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OHU Named Among Top 10 Coolest Companies to Work for in Orlando

A HUGE congrats to our team in Florida, recently named one of the top 10 coolest companies to work for in Orlando by O.C. Tanner!

In addition to a number of monthly awards and regular birthday celebrations, Executive Director Barbara D. Moss gives a monthly Executive Director Trophy “to a team or individual who has done something special that goes outside the realm of their position and was in the best interest of the child or family they are serving.”

Thanks, O.C. Tanner, for recognizing the hard work of our Florida staff!

Thank You to The Community Foundation Of The Fox River Valley!

One Hope United Recipient Of $18,300 Grant

From The Community Foundation Of The Fox River Valley

CHICAGO (June 26, 2014) – The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley has named One Hope United as a grant recipient for 2014.  The $18,300 award supports the Aurora Early Learning Center’s Healthy Lifestyles curriculum through the resurfacing of a state-of-the-art playground area.

“This grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley ensures that One Hope United’s Aurora Early Learning Center continues to provide top-notch programs designed to improve the health and wellness of every child we serve,” says One Hope United Northern Region Executive Director Mark McHugh.  “At a time when childhood obesity and a lack of access to regular physical exercise are affecting the most critical years of a child’s development, One Hope United is proud to be leading the charge on providing children with healthy habits that we hope will last a lifetime.”

The Healthy Lifestyles curriculum is designed to help children develop healthy routines and activities by emphasizing proper nutrition, daily exercise and protecting our environment by recycling, reducing and reusing.  All food served at the Aurora Early Learning Center is cooked on-site, allowing the center to serve healthier food and cater to children’s taste preferences.

 The Aurora Early Learning Center serves over 330 children and their families annually, providing the highest quality early learning and parental support services.  In addition to the playground, the center has a garden where children plant, care for and harvest vegetables and flowers that are shared with their families. The center also provides services such as free museum passes and exercise classes.

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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. http://onehopeunited.wpengine.com

About the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley

The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley is a non-profit, tax-exempt, philanthropic organization that administers individual charitable funds from which grants and scholarships are distributed to benefit the citizens of the Greater Aurora Area, the TriCities and Kendall County, Illinois. For more information on the Community Foundation, please visit its website at www.CommunityFoundationFRV.org

3rd Annual Open Water Fishing Derby

On Saturday, June 14, Volunteers from the Fox Valley Muskie Association hosted the 3rd Annual Open Water Fishing Derby for the boys at One Hope United. Twenty boys, staff, and fishermen boarded thirteen boats and headed out on Deep Lake in Lake Villa, Illinois.

The weather was perfect for this day of catch and release fishing. The day concluded with a picnic lunch, donated and served by volunteers. One of the boys, Jonathan, told a fisherman, “I’ve been looking forward to this day for ten months!” All shared some great fish stories and created lasting memories.

Thanks to all who came out to support this special group!

The OHU System of Care Provides a “New Set of Eyes”

In 2013, the System of Care Program in Collinsville, IL received a referral for a child, Marc*, in a specialized foster home.  Marc had a history of setting fires and destroying property, making him at high risk for placement in a residential program. Prior to his placement in the specialized foster home, Marc experienced multiple moves and instability in his life.  He was not living with his siblings and his parent’s rights were in the process of being terminated.  Marc struggled to communicate with the adults in his life and was making minimal progress with his therapist. 

The OHU System of Care was asked to serve as a “new set of eyes” for this child who was struggling by assessing current efforts and making recommendations for changes to his treatment plan. The SOC worker spent the next 45 days meeting with and discussing permanency planning with Marc’s service providers. The SOC worker was able to recommend changes to Marc’s treatment plan, including suggested interventions to help the child express himself to the adults in his life.

The System of Care worker also provided recommendations to Marc’s therapist on ways to utilize the child’s strengths in therapy, as well as incorporating non-verbal communication into therapy.  Most importantly, the SOC worker was able to provide much needed support to Marc’s foster parent, who was interested in adopting him. 

Marc’s placement was stabilized through System of Care services, which provided new insights into the services Marc was receiving. Over time his verbal abilities have improved with his foster parent and the other adults in his life.  When the case closed, Marc’s caregiver mentioned that Marc now communicated, in small increments, with her on a daily basis, a big improvement from when SOC services started.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.  Photo is a stock image.

The Foster Parent Café

One Hope United staff members Corinne Fish, Kristen Kinnear, and supervisor Brionne Rhodes are part of the Madison County Permanency Action Team, a group focusing on foster parent retention. Recently, the Team spearheaded a collaboration with Be Strong Families and the Department of Children and Family Services to provide a Foster Parent Café in the community.

The Café was designed to provide foster parents peer support and help them realize they are not alone in caring for their foster children. Many foster children have experienced difficult situations and their needs can be difficult to meet at times. The Café offered a place for Foster parents to come together and share their struggles and discuss resolutions.

One Hope United System of Care staff worked to bring in donations from community members to provide refreshments and child care during this event. The manager of the Alton, IL, Applebee’s – Sue Sprinot – donated food for the children during the Café. One Hope United System of Care staff also worked with DCFS staff to provide care for children ages 18 months to 14 years old. This allowed a safe place for foster parents to bring the children and enjoy the evening of support.

During the Café, One Hope United was able to offer craft activities for the children, games, and other activities to keep their little bodies busy while their caregivers were able to sit back and enjoy themselves. The event proved to be a success as participants indicated interest in attending future events like this.

One Hope United looks forward to continued collaboration with other community agencies to provide support to the foster parents who so ably serve our children. One Hope United System of Care worker Kristen Kinnear, and all staff, continue to spread the word in this collaboration and to remember this: “On your worst day on the job, you are still some child’s best hope.”

