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Go Blue 4 OHU This April!

Join One Hope United this April in our efforts to prevent child abuse!

Throughout the month, more than 40 local Chicago restaurants are offering specialty menu items for diners to sip, feast on, or imbibe. When diners purchase a Go Blue select menu item, restaurants will donate a portion of the proceeds to One Hope United’s programs to prevent child abuse.

Visit goblue4ohu.org to learn more!

In other parts of Illinois, OHU will also host:

– Prevent Child Abuse Kick Off, Jefferson County Courthouse , Mt. Vernon, April 6, 2-3 p.m.

– Awareness Balloon Release, Jefferson County Courthouse, Mt. Vernon, April 25, Noon-1 p.m.

– Blue Sunday, Centralia Residential Treatment Facility, Centralia, April 29, 2-4 p.m.

For updates on these events, visit us on Facebook.

The month of activities leads right into Hope In Action on Friday, May 4, featuring a performance by Chicago’s Hamilton, Miguel Cervantes, and an appearance by Civil Rights Icon Ruby Bridges!

Get Your Hope In Action Tickets today!

Staff Spotlight: Katie Adams

Meet Katie Adams (3rd from the left), Director of our Joliet Early Learning Center!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

Center Director. I started at Joliet Early Learning Center in September 2016 as Assistant Director/Parent Educator for the program. In March of 2017, I was promoted to Center Director.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

For me, I knew working in early learning would be a field that I would be happy in and enjoy doing every day. I love hearing the voices of the children and seeing their faces light up each time they learn something new and it undoubtedly brings boundless joy. Having such an impact on the learning process of kids is a rare privilege.

Why is early childhood education so important?

The first years of children’s lives are crucial for setting the foundation of their learning experience. If children have a strong, quality experience with early learning, they grow up into adults that are lifelong learners.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

I am most proud of the progress we have made in enrollment at the center and building the quality of our program. Less than two years ago, our enrollment was about 80 children and we had 8 of the 13 classrooms operating. Currently, all of our classrooms are open and our enrollment is up to 182 children. We also just finished our ExceleRate Illinois monitoring review in hopes to achieve the Gold Circle of Quality (child care state rating system) and reaching for better child development outcomes. As a team, we strengthen our relationships with the children and families that we serve everyday and have created partnerships with community organizations in our area.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

I am eager to begin the NAEYC accreditation process for the center. Accreditation ensures that programs are safe, well prepared, and intentional about ensuring children’s success. I am excited to continue working toward our center goal which is to be a high-quality early learning center and create positive long-term outcomes in life, including increased educational attainment and healthier lifestyles for the children and families we serve in our program.

Staff Spotlight: Devin Dittrich

Meet Devin Dittrich (right), Director of Programs for Foster Care in our Cook and Joliet offices.

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am currently the Director of Programs for Foster Care for our Cook and Joliet offices. I have been with One Hope United for almost 15 years (March 2018) and started off as a Foster Care Case Manager, moving my way up to Foster Care Supervisor and now Director.

What sparked your interest in this career field?

Prior to coming to One Hope United, I worked as a Medical Case Manager at a skilled pediatric nursing facility. Most of the children that lived at the facility were involved with DCFS as they had been victims of severe abuse and neglect and could not live without intense nursing and medical intervention. This was my first glimpse into DCFS. It wasn’t until a couple years later, during my graduate program, that I met someone that worked for OHU (then Central Baptist Family Services) and heard of an opening at the Joliet office. I felt complacent at my current job and knew that there was no room for growth as a case manager and I wanted to be challenged more. The rest is history!

Why are your programs so important?

