The Girl Scouts Visit Des Plaines CDC

On a sunny Friday afternoon in May, 10 girls and two leaders from Junior Troop 41171 of the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts worked on their Bronze Award project at OHU’s Des Plaines Child Development Center campus.

The Girl Scout Bronze Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve and the third highest honor that can be earned as a Girl Scout.  The Bronze Award encourages girls to make a lasting impact on their community.

The scouts were asked to come up with various ideas for a community service project for their Bronze Award.  They were also presented with a couple of options by their leaders.  Several of the girls had an interest in gardening and decided that working on the educational gardens at One Hope United fit their interests best.

They spent several hours researching various options, voting on which they thought would work out best and how much would fit in the area assigned to the project.   The girls spent 5 hours weeding and preparing two gardens and a series of planter boxes.  They planted perennial plants as well as vegetables and herbs.

As the afternoon progressed the children at OHU came outside and had the opportunity to observe or help the Girl Scouts if they were interested.  Many children chose to help. In the end, the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts said, “They really enjoyed working with the students at the school as they came out to help and watch the girls work.”

Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts visit Des Plaines Early Learning Center

Welcome to the new

Creativity. Curiosity. Joy. Love. Growth. Exploration.

These are some of the words that I return to again and again when I think about the amazing work our staff at One Hope United carries out every day.

Our clients are diverse, as are their needs, interests, and desires. From a young parent working to give their child the best start in life, to the teenager who may be transitioning from the juvenile justice system to living on their own, to the children in our early learning programs (like the little guy above, who spends his days growing and exploring at our Elgin Child & Family Resource Center), to the family that’s receiving counseling in order to strengthen their bond: all are part of our ecosystem of investing in children and families.

OHU has been doing what we do for over 120 years. We draw upon our rich history to inform the present and inspire future endeavors. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce our brand new website, which we hope will let visitors like you get to know more about us as an organization, and identify programs and services that you or someone you know might want to explore further.

In the coming months, we’ll be rolling out new features and stories so you can meet the clients, staff, volunteers, and supporters who comprise the core of who we are at OHU.  The new features more photos and video – along with social sharing tools – to make it a truly interactive experience. It’s also mobile friendly, so you can read on the go using your phone or tablet.

I like to think of our website as the digital front door to the organization.  It’s my hope that we can convey online all that goes on behind the scenes as we work to transform lives and communities.

I know that if you were to visit any of our offices or child development centers, you’d experience the warmth, caring, and compassion that our talented staff of experienced professionals bring to their work every day.  This new website hopefully gives you a glimpse of all that and compels you to get involved.

So welcome; we’re glad to have you here. Stop by and visit any time you like.

-Em Hall
SVP, Marketing and Technology

Suicide Prevention Awareness

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time when organizations and individuals work to bring awareness to suicide for those at risk, their caregivers, communities, and those who work directly with vulnerable, at risk populations, like the caseworkers at One Hope United.  While September may be just 30 days long, suicide prevention is an issue for all of us to be aware of 365 days a year.

The statistics around suicides in children and youth are staggering and sobering:

  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.[1]
  • More than 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health condition.[2]
  • Of the 3.4 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in 2014 who received specialty mental health services, 29.1% reported receiving services because they were thinking about or attempting suicide.[3]

The situation, however, is not hopeless. There are steps that each of us can take to support those living with mental illness, recognize the signs of those who may be considering suicide, and take action when we see someone who needs help.  Below are some tips and techniques from two trusted resources whose guidelines align with with our own standards of care and treatment.

How to help someone considering suicide:

  • Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to a doctor’s appointment. Your loved one may be angry but their life depends on getting help.
  • Follow-up treatment. If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.
  • Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more assertive at offering assistance. Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.
  • Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
  • Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
  • Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.
  • Continue your support over the long haul. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.[4]

Q: What are some of the risk factors for suicide?
A: Risk factors vary with age, gender, or ethnic group.  They may occur in combination or change over time. Some important risk factors are:

  • Loss or break up of special relationship.
  • Depression and other mental disorders
  • Substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders)
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence including physical or sexual abuse
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others, such as family members or peers

However, it is important to note that many people who have these risk factors are not suicidal.

Q: What are signs to look for?
A: The following are some of the signs you might notice in yourself, a family member, or a friend that may be reason for concern.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.
  • Giving away special belongings.

Seeking help is a sign of strength, if you are concerned, go with your instincts, get help!

Q: What can I do for myself or someone else?
A: If you are concerned, immediate action is very important. Suicide can be prevented and most people who feel suicidal demonstrate warning signs. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step in helping yourself or someone you care about.[5]

One Hope United’s Screening, Assessment and Support Services (SASS) program provides intensive mental health services for children and youth who qualify for a medical card and who may need hospitalization for mental health care. SASS providers follow up with the child and family for a period of 90 days after the initial crisis in order to assist in stabilizing that youth.

