Florida Couple Adopts Two Kids Into Their Forever Family

Executive Pastor Chad Dillon Was Certain He Didn’t Want To Become A Foster Parent. His Wife Adriane Was Equally Sure She Did.

After seven years of trying to have a biological child, the Dillon’s longed for a family and had always had a desire to adopt—being able to provide a child with a forever family. But they weren’t completely in agreement about fostering children. In early 2014, they enrolled in PRIDE classes. 

The Dillon’s took the classes with another couple, their best friends, and since PRIDE covers both adoption and fostering in their county, participants could choose to do either, or both. During the classes, the couple had heard horrific stories about children in their community being abused and neglected, in which Chad came to realize that his hesitancy to foster was nothing short of selfishness where the attention was on him and not on the children who need and deserve to be loved unconditionally. His attitude had completely changed and he told his wife,

“We will foster as long as we can agree on one thing—to put the best interest of every child that comes into our care above our own and the moment that we cannot do that, we get out so that we are never a part of the problem.”

So, after this realization, he and his wife without hesitation continued their classes and were ready to enter the world of fostering where they were ready to embrace every child that came their way with love and as their own. They received their license on November 4, 2014. To their shock, they received a call on the same day about a seven-day-old baby girl who needed a foster home. They said yes, and on November 6, 2014, they welcomed Hilary Rose into their loving arms, and adding her older brother Christopher into their home in June of 2016. 

The Dillon’s have fostered two other children to-date as well—but they knew they wanted to do more for parents like them. In January 2016, Chad assisted in the launch of a brand new foster and adoptive children’s association in their county and was quickly introduced to OHU. They immediately felt welcomed by the staff, especially the Executive Director for their county—Eva Horner. Chad and Eva have had several discussions about ways to improve the system of care in Florida, especially their county. In April of 2014, Chad was voted in as the President of the Osceola Foster and Adoptive Children’s Association. To date, they have seen over 50 people attend and recently have had 17 foster and/or adoptive families become official members. The monthly association meetings are hosted at their church—Freedom Life Church. 

As President, Chad has addressed issues of foster care parent retention, co-parenting, creating stronger relationships among licensing agencies, the Department of Children and Families, and foster/adoptive parents, as well as changing the reputation and perception of the foster care system. “People ultimately fear the unknown,” says Chad, “But we believe the work we’re doing in Osceola County can spread throughout the state of Florida and change people’s hearts and minds about child welfare.” “The lack of awareness is one of the biggest issues we face. People simply need to see the need and be given the opportunity to meet it, but it has to be presented in a positive way and must come from a heart of compassion because people gravitate towards passion.” He strives to motivate and encourage anyone who involves themselves in the child welfare system to have and keep the right heart motive, where the focus is on making sure that every decision is about the child’s best interest and never the adult’s (whether foster parent, bio-parent, bio-relative, agency worker, adoptive parent, etc.). 

Chad lost his own father on November 6, 2002, exactly 22 years to the day that he and his wife welcomed their first foster child (who became their forever daughter) into their home. Now that day takes on a whole new meaning. Another significant day in the Dillon’s life? September 12, 2016, the day Hilary Rose and Christopher David were officially adopted into their forever.

One Hope United Names Lake Villa Campus for Ermit L. Finch

ABOVE Ermit L. Finch (right) is joined by his wife, Jonni Miklos (left), and One Hope United Board Chair Theresa A. Dear (center) at the ceremony to dedicate the Lake Villa campus in his name.

Finch lived on campus from 1948 to ’51 and became first former client to serve on One Hope United’s Board.

One Hope United has named its Lake Villa, Illinois, campus after a former resident and current board member Ermit L. Finch. The Board of Directors hosted a ceremony to dedicate the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa on Friday, April 26, attended by the Board, staff of the campus, friends and family of Finch, and Lake Villa’s Mayor James McDonald.

Read about the ceremony and Finch’s life in the Lake County News-Sun.

Finch took up residence at One Hope United campus (then Central Baptist Children’s Home) in 1948, following a harrowing childhood in Arkansas. (Watch The Impact of Ermit Finch video on YouTube.)

Finch was born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1934 to a furniture salesman and homemaker. Both parents contracted tuberculosis in the 1940s and went to sanatoriums, after which he saw his father once a week and communicated with his mother, who was sent to New Mexico, only by letter. Her death in 1945 precipitated his father’s death less than 30 days later.

After a short time living and working on his uncle’s farm, where Finch acquired the nickname “Cotton”—the farm’s signature crop—for his white hair, Finch transferred to an Arkansas orphanage where the conditions were difficult and the discipline severe. Finch, small for his age, was bullied, and boys were frequently whipped and denied meals.