Under the umbrella of my program we have 3 Foster Care teams, a Licensing team and an Adoption team. The Foster Care teams are charged with working with families that have allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency in which the children were removed from their home. They help change people’s lives and make difficult decisions to improve home environments for children and reunite families.  The Licensing team works just as hard to education, recruit and license relative foster homes and non-relative foster homes for the children to reside either temporarily until return home or long-term, through adoption or guardianship. If a child cannot be returned home, the Adoption team has specialized knowledge and skills when it comes to writing in order to ensure that a child’s history and current needs are reflected in the documents required for Adoption or Guardianship. Each position is equally as important and every worker works just as hard as the next for the purpose of ensuring that every child we work with has a safe, stable and forever home, via return home or adoption/guardianship.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

Over the years there have been so many success stories with the families we serve and all for different reasons. These successes can be measured by way of return homes, adoptions or even just stabilizing a child in a placement or helping a parent achieve sobriety. The one common theme for these success stories is that they all had dedicated, passionate workers that cared just as much about a positive outcome for the family as the family themselves. The workers are what I am most proud of, and the way that they handle situations that most people would run from is what makes me truly proud of what I do and who I work with.

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

There have been some changes over the past year with me stepping into the Director role and although it’s not always easy– our team has become very strong and supportive to one another.  I am looking forward to using that supportive teamwork component to expand our involvement in the community and build more partners outside of OHU.

Staff Spotlight: Melissa Webster

Meet Melissa Webster, Director of Programs at One Hope United!

What is your job title & how long have you been an employee at OHU?

I am a Director of Programs. My programs are Centralia Residential, Centralia Group Home and, as of January 13, 2018, I direct the Lake Villa Residential Campuses.

I started working at OHU on February 22, 1999. Next month I will celebrate 19 years with this organization. Ironically, I married my husband on February 5, 1999. It was a great month!

What sparked your interest in this career field?

This is a long answer!

As a 7th grader, my science teacher brought in a Time Life Book, “The Mind.” I was fascinated by it, mostly by a photo of drawings of a cat by an artist as he lapsed in to a more and more dramatic schizophrenia diagnosis. I was  fascinated by the way the mind works. Also, ironically, as an only child, I had always dreamed of living in an orphanage. I wanted my parents to be there too, I guess they would have been house parents or something. I just felt I wanted to be surrounded by other kids. A neat story is about 10 years ago we received a copy of that same Time Life Book as a donation. I was sharing with one of my tougher kids at the time the story of when I first read it. He wrapped it up and brought it to my office: he said, “You should have this. It inspired you.” I still have that book in my office as a reminder. And I get to work at not one but two children’s homes: life came full circle. I am blessed.

In college, I studied public relations and  journalism. My parents discouraged me from studying psychology, I don’t think they understood it. My first work was in marketing with a travel company. It was  a great job for a young person – I traveled all over North America personally and professionally – but I genuinely felt something was  missing. I did some deep self-discovery and determined although I had never been to therapy, I wanted to be a counselor. I wanted to make the world a better place. I earned a master’s degree in mental health counseling. I worked with people living with HIV/AIDS initially, then community mental health, crisis work and SASS before taking a job at the Edgar County Children’s Home as a therapist. We merged with Hudelson/Central Baptist and I found my way to lead the Centralia Campus in late 2004. I loved working with kids and families, watching them grow. Now I still get to enjoy that, but love working with my campuses and teams,  helping them to develop and grow. I will always be grateful to Ann Pearcy and Becky Newcomer: they saw the potential in a therapist who had interned once, to lead more than 80 team members. I am also grateful that Margaret Vimont and Becky have trusted me with the Lake Villa campus: I call it the crown jewel of One Hope United.

Why are your programs so important?

Residential and Group Home Care are important because so many youth need more care and supervision than a single home can provide. We work hard to help youth heal from past trauma, learn new and better skills in this world and send them back into the world. We serve youth who are so hurt and broken: it is critical that we reach them, offer them hope and help them see their place as a productive citizen in our culture.

Can you share a success story or something you are most proud of doing in your role?

Where do I begin? I have nineteen years of stories! I love seeing our kids thrive, whether it be immediately after they leave or years later. I love talking to my kids who were taken away from abusive parents or caretakers now successfully raising their own children. I love having a youth reach out to me via Facebook or a telephone call to tell me about a new job, a pregnancy or finishing school. Many kids over the years stand out: I am so proud of them all.

Now, I take great pride in the success  of my team. With my recent addition  of responsibilities to direct the Lake Villa Campus, several of my team in Centralia have now been promoted and taken on additional responsibilities. I have many people in Centralia that started very close to their 21st birthday, many with no college degree, who are now Mental Health Professionals in Illinois due to their experience with us. Some have started and finished both bachelor and master’s degrees! I have supervised several therapists so they could earn their licensure in Illinois.

