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.

Foster Grandparent Christmas Program

It has been another wonderful year for our Foster Grandparent Program! Therefore, this year’s recent Christmas program was the perfect opportunity for participants to reflect on the major impact that the program has had on them all. Volunteers, teachers and students alike, presented personal letters and awards to celebrate the volunteers and their memorable experiences. One touching letter, tells the story of one special Foster Grandparent, Grandma Annie*:

“Every day in the Foster Grandparent Program brings a new challenge or a new success. Sometimes, it is the small moments that will stay with us and serve as a reminder of our program’s impact. Grandma Annie is a very special Foster Grandparent who spends all of her free time helping children. When Grandma Annie is not mentoring and tutoring children all day through our program, she is helping the kids at her church and making special homemade crafts for children that she knows will not receive much for the holidays, birthdays, etc. throughout the year. Grandma Annie does so much for children and others in need that it is hard to believe that she is making ends meet on less than $7,000 a year. This year has been especially difficult for Grandma Annie. She had a very serious health issue that caused her to spend over a month in the hospital and on top of the health issues; she was no longer able to afford to live in her trailer that she has lived in for years. There were many conversations between Foster Grandparent program staff and Grandma Annie, where she cried and contemplated giving up. One day, while she was in the hospital, she had a special delivery from the children at the school where she serves as a Foster Grandparent. Grandma Annie received over 100 handmade cards from the children at this Springfield school. Grandma Annie has overcome this difficult time, she is feeling better, located housing and is back to working with children at her school. Just this month, fighting through tears, Grandma Annie shared with our group about how she overcame such a difficult time in her life. She cried and said that she read those cards over and over again in the hospital and it was the one thing that told her she needed to get healthy and not give up. Grandma Annie explained that the Foster Grandparent program is her purpose and she knows that it has saved her life. There are many successes that our program could share in regards to the impact that this program has on the lives of our seniors, but these are the types of special moments that truly help people see beyond the poverty, health issues and daily challenges and instead gives them the happiness and motivation to keep going.”

The students also presented a special gift to Foster Grandparent, Grandma Mary. They made her a “math quilt”, which displayed special messages and math problems that they have solved due to all the time that she dedicated to helping them with their math.


We’re very excited to continue making unforgettable memories with the Foster Grandparent Program in 2015!


Gingerbread Houses of Hope 2014

The 6th annual Gingerbread Houses of Hope took place on December 5th, to raise money for One Hope United. Each year, numerous families of the Lindenhurst/Lake Villa area gather together for this special event, gumdrops and licorice in hand, to festively decorate their gingerbread houses. Gingerbread Houses of Hope was the idea of the children of OHU Board member, Scott Moeller, and they have continued to host this family-friendly event year after year. This year, 150 families came out to decorate, all while raising $3,000 for One Hope United!

Lovin Oven Cakery also supported this holiday community event.

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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!

Camp Hope: An Experience to Remember

Summer camp provides children the chance to learn new skills, enjoy summer activities, make happy memories, and have fun.  The Centralia, Illinois campus is giving residential youth that opportunity with a new program modeled after summer camp.  Camp Hope, developed by local staff, gives youth a chance to explore their creativity and increase knowledge

During the morning, youth attend a Cooking, Arts, or Life Skills course with the goal that everyone gets to participate in all of the courses before the end of the summer.  Activities are designed to engage the campers in a variety of ways. During a recent Art class, for example, a magnified version of one youth’s fingerprint was placed behind art paper.  The youth then wrote down characteristics that make them unique, creating a visually striking pattern of text that followed the lines of the fingerprint.

Other youth participate in on-campus employment opportunities, giving them the chance to hone job skills while earning a little extra money for the school year.  The youth employees, who were required to apply for their jobs, help the “counselors” with the day’s camp activities, prepare lunch with the cook in the kitchen, or assist with other work around campus. 

After lunch and a short break, youth participate in a fun outdoor activity such as hiking, miniature golf, or swimming.  Camp Hope will culminate in early August with a group swim, an overnight camping experience at Camp Maranatha, and an end-of-season party.   

Thank you, Centralia staff, for taking that extra step to give the youth a great summer!

Functional Family Therapy Gives a Family the Skills they Need to Communicate

holding hands (with clipping path)Alisa* is 12 and she and her biological father were recently involved with our Functional Family Therapy (FFT) program in St. Louis.

Before FFT, Alisa had been arguing and fighting with many school peers and family members, which led to her getting kicked out of school. Her dad didn’t discipline her and instead often gave very long speeches about why she shouldn’t do what she did, causing Alisa to check out after just a sentence or two. He also often bought her extra things like electronics and jewelry after she would repeatedly ask him and give him “puppy-dog eyes.”

During FFT, the therapist pointed out the patterns that she saw and assessed the functions in the family, noting that dad wanted more connection time than the daughter did (hence the long speeches). Dad was able to see the role he was playing in Alisa’s choices because he was teaching her that she could manipulate people to get what she wanted and to not be satisfied with what she had. The therapist showed the family how they could use their strengths, like a strong family connection and Dad’s advice, in a way that encouraged positive behaviors and practiced small adjustments, like shorter speeches.

Soon, dad was parenting more consistently, keeping his “no means no” and using other things as rewards for good behavior. Alisa also saw how what she was doing brought out a side of herself that she didn’t want to be and changed the way she approached peers. In addition, the therapist practiced skills like anger management, decision-making and communication/listening skills to enhance their interactions and keep them on a positive path. The result was a family that didn’t argue as much and a daughter who was actually listening to her dad’s great advice.

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

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!