A change in leadership to Dr. Louis B. Snider vastly improved Finch’s quality of life, and Finch eventually came with Snider’s family to Lake Villa, Ill., when Snider took a position at what is today One Hope United. Finch has fond memories of life on campus, which included group meals, singing, riding horses, and tending to chickens. “The expansiveness of this place, and the lake—it was paradise,” he recalls. “This was a growth time. It felt good. You liked yourself. Somebody else liked you.”

“Ermit personifies One Hope United’s vision: For every child and family, a life without limits,” said President and CEO Charles A. Monotorio-Archer. “His story speaks to the potential in each of us to overcome hardship and trauma when we have the right support. I’m thrilled to recognize him with the dedication of the Ermit L. Finch Campus at Lake Villa.”

The support Finch received at One Hope United led Finch to academic and personal success. While on campus, he learned to read and graduated from Antioch High School, where he played tuba in the marching band. He went on to attend the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, returning to the campus in the summers to live and work. He would raise his own family and lead a successful business career in heating, air conditioning and residential construction.

“Ermit’s undefeatable, unbreakable, and unstoppable spirit has been an unending source of inspiration at One Hope United,” said Board Chair Theresa A. Dear.

In 2003, Finch revisited the campus and resumed his connection to the place where he spent the happiest years of his childhood. He joined the Board of Directors of One Hope United in 2004, the first former resident to do so.

“It was a blessing to be exposed and to have the opportunity” to live and thrive on the campus, Finch said at the ceremony. “I’m wonderfully honored.”

One Hope United has operated the Ermit L. Finch campus since 1948. Today it is home to the CARE Residential Program, which serves as many as 50 young boys and teenagers between the ages of 9 to 18 years old who don’t have a biological or foster family to live with. The campus also includes a Therapeutic Day School, attended by young men from the campus and the surrounding communities.

One Hope United’s 5th Annual Gala, Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope

One Hope United’s 5th Annual Gala, Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope, Features The Glee Project Alum Mario Bonds, May 3, 2019 at Hilton Chicago.

Guests will hear inspiring stories of hope and courage while enjoying a night of entertainment, dining and giving back.

CHICAGO — One Hope United, one of the country’s leading human services nonprofits, presents its 5th Annual Hope In Action gala, Friday, May 3, 2019 at the Hilton Chicago, featuring Mario Bonds, a national entertainer whose life symbolizes the meaning of hope. The 6 p.m. Why I Have Hope gala (5:30 p.m. VIP reception) is in the Hilton’s Grand Ballroom, 720 S. Michigan Ave.,. Tickets available at http://www.onehopeunited.org/hopeinaction.

Blind by the age of 10 and a survivor of childhood trauma, Mario Bonds is a motivational speaker, published author, singer-songwriter, and breakout star of NBC Universal’s The Glee Project.  Bonds’ unforgettable and powerful performance in song is living proof of how anyone can rise to meet any challenge.

Born with a degenerative condition that destroyed his eyesight, Bonds faced abuse, homelessness, and abandonment, yet, he never suffered from hopelessness. In his memoir, Without Sight but Full of Vision, Bonds describes how through hard work, perseverance, and personal responsibility we can all become “master of our destinies.” Bonds, who was adopted at the age of 16, is a licensed foster care provider in the process of adopting two teenage boys.

Also during Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope, One Hope United will honor extraordinary individuals who support the organization’s mission to provide every family and every child a “life without limits.”

They include 96-year-old volunteer Nannie Crudup, honored with the fifth annual Ermit Finch Impact Award.  Crudup is one of One Hope United’s most committed volunteers, giving her time nearly every school day for the past 26 years, helping the staff and three- to five-year-old children at One Hope United’s Bridgeport Child Development Center.

Patrick Kingston, Customer Development Manager at Tyson Foods will be recognized with One Hope United’s Chairwoman’s Award for his commitment to community advancement, empowering nonprofits, and inspiring leadership. Veteran One Hope United executive Todd Schultz, President of Restoration Ministries, will be honored with The President’s Award for his commitment to nonprofit stability, transparency, and leadership.

Guests at Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope will enjoy cocktails, a seated dinner, and the chance to bid on a wide variety of auction items. VIP ticket holders can meet Mario Bonds at a private reception preceding the gala.

“One Hope United is thrilled to welcome Mario Bonds, who understands the challenges and traumas that many of our clients face, and whose resilience is an inspiration and a testament to the types of services we provide,” says new President and CEO Dr. Charles A. Montorio-Archer.

