United Way's new model focuses on families

March 26, 2013 3:33:54 PM PDT
The United Way of Metropolitan Chicago is well known for its investments in social programs. Its new model focuses on families -- one neighborhood at a time.

Brighton Park is the inaugural network for the new program, Live United Neighborhood Network. Shields Middle School is one of three neighborhood schools that will serve as hubs for access to services, as are Burroughs Elementary School and Nathan Davis School.

"It's our intent to focus in on neighborhoods with significant need, low-income areas in the Chicago metro region," Wendy Duboe, president and CEO, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, said.

The program is kicking off in Brighton Park -- the city's fastest growing neighborhood. It will spread to about 40 communities by the year 2020. The next neighborhood targeted will stretch beyond city limits.

"Poverty is moving to the suburbs. Poverty is moving from the city neighborhoods to suburban areas and there are not a lot of organizations like United Way in the suburban areas so we're very excited to launch that network," Duboe said.

The new initiative aims to increase access in the areas of education, income and health services -- for students as well as parents. These parents are learning English as a second language while others are picking up tips about nutrition and healthy cooking.

"The reason why I got involved is because I know that we need to live healthier lives especially me that I need to lose weight and I need to live healthy," Irma Mora, parent, said.

The Brighton Park neighborhood council is the lead partner agency. It works to coordinate services and engage parents in the neighborhood schools.

"All of the studies have indicated that if a parent is engaged in the school, the more successful the school is going to be, the more successful the student outcome is going to be and so we've come up with strategies," Patrick Brosnan, Brighton Park neighborhood, said, "Where we have the capacity to implement programs that we haven't had the capacity to implement before.

The United Way is the largest non-profit agency in the world. It expects to answer the immediate crisis needs of one million people annually in the Chicago-area alone. Learn more about the program at www.liveunitedchicago.org/neighborhoodnetwork