Youth in One Hope United’s CARE Day Treatment Program recently enjoyed a memorable day with Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah and his mother, Cecilia Rodhe, co-founder of the Noah’s Arc Foundation, which supports at-risk youth through the arts and sports. “It was the best experience of my life meeting him and his mom,” said Caleb, 14. They played basketball, went on a nature walk, ate s’mores and spent time talking with Noah and Rodhe. “Thank you for having the kindness to let us come to your house, supplying food and being so nice about it,” said Brandon, 14. “The things I would like to thank them for is the fun, food and hugs,” added Joey, 11.
One Hope United youth and staff in Sebring, Fla., recently enjoyed a four-day cooking event as part of an annual Intensive Summer Learning Experience, which aims to prepare teens for independence.
OHU partnered with the Lead agency, Case Management Organizations, for the event and this year encouraged group participation by all agency staff and employees, rather than hire a professional chef, as had been done in prior years.
“The teens were extremely involved and excited by the event and prepared some knock-your-socks-off foods,” said Michelle Ramirez, director of operations at OHU in Sebring. “They surpassed everyone’s expectations.”
Youth prepared four-course meals. Daily theme and menus were All-American Day, Southern Food Day, Latin American Day and Italian/Pizza day. They selected recipes, created shopping lists and traveled together to a local supermarket to shop, just as if they were living on their own. (This year they did not have to budget their food, but that will be added to next year’s curriculum).
A local church offered the use of its kitchen and facility, and Case Management Organizations provided the fiscal support.
The teens won prizes for their creations. One youth, who prepared delicious food, recently turned 18 and moved into his own home. “He cooked some mean hamburgers and was able to take the grill for his new place,” said Ramirez, who helped plan the event along with Life Coach Lisa Kinchen, Program Specialist Andre Davis and Family Support Worker Rachel Edenfield.
Each day there was a Chef Andre’s Corner, which featured a surprise delicacy. Items included eel sushi, goat stew, gator meatballs and calamari. Most of the youth sampled the items, even though they did not find out what they were until the end of the week. One youth liked the eel so much he took the leftovers to his peers in his group home.
The event went off without a hitch, except for when the steak and shrimp fell into the soap-filled sink just after completion; a minor finger injury caused by slicing; blackened fajitas; and a plastic cooking pan that was placed in the hot oven.
By the end of the experience the youth who participated acquired new skills and great memories. We look forward to the 2013 event!
Pictured: Andre Davis, program specialist in OHU’s Florida Region, helped plan a four-day cooking event to prepare youth for independent living. These gator meatballs were among the delicacies youth sampled.
One Hope United’s Foster Grandparent Program in Mt. Vernon, Ill., celebrated its 10th anniversary last month, with an open house attended by community partners, including funding sources, school personnel, and other program supporters.
The program’s seniors, ages 55 years and older, volunteer 20 to 40 hours a week to tutor and mentor at-risk children in places such as schools, daycares, Head Starts, early learning centers and faith-based youth programs.
“The Foster Grandparent Program has helped the area schools in so many ways due to budget constraints,” said Jennifer Witzel, program coordinator. “Many teachers and administrators have told us that without the volunteers in their school there would be a huge void.”
Foster grandparents aim to “ensure that the children they serve have a bright future,” Witzel added.
Helping children also can benefit the volunteers.
“The Foster Grandparent Program through One Hope United gives me a reason to get up in the morning,” said volunteer Gene Shirley. “After my husband died, I struggled with depression and high blood pressure. After I had been in the program for a month, I went to my doctor. He said, ‘Gene, what have you been doing?’ I thought I was in trouble. He said, ‘Your blood pressure has improved and your outlook in life has done a 360.’ I shared with the doctor about the program, and he said, ‘Keep it up.’ I just love the kids.”
During its first year, the program had eight volunteers serving 25 children in five locations. Now, there are 34 volunteers serving more than 200 children in 34 locations.
One Hope United – Hudelson Region recently received $200 from Charleston High School’s 2011-2012 student council class, which made OHU its Charity of Choice for a fundraiser. The Illinois high school’s student council raised the money selling glow sticks, bracelets and necklaces at sporting events.
