services to small business owners who do not have access to traditional sources of financing. By encouraging the economic self-reliance of microentrepreneurs throughout the Chicagoland area, ACCION Chicago strives to help businesses and communities grow.

The event featured tasting stations from many of ACCION’s clients, like 5411 Empanadas, Masala Indian & Thai and Bleeding Heart Bakery. These local businesses did not have access to traditional financing through large banks, and ACCION was able to provide them with the capital to grow.

Colleen Gallagher and Netta Stella, ACCION clients and owners of Pecan & Charlie's Mobile Cupcakery, with a few of their delicious mini cupcakes.

The Founder and CSO of Threadless Jake Nickell delivered the keynote speech, telling his small-business success story. The evening was an inspiring reminder of the importance of supporting small business. The entrepreneurs who have the courage to start businesses are creating our economic future!

To find out more about ACCION, including how you can volunteer to support small business in Chicago, visit their profile on the One Good Deed Chicago website.


Photos used with permission of ACCION Chicago.

Show Us Your Good: Moustaches are back

Members of the University of Chicago Movember team

[Note:This is the first in a guest blogging series highlighting good deeds across Chicago. If you have a story to share, we want to hear it! Email alexandra.baird@cityofchicago.org.]

by Tracey Swanson (middle right), Web Marketing Specialist at the University of Chicago and Movember team member

A style trend is taking off among men of the staff, student body, and faculty of the University of Chicago. Since early November, upper lips have gone unshaven across the offices and classrooms of UChicago. This is no mere coincidence; it’s a soup strainer conspiracy—the University of Chicago Movember Team.

Movember, an international men’s health movement that began in Australia in 2003, has spread to over a dozen countries and has raised over $174 million, including $7.5 million raised by 1.1 million participants in the U.S. in 2010. Beneficiaries of funds raised in the U.S. include the Prostate Cancer Foundation and LIVESTRONG, The Lance Armstrong Foundation.

For some, the movement is deeply personal. Avi Schwab (middle left), an IT Specialist and Web Developer at the University of Chicago, was recently diagnosed and treated for testicular cancer. He joined Movember “to help raise funds so that others could receive the same high-level of care that he did.”

Dan Monico (top left), the team captain, who has been participating in Movember for three years, got started because his Australian brother-in-law was growing a Movember moustache.

“Getting people to sacrifice their face for a month is not easy,” says Monico, “but a lot of guys have responded well to it and no one I’ve talked to has ever regretted it. It has been an amazingly rewarding experience.”

As team member Jonas Attenhofer (bottom left) puts it, “some guys use Movember as a test of manhood, others as a beauty contest, and some even to further their mating prospects. Whatever your motivation is, we all achieve the same goal of raising awareness.”

This awareness benefits not only men at large, but also the moustache-growers themselves, who as men have a shorter life expectancy, are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and are statistically less likely to get regular health checks. These men (and the women who support them) not only have more opportunities to discuss issues affecting men’s health, but to give more thought to the ways they keep themselves healthy, including a strong reminder to schedule a yearly check with a doctor.

Few charitable activities are as simple. A month-long moustache is a surprisingly effective icebreaker to allow otherwise reserved men to discuss health issues that affect them and to support prevention, treatment, and research of cancers that affect men.

The 20-member University of Chicago Movember team has a $5,000 fundraising goal. You can help them meet it and see more photos at the team page at http://us.movember.com/donate/team-details/id/276796/.