An emotional goodbye to Hull House

January 27, 2012 2:46:43 PM PST
After more than a century of helping Chicago residents, the Jane Addams Hull House closed its doors for good.

The Hull House will put off filing for bankruptcy until Monday so that checks can clear. But services at the historical agency ended Friday. The 120-year-old organization provided foster care, domestic violence counseling and job training to 60,000 adults, children and families each year.

The Hull House's Parkway Community House has been part of the Woodland Community for decades. The most popular services at Parkway Community House helped children. Employees and parents say the programs truly saved lives.

"Everybody plays here and its safe here. But if the center closes down and everybody be in the street and be more danger and everything," Ariel Gonzales said.

"They shoot all the time around here. But mostly in the evening, so he opens about 6 p.m. so you know they are safe from 6 to 8:30 p.m.," Maritza Gonzales, parent, said.

Tony Warren started working with kids at Parkway Community House as a teenager. Concerns about Warren's future are trumped by the future of the children with whom he worked.

"It's not about a paycheck for me. It's about the kids. What are they going to become without a place like this where people care about them?" Warren said.

Hundreds of small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs will no longer be able to turn to Parkway for support at the Small Business Development Center.

"I'm very concerned because we did a lot of handholding. When it was necessary to hold hand, we did. So I'm concerned a lot of them won't finish the process," Kathleen Robbins, Parkway Community House, said.

At the headquarters, employees said emotional goodbyes. The Hull House employed about 300 people. Some blame mismanagement and neglect for the charity's demise. When the doors close Friday, employees say they're walking out without severance pay, health insurance or owed vacation time; Employees learned the agency was closing just the day before. A consultant said the money simply ran out sooner than they thought it would.

"I got my tissue. It's very emotional for all of us," Barbara Becker said.

Hull House officials say fewer donations and the recession led to the end of an era. Hull House board chairman Steve Saunders said the bad economy is to blame.

"The board has worked for the past two years analyzing every opportunity to save and trim costs, increase funding, but we were trapped by a very bad economy," Saunders said.

Terrence Rich has turned to Hull House throughout his life. The 20-year-old college student lives independently and is already employed.

"You have one person out you have a million who are successful but you have a million more people out here who need the help and they can't get it," Rich said.


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