Sunshine Coach arrives in Hudelson

Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis awarded another Sunshine Coach to One Hope United’s Hudelson Region. 

The van, valued at $31,323, will be used for clients served by the Collinsville office through Family Support Services and Transportation and Visitation. The vans were awarded at the Champions for Children Summit in St. Louis on November 12, and officially released to One Hope United on Friday, January 24.

Second Annual Comfort Kit Fundraiser

ZastrowTwo years ago, Chrys Zastrow became a foster mother for three young girls and hosted her first annual comfort kit fundraiser in Island Lake. In March, Chrys and her husband will finalize the adoption of their girls and host the second annual “Give a Little Extra Love Night” comfort kit fundraiser! 

Comfort kits are given to children and families who enter foster care. Often when a child arrives at a new home, it is an emergency situation. The child might arrive without anything but the clothes on his or her back. A comfort kit is a duffel bag filled with basic comforts: blanket, a “lovie” blanket, stuffed animal, toothbrush and toothpaste, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, book or craft and a water bottle.

When Chrys first became a foster parent to the three girls she will be adopting soon, they each arrived with a comfort kit on their first night. She realized how valuable the kits were and how much her girls treasured them. Chrys and the girls wanted to provide the same comfort to other foster children so decided to start a fundraiser!

This year’s event will be on Friday, February 28, at 6 p.m. at the Young Scholars Child Care Center in Island Lake, Ill. All are invited to donate to help purchase items, or come to the event and help make “lovie” blankets and assemble the kits! For more information please contact Chrys Zastrow

Donation information:

  • There will also be a donation jar on the front desk of Young Scholars Child Care Center for monetary donations.
  • If you would like to donate a blanket kit = $10
  • A complete comfort kit = $20

Please have donations dropped off by Thursday, February 20.

Donations can be mailed to:

Young Scholars Child Care Center
501 Kora Lane
Island Lake, IL 60042

Florida Staff Member Adoption Finalized

Melvin Guzman, Licensing Supervisor in Florida, was able to celebrate Thanksgiving with his son, Juan, 13, after Juan’s adoption was finalized on November 27.

Guzman_adoption_600 pixJuan, along with his siblings and cousins, entered Youth and Family Services, a child welfare agency, after he was removed from his family’s care three years ago.  At that time, Melvin was working with Youth and Family Services and met Juan shortly after he entered the program.  Juan was somewhat of a problematic child, and had gotten in trouble in school for being disruptive. Initially, Melvin thought of himself as a mentor for Juan and gave him advice about how to handle difficult situations. After working together and building their relationship, Melvin knew he wanted to adopt Juan and become a family.

“I knew he needed the help, the assistance and the nurturing,” Melvin said. “Once Juan knew I was interested in adopting him I told him what the rules and expectations were and he heard that.  His disruptions at school and his misbehaving completely stopped.”

For more information about becoming a foster parent or adopting please visit

Baking Christmas cookies in Centralia

Sprehe-Christmas-CookiesBoard Member Gregory Sprehe has been an asset to One Hope United, and has years of demonstrated leadership within the organization. He is President/Owner of Com-Pac International, Inc. Greg’s wife, Victoria, is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in St. Louis and had approached Patricia Griffith, Executive Director, about opportunities to volunteer on the residential campus. 

When Greg and Victoria came to the Centralia residential campus for the first session on Wednesday, November 20, it was evident that they have a special place in their hearts for the children of One Hope United. They made a number of desserts and packaged them in “goodie” bags, plastic bags that were made by Greg’s company! Greg and Victoria will be visiting campus again on Wednesday, December 18 – just in time for Christmas! They will be making Christmas goodies and the youth are so excited to spend time with the Sprehes again.

Family Portraits at Centralia Residential

When the leaves begin to change and the air become a little crisper, residential youth know that it is time for their family portraits! Each year at Centralia Residential Treatment, youth and staff dress up and have their photos taken by a professional photographer. It is an exciting day because many of the youth have never had individual photos taken (outside of school pictures). Youth are also encouraged to invite any family members he or she has to join them for the photos. This year’s “Picture Day” was on Sunday, October 27, 2013 and the photos were taken by Jennifer Enkoff Wood. It was a beautiful day and the colors make the photos even more impressive. Staff have the opportunity to have family photos taken that day too. 

A holiday tradition in Centralia is for various sizes of the photos to be printed and given to the youth as one of their Christmas presents. It is always a joy to see their faces when they see their photos for the first time. It is an unexpected gift for youth who have not been here for past Christmas celebrations, and one that they always remember. They cannot wait to show off their photos to staff and their family members. Staff members have already begun the sorting and wrapping of these photos and cannot wait to give them to the youth for Christmas!

