Men serve as role models, mentor youth

December 10, 2009 (CHICAGO) For these men, braving the aisles of Walmart is a worthy sacrifice. They are members of the 100 Black Men of Chicago -- a non-profit group of professional men whose primary mission is to mentor African American youth, ( ).

"This is part of the mentoring component really, because we tell our mentees to give back and we tell them it's important everyone has something for Christmas especially," said John Kendall, chairman, 100 Black Men of Chicago.

The group solicits toy donations through local events and purchases additional items-- including warm weather gear and personal toiletries-- using funds raised through corporate sponsorships. They shop for a host of community groups and families in need.

On this day, the men have set up a toy giveaway for children who live at Clara's House -- a shelter for homeless and battered women in the Englewood neighborhood. Clara Kirk, who runs the shelter, says she struggles to raise enough money just to keep the lights and gas on. Without this event, most of the children would get nothing. CG= CLARA KIRK, FOUNDER, CLARA'S HOUSE

"If they were not here, they would be missed because my children would miss the gifts that they bring to them and so would the women," said Clark Kirk. "It's not something that they are faking or pretending. It's something they have done every year for 18 years."

The men say seeing the children's faces light up is gratifying. But knowing that as African American men they are making an impact on their community is what keeps them going.

"Women have always been there, especially black women have always been there with the family, but as you know today a lot of the men are absent," said Kendall. "When we come in, we're coming in with this force and you'll understand that we're trying to make a positive difference."

Other agencies that benefit from the group's toy drive include La Rabida Hospital and Mujeras Latinas En Accion.

100 Black Men of Chicago website

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