“We’re also excited to add a new twist this year by debuting Hope After Dark, immediately following our gala at Hilton Chicago,” Montorio-Archer adds. “The after-event experience is the perfect complement to Hope In Action for supporters who might not typically attend a gala but love dressing up for a great cause.”

Hope After Dark, from 10 p.m. to midnight, is presented by One Hope United’s Chicago Ambassador Board and features a selection of beers, wines and cocktails, as well as live house and dance music provided by DJ Lady D. Hope After Dark tickets ($100) can be purchased in advance at https://onehopeunited.org/hopeafterdark, or when guests arrive at the Hilton Chicago Grand Ballroom. All tickets for the Hope In Action: Why I Have Hope Gala ($300, $400 VIP) include admission to Hope After Dark.

“Many young professionals have told us they want to support our event, while at the same time living within their charitable giving budgets,” says Mike Carpenter, One Hope United’s Chicago Ambassador Board Chair. “The Hope After Dark party appeals to a new and broader audience of donors and we hope it will become one of the highlights of the Spring gala season.”

WCIU TV reporter and host Jon Hansen will serve as Hope In Action’s Master of Ceremonies. Hansen is an Emmy-nominated reporter and a talk show host for WGN 720 AM and can be seen on WCIU’s The Jam and Now.Chicago.

Tickets for Hope in Action: Why I Have Hope are available here.

Tickets for Hope After Dark are available here.

One Hope United would like to thank the following Why I Have Hope sponsors for their support:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel George Architects          Grant Staff, Inc.       Michelle Damico Communications           StrateBen         Ultimate Software

Continental Benefits.       Terra Properties               WT Group

 

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit http://www.onehopeunited.org.

Go Blue 4 OHU for Child Abuse Prevention Month!

One Hope United Kicks Off 4th Annual “Go Blue 4 OHU” Restaurant Collective, Dine Out and Do Good During National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Some of the hottest city and suburban restaurants are participating in One Hope United’s month-long event. Diners visiting Go Blue 4 OHU restaurants will have the opportunity to purchase a featured Go Blue food or beverage item with a percentage of sales being donated to One Hope United’s programs to prevent child abuse.

See participating restaurants BELOW or visit onehopeunited.org/goblue  for complete list!

“One Hope United is thrilled to welcome a growing number of restaurants that have joined Go Blue 4 OHU and will be encouraging guests to support the programs that help prevent child abuse in our communities,” says the organization’s new President and CEO, Charles Montorio-Archer.

“These restaurant owners are pillars in our communities, giving back in so many generous ways. They understand that everyone plays a role in providing families and children with a life without limits,” added Montorio-Archer.

Reflecting that giving spirit are owners such as Dino Perez, at Rio’s D’Sudamerica Peruvian restaurant in Bucktown. Perez was a supporter of One Hope United even before becoming one of the founding Go Blue partners five years ago. Perez has hosted a Career Day for OHU’s WINGS program for teen parents, where he helped young women explore career and entrepreneurship opportunities in hospitality.

Another generous restaurateur is the West Loop’s Cafe Ciao owner Julie Chung. Her restaurant may have a small footprint, but she has a giant heart. Cafe Ciao is the organization’s biggest Go Blue 4 OHU supporter for the last two years, donating 100% of proceeds from featured wine flights to One Hope United. Chung and has spent years developing a deep understanding of the organization’s early learning programs, information which she shares with her guests.

The Go Blue 4 OHU Restaurant Collective includes a fun element of competition for any Instagrammer who loves to post and share photos of menu items from their favorite bistros or bars.

You’ll have the chance to win fabulous prizes, including gift certificates from participating establishments by tagging #GoBlue4OHU in their posts. Follow One Hope United on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/onehopeunited/ and see details at https://onehopeunited.org/goblue.

Here is the full list of ways OHU will be recognizing the restaurants and diners who participate throughout the month of April:

  • Most money raised – Awarded to the Go Blue restaurant partner that provides the largest financial contribution to One Hope United
  • Most Go Blue items sold – Highest number of Go Blue items sold by a Go Blue restaurant partner
  • Friend of One Hope United – Restaurant who goes above and beyond to promote the Go Blue campaign to diners and spread the word about the cause
  • Instagram Contest Winner – Diner who visits the most restaurants and tags featured items on Instagram with #GoBlue4OHU (Instagram profile must be public to win) 

Restaurants participating in Go Blue 4 OHU 2019

Keep checking here for new restaurant’s joining One Hope United’s efforts to raise funds to prevent child abuse. All locations in Chicago unless otherwise noted.