Loading the Sleighs for Delivery

Volunteers packed three trucks (sleighs) full of gifts for children in the northern Illinois and Chicago area on December 10. View photos and read articles about the day at the link below. 

Daily Herald –

Chicago Tribune –,0,569218.story

Chicago Sun Times —

Gingerbread House for Hope

More than 150 people from the Lindenhurst/Lake Villa area participated in the Gingerbread Houses of Hope event on December 6, to raise money for One Hope United.

With holiday music in the background, children, parents and grandparents used buckets of icing to attach the sugary decorations to their masterpieces that ranged from simple to highly ornate. This family-friendly event was the idea of the children of One Hope United Board member Scott Moeller.  His daughter, Brooke said “It’s a super fun fundraiser for kids of all ages. We’ve been doing it for five years and this was my favorite because we raised enough money to help a lot of children.”  During the event, children decorated 70 gingerbread houses and nearly $3,000 was raised for One Hope United.

Lovin Oven Cakery also supported this holiday community event.

Staff Blog: Hudelson Christmas story

Written by Emily Blackburn, Residential Coordinator in Centralia, Ill.

The Christmas holiday is a magical time of year for all but even more so at the Children’s Home. Each year, we spend hours on end planning for Christmas in an attempt to make this Holiday special for the residents that live at One Hope United’s Residential Children’s Home. For many of our residents, this is the only real “Christmas” that they have ever experienced. We have many traditions that we have set for the staff and youth at OHU. Some of these traditions include special arts and crafts activities, trips to look at Christmas lights, listening to Christmas carols, Christmas Stocking decorating, Home Christmas decorating contests and the lists go on. 

This year, I was coloring angel tree tags with some of our female residents. Angel tree tags are used for donors to purchase gifts for the residents on our campus. The youth carefully make their Christmas lists and many times, this is the first Christmas list that they have ever written. As I sat with the youth who were coloring angels, I began to talk to all of the girls about their Holiday traditions. The girls took turns around the table talking about their experiences with the Holidays. One girl stated that when she thinks of Christmas, she thinks of when her stepdad broke her arm. I sat stunned at the table as that was not the response that I was expecting. I processed through the event with the resident and she explained that he had broken her arm and was physically aggressive with her on numerous occasions. She stated that her school reported the abuse and her family did not support her – they sided with the stepdad. I told the resident how sorry I was she had to go through that but reminded her that she is now safe at OHU. 

After hearing this story, I did a lot of self-reflection about my own traditions and how happy my memories of Christmas are from growing up. I have tried to incorporate some of my own childhood traditions with our residents over the years as well. It wasn’t until this Christmas that I had really connected that such happy times for many can be so traumatic for others. As a public servant and employee for OHU, it is my mission to create happy memories and set traditions for the youth that we serve, with hopes that they can leave OHU and be able to reflect on the “happy” and “meaningful” memories that were made at the Children’s home.

Youth in the CARE and Day treatment programs enjoy a tasty Thanksgiving

Youth in the CARE and Day treatment programs at One Hope United’s Lake Villa campus enjoyed a tasty Thanksgiving lunch sponsored by Marsh in Milwaukee before the holiday. Some of the employee volunteers created 20 food baskets which included boxed goods and canned good for the families in the Kenosha, Wisconsin, service area and others prepared a Harvest themed feast including steaks, chicken, potatoes, vegetables and macaroni and cheese for the staff and youth. There were 40 total participants at the event and all took a moment to say what they were grateful for during this time of year.

Home Depot volunteers renovate Memory Home on Lake Villa campus

Earlier this month, 30 volunteers from Home Depot stores in Niles, Waukegan, Round Lake, Mundelein, Gurnee, West Niles and Vernon Hills donated over 85 hours of service to One Hope United. The volunteers renovated the Memory Home, one of two residential homes for boys in the CARE program on the Lake Villa campus. On November 6, the volunteers primed the bedrooms, living and dining room and two offices and installed drywall in the kitchen. The next day they painted the rooms and hung cabinets in the kitchen. The giving continued with donated food and project materials from Noodles & Co in Gurnee, Dunkin Donuts in Antioch, Galati’s in Lake Villa, Starbucks and Julie’s Coffee in Lake Villa. The Home Depot volunteers will continue to work at Memory Home for the next few weeks to finish up the project.

Thanks to Ravi Bagri, Melody Lukaszewski and Mark Griffin, all form the Gurnee Home Depot for organizing this project!

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