One Hope United – Hudelson Region offers numerous services within the Charleston community and surrounding counties, including foster care, specialized foster care, Intact Family Services, Adoption Preservation, System of Care and counseling.
Dalton Runyon (pictured), Charleston High School’s Student Council president and 2012 graduate, recently presented the check to Kathy Davis, foster care supervisor at One Hope United in Charleston.
Volunteers from CDW Corp. recently helped beautify Rebound, One Hope United’s residential site in Waukegan, Ill.
The 17 volunteers planted and mulched shrubs, repaired a fence and stained a deck. CDW also donated two new desktop computers and a printer for Rebound residents’ use.
Rebound is a community-based transitional living facility serving youth ages 17-20 years old who lack traditional families. The program works with youth on employment skills, educational completion, money management and other life skills with a goal of achieving independence by age 21.
Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW is a leading provider of technology products and services for business, government and education.
One Hope United’s Multisystemic Therapy (MST) team in Mt. Vernon, Ill., was awarded a certificate of recognition by the MST “Whatever it Takes” program for its “outstanding and meritorious” work.
“MST Services acknowledged the OHU MST Team for its excellent outcomes and superior adherence to the model as demonstrated by a completion rate consistently above the 85 percent that is expected, a measure of therapist fidelity that was 100 percent and of supervisor fidelity that is consistently at the high end of the measurement tool,” said MST System Supervisor Liz Buchanan.
The Mt. Vernon team includes Supervisor Jennifer Shook, Michelle Troyer, Sophia Ruffin and Afthan Taylor.
The MST program is an evidence-based treatment approach to serving youth in their communities. It aims to keep families together by reducing the risk of out-of-home placement.
Youth treated in the program have chronic delinquent behavior and school issues. MST also helps parents build supportive social networks and empower them to more effectively address the needs of their children.
The OHU team manages difficult cases and covers a large geographic area.
“When the data is reviewed for all teams internationally the OHU staff stands out for their strong clinical skill, persistence and high commitment to families,” Buchanan said.
Eleven volunteers from the Local Cub Scout Pack 86 and their parents recently stuffed more than 300 backpacks with school supplies for One Hope United clients. OHU sponsors this Cub Scout pack, which includes boys from the Lake Villa and Lindenhurst area. The backpacks will be handed out by OHU staff in Gurnee, Waukegan, Joliet and Kankakee, Ill.
Two One Hope United early education centers recently earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Chicago-based Edgewater Early Learning Center and the Elgin Child and Family Resource Center in Elgin, Ill., were given the seal of approval from the association’s academy, which sets and monitors standards for high-quality early childhood education programs — serving children from birth to 8 years old. The academy accredits programs that meet those standards.
“Fewer than 10 percent of programs achieve this milestone,” said Beth Lakier, associate executive director of Chicago-area day care centers at One Hope United.
The process includes evaluating classroom interactions, environments, staff qualifications, parent relationships and a variety of administrative requirements, she said.
“To meet all of these requirements is truly an incredible achievement, which demonstrates that OHU programs are providing best practices based on early childhood standards,” Lakier added.
Ten of the 11 One Hope United child development center programs now carry NAEYC accreditation. The recently opened Aurora Early Learning center will be eligible to apply for accreditation in September.
Residents and employees at One Hope United in Lake Villa, Ill., are enjoying a spruced up campus thanks to volunteers from NorStates Bank.
Ten employees from the Waukegan, Ill.-based bank visited the 33-acre campus this month, weeded the garden, filled flower boxes with flowers and painted the exterior trim on Richardson House.
The Lake Villa residential facility is home to 22 boys, ages 10 to 18 years old, who have experienced abuse and neglect and need assistance before moving back with their own family or into a foster home.
NorStates Bank is a valued partner of One Hope United. The bank is sponsoring the Northern Region’s golf outing and will send 12 volunteers to assist at the event. NorStates Bank also partners with us in our gift-giving program, which provides gifts for children during the winter holidays.
Pictured, L to R: NorStates Bank volunteers Colleen Zawaski; Pat Hays; Arely Alvarez; Desrie Flaschner; Keiry Carballo; Shelly Christian; Uin Gallegos; Fred Mutter; Diana Henkel; and Olga Quiroga