  • Ambrosia Euro-American Patisserie (Barrington)
  • Arbella (River North)
  • Beatrix (River North, Streeterville, Fulton Market)
  • Bijan’s Bistro (River North)
  • Bombay Wraps (Lakeview)
  • The Brunch Café (St. Charles, Huntley, Niles, Roselle, Fox River Grove, McHenry)
  • Ciao! Café & Wine Lounge (West Loop)
  • Chez Moi (Lincoln Park)
  • Coco Pazzo Cafe (Streeterville)
  • Cupitol (Streeterville and Evanston)
  • Fabulous Freddie’s Italian Eatery (Bridgeport)
  • Farraguts on Clark (Andersonville)
  • Franco’s Ristorante (Bridgeport)
  • Elgin Public House (Elgin)
  • Gaslight Bar & Grille (Lincoln Park)
  • Gigi’s Kitchen (Bucktown)
  • Half Sour (South Loop)
  • Jellyfish (Gold Coast)
  • McNally’s Irish Pub (St. Charles)
  • MORA (Bolingbrook and Oak Park)
  • Portillo’s (location[s] TBA)
  • Rio’s d’Sudamerica (Bucktown)
  • The Royal Grocer & Co. (Bucktown)
  • Slurping Turtle (River North)
  • Tanta (River North)
  • TRIA (Bridgeport)
  • Victory Italian (River North)
  • Vintage 53 (St. Charles)

One Hope United is excited to welcome DiningOut Chicago, as our media sponsor – Chicago’s premier print and online source for the best reporting on the city’s culinary scene. DiningOut Chicago offers a unique brand of in-depth, thoughtful lifestyle stories combined with highlights of Chicago’s vibrant restaurant landscape. Throughout April, DiningOut will highlight the many tasty options guests can enjoy by participating in Go Blue 4 OHU while helping prevent child abuse.

About One Hope United
One Hope United is a private human service organization that offers a diverse array of prevention, intervention and community-based programs including early education, foster care, adoption, residential, and other support services. What began in 1895 as a children’s home in Chicago now serves 9,000 children and families each year in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Florida and employs nearly 800 passionate and talented professionals. For more information, please visit http://www.onehopeunited.org.

Extreme Cold Leads to Closures in Northern IL on January 30

The weather conditions indicate that it will be unsafe to be outdoors for even brief periods in the Northern Illinois region beginning tonight and lasting until Thursday. As a result, One Hope United has determined the following for Wednesday, Jan. 30:
  • 24-Hour Residential Programs will operate as scheduled.
  • All Child Care & Early Education Centers will be CLOSED, following their local school districts.
  • All other OHU offices in Northern Illinois will be CLOSED.
The full list of closures is as follows:
  • Aurora Early Learning Center CLOSED
  • Bridgeport I Child Development Center – Chicago CLOSED
  • Bridgeport II Child Development Center – Chicago CLOSED
  • Busy Bee Children’s Center CLOSED
  • Therapeutic Day School – Lake Villa CLOSED
  • Des Plaines Child Development Center CLOSED
  • Edgewater Early Learning Center – Chicago CLOSED
  • Elgin Child & Family Resource Center CLOSED
  • Glenview School Age Program CLOSED
  • Greenbay Home Visiting Program CLOSED
  • Gurnee CLOSED
  • Joliet – Placement CLOSED
  • Joliet Early Learning Center CLOSED
  • Kenwood CLOSED
  • O’Hare Child Development Center CLOSED
  • Richardson House – Lake Villa CLOSED
  • St. Charles CLOSED
  • Sprouted – Wilmette CLOSED
  • Wabash – Chicago CLOSED
  • Waukegan Early Learning Center CLOSED
As of now, all programs and offices plan to resume normal operations on Thursday, Jan. 31.

OHU Seeks Therapists for Illinois ‘Service Deserts’

One Hope United is currently searching for therapists interested in serving Illinois children and families who do not have immediate access to much needed counseling services.

Our counseling services are focused on the areas around Charleston, Effingham, Mt. Vernon, Olney and Chicago. Many of these communities are effectively facing a “service desert,” and countless families are unable to access the therapy they and their children need due to a lack of Medicaid-fundable resources. We believe that there are therapists who would like to serve these families but their current private practice does not have the capacity to handle the complexity of billing the array of Medicaid MCOs.

We are looking to partner with skilled therapists who would like to provide an evening or even a full day of services. If interested or to learn more, please contact Margaret Vimont at mvimont@onehopeunited.org.

5 Things to Know about Head Start

All parents want to provide the best opportunities for their children to learn, grow and thrive. This is especially true when it comes to education. No child should miss out on a quality education because of their family’s ability to pay.