SASS is available in Marion, Clay, Fayette, Effingham, Jasper, Jefferson, Hamilton, Wayne, and Washington counties in the state of Illinois. For more information, please call: 618-242-8266 or download a PDF of our brochure.

Additional Recommended Resources:

  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has created the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Wallet Card, which is available as a free download or can be ordered online. It includes the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free number and lists warning signs.
  • For educators, SAHMSA’s Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools helps schools and partners assess, understand, and identify different aspects of suicide prevention.
  • The Lake County Suicide Prevention Task Force Resource Guide, available in English and Spanish, includes a comprehensive list of local and national organizations, most of whom offer services on a sliding-fee scale based on income.


[2] Ibid.

[3] “Receipt of Services for Behavioral Health Problems: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Available at:



CCAP Restrictions Leave OHU’s Joliet Center Nearly Empty

Photo by Eric Ginnard
Photo by Eric Ginnard

One Hope United was recently featured in The Joliet Herald-News in a story about how stricter Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) rules are adversely impacting working families seeking affordable, high-quality child care in the Joliet, IL area.

OHU’s Joliet Early Learning Center opened this year after extensive renovations of the facility, made in part with a $3.14 million grant from the state of Illinois.  The center has the capacity to serve 212 children but currently has just 22 children enrolled.

OHU chose the Joliet community for this state-of-the-art center based in part on the high need in the community for top-notch child care.

“That’s the irony in all of this,” Beth Lakier, OHU’s Executive Vice President of Early Learning, told the Herald-News. “The state recognized this as a community in need, but they’ve essentially invested in an empty building.”

Read the full story online and then learn how you can get involved to ensure that all families have access to early learning programs that set their children up for lifelong learning and success.

Our 2014 Annual Report is Here!

It’s been an exhilarating 12 months at One Hope United!  Our brand new Annual Report reflects the changes from the last year and tells you all about exciting new opportunities on our horizon.  Click on the image below to view the full report online.

In 2014 we realigned from a regionally-based set of programs into three distinct lines of service: Early Learning and Child Development, Placement (foster care and adoption), and Community-Based Family Support Services. This move allowed us to streamline our operations and align our best practices across the continuum of our services, regardless of region—ensuring each of the 10,000 children and families we serve receive the highest-quality services and care, no matter where they live.

Another exciting development that underscores our commitment to innovation was OHU’s selection through the Conscience Community Network (CCN) as one of the recipients of a multi-million dollar Social Impact Bond, which will fund the expansion of proven programs that serve children who are dually involved in Illinois’ child welfare and juvenile justice systems. This public-private partnership places us among a select group of organizations across the country that is embarking on promising new models of collaboration with government agencies and private funders.

At One Hope United we learn something new every day. And with your support we’ll continue to learn. We’ll continue to innovate. And we will pursue with a relentless energy—and sense of urgency— our mission of protecting children and strengthening families.

Elgin Receives Gold Circle of Quality Designation from ExceleRate Illinois


One Hope United Setting the Standard for Quality Early Learning in Chicago

Chicago, Illinois – November 19, 2014 – One Hope United’s Elgin Child and Family Resource Center has received the Gold Circle of Quality designation from ExceleRate Illinois, a statewide quality rating and improvement system for early learning and development providers. The Gold Circle recognizes that the Center has achieved the highest standards in learning environment and quality of teaching, administration of programs and educating and training staff.

“I am proud to announce that Elgin Child and Family Resource Center has received the Gold Circle of Quality award, which reflects the active engagement of our staff in continuous quality improvement” said Colleen Bandy, Elgin Child and Family Resource Center Director. “Providing high quality care for the children of Elgin will help prepare them for success in school and, ultimately, in life.”

ExceleRate Illinois provides a system specially designed to assist families in making the best possible decisions regarding their children’s early learning. It establishes standards to help infants, toddlers and preschoolers develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. The program not only provides a framework for early learning and development professionals to identify opportunities for improvement and skill enhancement, but also recognizes their continuous efforts to provide quality care.

Research in science and brain development shows that children who are more meaningfully engaged in early learning experiences from infancy through the first five years of life are more likely to be successful in school and in life. High quality early childhood experiences not only improve the child’s cognitive abilities but cultivate vital behavioral traits such as motivation, sociability and self-esteem. With the right engagement, children can form a healthy foundation of neural pathways in the brain, which impact their ability to think, react, process and grow.