My greatest success is when youth, families and team members say they have hope as a result of their work with us. (If you would like to chat, I have a lot of stories 😊)

What are you most excited about as far as the future of your role?

Many, many things excite me about my role. My world changed dramatically as of January 13 of this year. I am excited to see my team mature, grow and develop in Centralia. I now am responsible for our Lake Villa campus, and initially, will spend much of my time in Northern Illinois. My Centralia team is amazing, learning to lead without me right there. In Lake Villa, I am excited to get to know the team better, to learn this program and to work with both team to propel both campuses to greater trauma informed work and treatment of youth. In Lake Villa, it is our goal to open a group home to serve a new population of boys, and I am thrilled to help shepherd a new program from vision to reality. I love a challenge, and 2018 looks to be full of them!

On a final note, I want to share my husband and I are donors to OHU. We give generously because we believe in the mission and the value of the work of our organization.

Wings helps single dad be a better parent

Check out this heartwarming story from The Chicago Sun-Times about Alexis Tellez and his son Tonny – one of thousands of families One Hope United is helping to live life without limits. Tellez is the first single father in our Wings program, which focuses on parents ages 16 to 23, providing in-home visits and services to help new parents adjust to the responsibilities of parenthood.

Check out the full news article.

Toy Drive Benefiting One Hope United

The 15th Annual WGN Morning News Drive-Thru Toy Drive is Friday, December 8, 2017! This is the first year that the drive will be benefiting SocialWorks Chicago, a youth empowerment charity brought to you by Chance The Rapper. The Toy Drive will run from 5 a.m. – 10 a.m. and feature carolers, Santa, and other holiday fun-filled activities. Anyone can stop by WGN-TV Studios (2501 W. Bradley Place) in Chicago to drop off a new, unwrapped toy.

All toys will be donated to Chance The Rapper’s nonprofit SocialWorks and will be dispersed to children and families throughout the Chicagoland area. One Hope United is excited to have been chosen as one of the organizations to receive thousands of toys for the children that we serve!

Want to learn more about the upcoming toy drive? Click here.

Centralia Basketball ‘Court of Hope’ Dedicated in Honor of Sprehe Family

When you drive into Centralia, Illinois, you’re greeted by a sign welcoming you to the “Home of the Winningest H.S. Basketball Team in the Nation.”

One of the next things you see is One Hope United’s Centralia campus, with its newly restored basketball court.

One Hope United’s board of directors raised funds to renovate the court – which serves as the heart of the campus and a gathering and recreation space for youth – and dedicated it as the Forrest D. and June L. Sprehe Court of Hope.

Forrest Sprehe was a Centralia resident and longtime board member of One Hope United’s downstate region. He and his wife, June, were well known for their volunteerism and community support throughout the area.

“I know Dad was involved in a lot of organizations, from the school board to his industry organizations, but One Hope United was closest to his and Mom’s heart,” said their son, Greg Sprehe, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a board member, most recently as board chair.

“It was all about family for them,” Greg added. “Extending the resources they had – particularly the time Dad spent working with the organization – was, I know he would say, the most important work he ever did.”

Misty Sprehe Wright and Greg Sprehe

In addition to Greg’s service on the board, he and his wife, Victoria, frequently spend time on the Centralia campus, particularly around the holiday season, when they help the youth prepare dishes and decorate for the annual holiday party.

Their dedication to service “doesn’t happen by accident; that’s a family value,” said Melissa Webster, One Hope United’s director of programs in Centralia. “And we know that that’s a generational value.”

Both Greg and his sister, Misty Sprehe Wright, played in Centralia High School’s famed basketball program, so for them, the court was a fitting tribute to their parents.

“These are our roots,” said Misty, who became Centralia’s first female to play basketball in grade school – playing on the boys team – and went on to become a PE teacher and coach. Addressing the Centralia campus youth at the court dedication, she said, “We have great memories, and we hope all you residents – you amazing, wonderful kids – enjoy basketball and enjoy these facilities as much as we have.”