That’s why One Hope United is pleased to offer Head Start or Early Head Start programing at four of our child care and early education centers. These programs combine quality child care and education with other programing and resources to help set every child up for success:

Not sure if your family is eligible? It’s easy to find out and One Hope United is here for you every step of the way.

Here are five things you should know about the Head Start Program at One Hope United:

1. Head Start Seeks to Give Every Child an Equal Chance

Head Start, a federally funded program, is designed to give every child equal access to the resources and support they need. Established in 1965 for low-income families, Head Start promotes school readiness for children ages birth to five. These programs enhance children’s social and cognitive development by offering children and their families educational, nutritional, health, social and other services.

The services Head Start provides are designed to set up children for success by the time they are ready to start kindergarten. One Hope United combines Head Start with child care assistance to provide a full day of early childhood care and education for families who are working or in school at a significantly reduced cost.

2. It’s Easy to Find Out if You Qualify for Head Start

There are four ways you and your child can qualify for Head Start:

  1. You meet the income qualifications, OR
  2. You receive public assistance, OR
  3. Your child is in foster care, OR
  4. You or your child lack permanent housing.

Families with children from birth to age five who meet specific criteria in any one of these four categories can receive Head Start or Early Head Start programming. Families receiving public assistance (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income), or families with low incomes, according to the Poverty Guidelines published by the Federal government, are eligible.

One Hope United has family support specialists to assist families with the eligibility process. Families can either call or walk-in to one of the Bridgeport, Edgewater or Waukegan centers with proof of income and the child’s birth certificate. They will then fill out an application (One Hope United can provide assistance) and complete an interview. The family will soon receive a notice about their child’s/children’s eligibility. The eligibility/enrollment process can be started at anytime during the year.

3. Parents Receive Support, Too!

All Head Start families have a family support specialist that they work with for as long as they participate in the program. Assistance in finding medical providers, mental health professionals, and nutrition counseling are just some of the services that are provided. Plus, families receive two home visits that serve as building blocks to establishing a positive relationship.

Many of One Hope United’s staff are bilingual. If there is a language barrier, One Hope United will provide translation support services. We want to clearly communicate with families so they understand the services they’re eligible for and feel comfortable with all we can provide.

4. Parents Are Part of Their Child’s Education

One Hope United families who are part of the Head Start program are actively involved with their child’s education by helping to set goals and determining how best to support their child.

Parents and One Hope United teachers and staff have at least two parent conferences a year where assessments are reviewed, strengths are determined and priorities are set for continued development.

5. We Offer Quality Education For All

One Hope United’s Head Start locations in Bridgeport and Edgewater are accredited by NAEYC (The National Association of Education of Young Children), a distinction held by only 6% of centers in the country. A NAEYC accredited center is one that is recognized as providing exceptional care and a variety of educational, developmental, and personal services. All preschool classrooms are led by a licensed teacher who is certified to teach up to the third grade.

The suburban Waukegan location is currently undergoing accreditation by NAEYC. This location offers Early Head Start services to low-income infants, toddlers and their families.

At One Hope United it is our vision to help every child, every family live a life without limits. If you feel limited by the specific circumstances that makes your family eligible for Head Start, please contact one of our centers today or use the form below.

Contact Us

Sonja Crum Knight Named Executive Director for Early Childhood Programs

Sonja Crum Knight

Sonja Crum Knight, an early childhood leader committed to realizing high quality outcomes for children and families through education, practice, and advocacy, will join One Hope United as Executive Director of Early Learning and Child Development, beginning April 10, 2018.

In this executive leadership role, Knight will oversee One Hope United’s 12 child care and early education centers, which provide high quality early care and education to over 2,200 children each year, as well as our home visiting programs, which help young and first-time parents navigate their new responsibilities and support their children’s development. All of these programs serve children and families living in northern Illinois and Chicago.

“I am humbled and honored to join an organization with such a rich legacy of service to children and families,” said Knight.

Knight comes to One Hope United from YMCA of the USA, where she served as technical advisor for early childhood equity improvement, leading a cohort of eight YMCA associations across the country to discover and improve strategies for improving access to high quality early care and education. She also has worked extensively with the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University as a quality assessor and trainer. She holds a PhD in education from Capella University and a master of education in early childhood administration from National Louis University.

“I am thrilled to welcome Sonja Crum Knight to One Hope United,” said COO Margaret Vimont. “She brings a wealth of experience as a child care provider, quality assessor, and educator to early childhood professionals, along with a passion for equal access to early education and a highly inclusive management style. Together, these make her an excellent fit to lead our early learning and child development programs, which lay the foundation for our vision – For every child and family, life without limits.”

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.