About ExceleRate Illinois

ExceleRate Illinois is a statewide quality rating and improvement system designed to make continuous quality improvement an everyday priority among early learning providers. The program establishes standards for helping infants, toddlers and preschool age children develop intellectually, physically, socially and emotionally. It provides a framework for early learning professionals to identify opportunities for improvement, increase their skills and take steps to make positive changes.

About One Hope United

One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of early childhood education, prevention, intervention and community-based programs. The agency serves thousands of children and families with a vision of ensuring the successful transition of our children to healthy and productive adults.


Colleen Bandy
(847) 697-7100

Building Hope With Habitat for Humanity

On November 14, 2014, our service centers of Highlands and Hardee County, Florida collaborated with Habitat for Humanity in an amazing effort to build a home for a family in need. This was the first time in about five years that Habitat for Humanity Highlands County committed to a “new build”, which involves building a new home from start to finish. One Hope United couldn’t pass on the opportunity to lend a helping hand, with 15 staff members showing up to volunteer during the building process.

The OHU volunteers worked from about 8:30am until 3:00pm and accomplished a great deal, having gotten several walls for the house up by the end of the day. The family was asked to invest 300 “sweat” hours of their own; fortunately, the volunteers were able to donate 111.75 of those hours to the family, more than 1/3 of what is required. OHU does not want to just stop there, but plan to lend more of their time to this deserving family as the home nears completion and needs some painting or finishing touches.

A representative from the the team has also been invited to speak at the Habitat for Humanity Highland County Christmas breakfast to share their experience working together, as well as One Hope United’s view on the positive effects of affordable housing on families. One Hope United is very excited to begin teaming up with Habitat for Humanity for more volunteer opportunities like this in the near future!


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Discover Financial Spruces Up Lake Villa

On September 16, 2014, over 150 volunteers from Discover Financial descended on the Lake Villa campus to build bookcases, planter benches, picnic tables, and cubbies for the young men in our residential programs, as well as paint murals in the residence homes. They even built a Fitness Trail and a Frisbee Golf Course!

Arranged through Chicago CARES, this visit was part of Discover CARES month, a time in which employees across the country have the opportunity to volunteer in their communities.  This marks the 3rd year that Discover has come to our Lake Villa campus, and the company generously underwrote the expenses for all materials and tool rental.

The campus  looks more amazing than ever.  Thank you, Discover, for all that you do!Bookcases Finished_murals Picnic_Tables MuralsFitness_trail Frisbee_Golf Fitness_Trail (2)

The Simple Gift of a Coat

It’s hard to believe that summertime is over and fall is right around the corner!  The story below, from one of our caseworkers in Effingham, IL, is a great reminder that this time of seasonal transition can be a challenge for some families.

Take a moment to read the story below and share it with your friends and family.  And if you or your place of business are interested in supporting our holiday campaign by collecting grocery gift cards to be distributed to families in need, shopping for seasonal items for an individual child or group of children, and decorating a Gift Card Tree in your lobby or break room, please contact your local OHU representative below!

winter coatsI did a home visit this afternoon and the mom asked if I could find her boys some coats. She said they outgrew last year’s coats, and her youngest walked home from school today in a long-sleeve t-shirt. I put a request on Facebook for two gently used boy’s coats, and offered to pick them up. Well, within minutes I was contacted by a family friend who stated that he and his wife wanted to provide coats for the boys. Within 30 minutes, they were at the door with three bags of things for the boys. They wanted to make sure they stayed warm so they got them sweatshirts, hooded fleece jackets, and coats.

The boys were so overjoyed by these. They put all three on and said they were sleeping in them tonight! I offered to get a donation letter but they refused saying they wanted to remain anonymous. This is the time of year I especially love working in this field! I love seeing people give for no reason at all; and I love seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces. Even when it is for something most kids take for granted – a coat!

Ready to make a difference this fall?  Contact us to learn more:
Jenaeth Markaj

Chicago Collar Counties

Marilee LaMattina

Central and Southern IL

Jayme Godoyo

Centralia Junior High: You’re the Best!

At One Hope United, donations of school supplies are collected throughout the month of August in preparation for youth to go back to school. On Tuesday, August 19, a surprising new donation came from an unexpected place.

The Centralia Junior High School faculty and staff pulled up to the Centralia Residential site in a bus and asked to see one of our youth, who is a student at the school. They then all cheered as the youth came out of the Administration building to receive her gift: school supplies to start the new school year! They also chanted and shouted “YOU MATTER!”

The faculty and staff wanted to show students, parents and the community that they truly care about their students. We are so grateful that our youth was one of the four students the junior high staff chose to recognize and supply with the materials needed to start off the new school year successfully. Thank you, Centralia Junior High!

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