The October 4, 2017, dedication was attended by the Sprehe family and friends, Centralia community members, youth living on the Centralia campus, and One Hope United staff from Centralia and beyond. The youth wasted no time making use of the basketball court, inaugurating it with a tournament immediately following the program.

“With the Sprehe family, it’s always been about the focus on kids and families and helping them reach their greatest potential,” said Scott Humphrey, President and CEO of One Hope United. “In my book, there’s nobody that embodies our vision about ‘life without limits’ better than the Sprehe family.”

OHU’s President and CEO featured in Crain’s Chicago Business!

One Hope United’s President & CEO, Scott Humphrey, is featured in this Crain’s Chicago Business story on business professionals who made mid-career shifts to nonprofit work. Learn how Scott made the transition to OHU after retiring from BMO Capital Markets and the positive impact that had on his home and family life.

Click through to read the full article.

Kindergarten Ready? At Wilmette Child Development Center, 100%.

The scores are in – 100% of the children who graduated from preschool at One Hope United Wilmette Child Development Center (3013 Illinois Rd., Wilmette) last month demonstrated kindergarten readiness, according to the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment tool.

One Hope United’s child development centers specialize in supporting and partnering with working families to prepare their children for lifelong learning and success, starting in our infant program. By achieving kindergarten readiness, these children are meeting an important milestone early in their academic lives – and are poised to stay on track: studies show that children who attend pre-k are more likely to graduate from high school, and those who attend a center-based program, like One Hope United’s, score significantly higher on reading and math tests than their at-home counterparts.
Here’s a look behind the numbers at what makes One Hope United a nurturing environment for children and families’ education and growth:

• Individualized, Center-Based Learning: One Hope United employs the Creative Curriculum, which is built around classroom “centers” such as Science, Writing, Literacy/Reading, and Dramatic Play. Children self-navigate through the centers and learn through play and social interaction. Teachers encourage and customize each child’s education based on their individual strengths and temperament, and adjust it based on observations and formal assessments.

• Exclusive “Healthy Lifestyles” Curriculum: One Hope United’s self-developed Healthy Lifestyles curriculum promotes lifelong wellness by incorporating daily movement and teaching children to make healthy food choices and maintain good habits such as brushing teeth, visiting the dentist, and screening for hearing and vision. The Wilmette center also hosts movement classes, which encourage physical fitness, creative expression, and relaxation.

• Parent, Family, and Community Engagement: Parent involvement in their child’s learning has been linked to higher student achievement. The Wilmette center provides opportunities for family involvement in daily routines as well as at special events. Parents are welcome to visit the program and often stop by to share their talents and family culture. The center also helps kids and families engage with the surrounding community through partnerships with Avoca School District, Glenview Park District, and Wilmette Public Library.

• Accredited Quality at Every Level: The Wilmette center is one of only 6% of U.S. centers to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This accreditation looks at 10 standards and criteria across four categories – Children, Teaching Staff, Partnerships with families and communities, and Administration – to provide a holistic measure of a program’s quality.

Parents can expect all of these features to be enhanced when the Wilmette center relocates to a newly updated facility, in winter 2018. Located near I-94, between Glenview and Old Orchard Roads, the new center will feature brand new classrooms, nontoxic materials including carpeting and paint, and a dedicated gym designed specifically for early childhood gross motor activities. Families who enroll children now at the current location are guaranteed a space in the new child development center.

Families who live or work nearby may also consider One Hope United’s Des Plaines (9375 Church St., Des Plaines) and O’Hare (2300 E Devon Ave, Suite 171, Des Plaines) centers, both of which are also NAEYC accredited. For more information, visit onehopechilddevelopment.org.

OHU Awarded For Foster Parent Law Implementation Plan

Every year, the DCFS Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council rates agencies’ plans to serve foster parents and presents awards to those who score the highest in one of three categories.

OHU’s Foster Parent Law Implementation Plan received the highest marks in all three categories! Accepting the award were OHU’s Margaret Vimont and Devin Dittrich, along with one of our amazing foster parents. Thank you to everyone who worked so hard on developing this award-winning plan!