Our Chicago: Organizations helping children and families

ByKay Cesinger WLS logo
Sunday, December 24, 2023
Our Chicago
WLS-WLS

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As we celebrate the holidays, we're also celebrating organizations dedicated to helping children and families.

El Valor was born from a mother's desire to create a place for her son who had mental and physical disabilities.

El Valor was born from a mother's desire to create a place for her son who had mental and physical disabilities.

Guadalupe Reyes wanted a place where he would be supported and accepted. Fifty years later, El Valor serves thousands of families across the Chicago area.

"It is it is something that is impressive. As one mom decided that her son deserved so much more than what he had. And El Valor started in the basement of a church and has now grown to serve 4000 children, adults with disabilities and their families per year at 12 different facilities," said Jillian Gonzalez, Executive Director of El Valor. "And that growth has really been focused on the mission of our founder, right. Making sure we're filling gaps for those in need. We saw a gap in early childhood education in the dual language space. We now have four sites that provide daily onsite, early childhood ed in English and Spanish where we serve four meals per day to breakfast, to lunch and snack. Those are cooked on sites and our parents have a say in the food to ensure it's culturally relevant."

El Valor has also been assisting migrants who have come to Chicago in recent months.

"Ever since they started to arrive, we've actually been servicing children at our facilities, in our all day programs," said Gonzalez, "That means parents have access to resources such as parent workshops, baby showers in the community. And now we're in four shelters, providing weekly reading sessions and parenting groups. We we hope to continue growing that. And we're also hosting a coat drive the first week of January to bring new coats to not just the recent arrivals, but everyone served by El Valor, including our adults with disabilities, our children and our families."

Since 1857, Metropolitan Family Services has been helping Chicago area families reach their greatest potential.

Since 1857, Metropolitan Family Services has been helping Chicago area families reach their greatest potential. Over the last 166 years, the organization has grown and expanded, now serving more than 136,000 families in Chicago, Evanston, Skokie, DuPage County and the southwest suburbs. The majority of those families are part of the working poor or lower middle class.

Domonique McCord is the Chief Program Officer for Metropolitan Peace Initiatives, which is part of Metropolitan Family Services.

"We are a comprehensive violence reduction strategy in 27 communities. We have 13 community partners aimed at aimed at supporting those highest at risk of either shooting someone or being shot," said McCord. "We believe that those who do the work should lead the work. And so our individuals who are a part of or employed by our community partners are what we call 'credible messengers.' They are from the community, and that allows them to connect with those that need help in the most meaningful way. And those could be individuals who provide street outreach, victim services and or case management."

The Metropolitan Peace Academy recently opened a permanent location in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

"So the academy the Metropolitan Peace Academy promotes the training and professionalization of our street outreach workers. We also provide training for victim service advocates. And so what that looks like, for example, for our for our street outreach workers, we provide our 18-week course in which they get a college credit with the City Colleges of Chicago. And this curriculum is taught by individuals who do the work and also subject matter experts."

For more information on El Valor or Metropolitan Family Services:

https://elvalor.org/

https://www.metrofamily.org/