Off to the Races!

When Russell Smith of Lake Villa, Illinois donated two bikes to the OHU CARE Residential program, Howard Schnitzer, OHU Board member, saw this as a fundraising opportunity. These were not your ordinary bikes…one was an Orange County Chopper Stingray Chopper and the other was a Phat Chopper!

Howard challenged Mark McHugh, OHU Northern Region Executive Director, to a race. Each of the men solicited sponsors to support the race. On Tuesday, May 27, 2014, the race took place in the pouring rain. Although a close race, Howard (shown in the photo below) won. This bike race raised $480 to benefit the CARE program.

$800 in Pennies? Way to Go Aurora Child Development Center!

The children and families at the OHU Aurora Child Development Center embraced the GO BLUE 4 OHU campaign wholeheartedly. Along with bake sales and raffles, the classrooms engaged in Penny Wars. Each classroom collected spare change throughout the month of April, each room striving to collect the most money. The winning classroom was the Kindergarten Classroom pictured above.

All together, the Aurora CDC raised $800 to support the child abuse prevention programs at One Hope United. Never underestimate the fundraising capabilities of young children!

“Mixed Up” No More

Sally*, a seven year old living with a foster family, works with the System of Care program in southern Illinois. The System of Care (SOC) program provides Sally and her family with extra skills and supports needed to address Sally’s behavior problems. As happens with children in foster care, Sally experienced heightened anxiety when preparing for a visit with her biological mom and siblings. Sally also experienced anxieties in the classroom, explaining that her head often felt “mixed up” at school.

During an in-home meeting after a particularly challenging day at school, the SOC worker tried to talk with Sally about her difficulties at school. When Sally refused to discuss her day at school, the SOC worker took a different approach. Gathering construction paper, crayons, and markers from her mobile supply closet (the trunk of her car) the SOC worked asked Sally to draw pictures of her day. The SOC worker suggested different types of pictures like one of her family and one of her friends at school. After several different pictures, Sally drew a picture of a classroom friend who asks many questions. Sally described how the constant questions annoyed her and made it difficult to concentrate.

Seizing on this bit of information, the SOC worker asked Sally to draw a picture of what happens in her head when she can’t concentrate. This time, Sally’s picture revealed that rather than concentrating on her math homework, Sally’s head was filled with concern about her biological mother and trying to figure out ways that she could take care of her mother. With a better understanding of Sally’s concern for her mother, the foster family and the SOC worker were able to develop ways to help Sally address her anxieties.

Shortly after the drawing session, another piece of the puzzle for Sally fell into place. During a visit to the eye doctor, it was determined that Sally’s eyes do not naturally cross the “center line of sight.”Sally’s right eye could only see on the right side and her left eye could only see on the left. The doctor prescribed vision therapy to help train her eyes and brain to create the “natural crossing” action.

After several months of vision therapy and addressing Sally’s concerns about her biological mother, her school work and behavior are improving. Through the SOC program and her foster family’s support, Sally now has the tools she needs to better address the distractions inside and outside of her head.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.

Foster Grandparent Program Celebrates Grandpa Jack!

Jack Sunderlik is a retired high school teacher and coach of forty years. Jack has been a proud member of the One Hope United Foster Grandparent Program since 2010.

Jack is known as “Grandpa Jack” by all the students and teachers that he helps each day. As soon as people meet Jack, they are instantly impressed by his passion and heart for helping children. Through his work in the Foster Grandparent Program Jack has received wonderful community recognition for all the good that he does and even though he is the last one to ask for any special recognition, we, as a program are eager to express our admiration and appreciation for the great work he does in the Foster Grandparent Program each day.

In 2012, he was awarded the Distinguished Volunteer Award at the Springfield “Good as Gold” ceremony by the Junior League of Springfield and University of Illinois at Springfield. He was also awarded the Senior Hero of the Year by the American Red Cross. In July of 2012, Jack received a letter from the First Lady, Michelle Obama, for his service and commitment to the Springfield community. For two years, Jack served the Dubois Elementary School as a Foster Grandparent and was known to all of the children as “Grandpa Jack.” Jack transferred to the McClernand Elementary School for the 2013/2014 school year and now works with special needs children in their classrooms at this school. Everywhere he goes, he is loved by the students and teachers.

Our most recent recognition of Jack’s great service was that he was chosen as one of the recipients to be honored with the 2014 Governor’s Volunteer Service Award. He accepted the award at a ceremony in Springfield at the Governor’s Mansion in April. We are so proud to have Grandpa Jack in the One Hope United Foster Grandparent Program and we know he will continue to be a positive mentor for the children who need it the most!

Collinsville Staff: Raising Awareness

The Collinsville Staff at One Hope United, celebrated GO BLUE month in all programs by raising awareness in the community. Workers in the Family Support Program, Visitation Program, Intact Services, System of Care, Functional Family Therapy, and Multisystemic Therapy all shared knowledge throughout the month with those they came in contact with to acknowledge Child Abuse Prevention Month. This awareness was made by sharing knowledge during community interactions and supporting the cause by wearing t-shirts designed by supervisor, Brionne Rhodes for all staff. These shirts help spread the word of child abuse month and allow the workers to support the cause while the carried out their daily work working with our families in their homes.

Staff all met together on 4/29/14 to share in the support of child abuse prevention month.  Way to go!

From L-R: Corinne Fish (SOC) Tammy Wick (VS), Brionne Rhodes (Supervisor), Brigette Spellbring (Intact), Rebecca Chavez (Intact), Cherrel Beck (FSS), Amy Sanders(Intact), Kristen Kinnear (SOC), Tina Reed (VS), Michelle Rommerskirchen (FSS), Kara Lowry (FFT), and Jayne Wetzel (FSS)

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