'Tis the Season...
Onward House held its annual family holiday party on December 19th at the West Town facility. In attendance were Onward House children, families, staff and members of the Auxiliary Board. The Auxiliary Board, now in its second year, volunteered their time and resources to become a central part of the planning and implementation process. Their efforts, combined with those of the staff helped to make the holiday party a huge success.
"It was a perfect occasion for the members of the Auxiliary Board to really be a part of what Onward does every single day," said Auxiliary Board President Annalisa Graham. "I am thankful that we were given the opportunity to be involved in the party and can't wait to do it again next year."
Among the festivities were food, games, arts and crafts, sing-a-longs and story time. Board members split up in various classrooms to participate in activities with the children. (Someone even managed to pull a few strings and have Santa and Mrs. Claus make a special, early trip from the North Pole).
"The holiday party really encapsulated the true meaning of the season for many of the Board members," added Auxiliary Board Vice President Shalini Hanoman, who helped organize the event. "[It] opened our eyes to the amazing things that are going on at the house."
As the evening came to a close, gifts were distributed to the children. Onward House is incredibly grateful to the generous individuals, congregations and organizations who donated their time and money to purchase gifts for the Adopt-A-Family program. From start to finish, cheer and goodwill were abundant as the Onward House community celebrated together.
Onward House would like to thank PricewaterhouseCoopers, Glenview Community Church, Glenn Westlake Middle School, the Onward House Auxiliary Board and all the individuals who took part in making this holiday season a success. The kindness and charity of our donors and volunteers helps to improve the lives of local families and children.
A Light at the End of the Tunnel for New Facility Construction
After almost two and a half years, tens of thousands of laborious hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in capital, the Onward Neighborhood House is anxiously awaiting the opening of its second facility at 5423 W. Diversey in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.
The new 12,500 square foot facility will house spacious and modern amenities. Once completed, the facility will offer the growing Latino and previously settled immigrant and native-born populations programs ranging from early childcare to adult computer courses.
Urban gentrification, combined with a multitude of various social forces, has prompted a shift in demographics throughout numerous parts of the city. A recent Chapin Hall study estimates that the West Town community experienced a decline in 10,000 children between 1990 and 2005. Consequently, communities such as Belmont Cragin saw some of the largest increases in youth and children during the same period. Figures from the study indicate a surge in Belmont Cragin's youth population exceeding 10,000. (Source: Chicago Children and Youth 1990-2010: Changing Population Trends and Their Implications for Services, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago)
Onward House has felt the population shifts first-hand at the West Town facility. Despite the modest annual decreases in program enrollment numbers at West Town, concerns of obsolescence have been put on hold; Onward House has begun to witness yet another cycle of immigration in the neighborhood with the increased enrollment of Ukrainian children.
Onward House has been empowering families and strengthening the neighborhood since its founding in 1893 and will continue to serve the West Town community as long as there is a need. The decision to expand services into Belmont Cragin in light of the increasing numbers of children lacking community resources is a logical next step in Onward House's long commitment to community support.
Garden Dedication Honors the Life and Legacy of Late Auxilary Board President
Onward House hosted a garden memorial dedication on Saturday, September 22 for Cory Jay Schuster, the late Auxiliary Board President and Northern Trust Company Second Vice-President, who tragically lost his life last March. The event started around 10:30 a.m. on a serene late summer morning in front of the newly planted perennial garden on the south end of the West Town facility. Members of Onward House staff, several board members, members of the Schuster family and former colleagues and friends gathered to hear words of remembrance and honor the life of a remarkable individual who touched many and helped more.
Among those speaking at the event where Travis Krueger, Onward House Board of Directors member and Treasurer; Mario F. García, Onward House Executive Director; Ms. Krissy Greiwe, Cory's aunt and long time Onward House supporter; Brandon Rolek, Cory's friend and fellow Northern Trust employee; and Mary Feldmeir, Onward House Steering Committee member and architect of the Memorial Garden. A moment of silence and subsequent acknowledgements were led by Travis Krueger and fellow colleague and Auxiliary Board Member Mark Pridgeon.
Following the dedication, everyone was invited to light refreshments and participate in sharing stories to celebrate Cory's life. Among the clusters of conversation, one could see smiles and hear laughter as people took turns telling anecdotes of times that they shared with Cory into the early afternoon.
Go Chicago Fire!
July 12, 2007 was an exciting day for Onward House children, families and staff. Onward House Executive Director Mario García received a phone call in late June from Auxiliary Board Member J.J. Simon, who was offering tickets to a Chicago Fire soccer game. Mario did not hesitate to accept. With the cooperation of Mr. Simon and the FireWorks for Kids Foundation, the charitable arm of the Chicago Fire soccer team, 100 tickets to the Chicago Fire vs. the Houston Dynamo were donated to Onward House. Many of Onward House's children have a great interest in soccer and the opportunity to see a live, professional soccer game was exhilarating. Due to the normally prohibitive costs of professional sporting events, this was a rare opportunity for many to attend. The enthusiasm from both parents and children was apparent and best summed up by one School Age child who was overheard saying "This was the best field trip ever!"
"Reaching New Heights" Gala Lives Up to Name
On Friday, June 15 2007, Onward Neighborhood House held its "Reaching New Heights" Gala for the Capital Campaign at the Adler Planetarium. The black tie optional event hosted by Transparent Container Company drew upwards of two hundred guests and helped raise close to $100,000. All event proceeds will go toward Onward House's new expansion site set to open in early November 2007 in Chicago's Belmont Cragin neighborhood. The festivities included live and silent auctions, live entertainment, and gourmet cuisine. Onward House is grateful to all of the sponsors and attendees who made such a wonderful event possible.