Thanks to the Queen of Our Hearts

The Heart of Gold Ball honoring Mary Anne Brown broke records for attendance and revenue

Mary Anne Smiling on Throne ps


Mary Anne was called “The Queen of Our Hearts” and surprised with a throne, cape and scepter, as she received the Heart of Gold Award.

Hephzibah’s 2017 Heart of Gold Ball, on Saturday, March 4, was an evening of gratitude and glowing tributes for Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown, as she received the Heart of Gold Award for outstanding commitment to Hephzibah over the past 40 years. Guests stood to applaud four times throughout the evening and helped raise a record-setting $400,000 to benefit the children and families served by Hephzibah – to whom Mary Anne has devoted her heart and her career.

Bridgeport Art Center’s lovely space was packed with more than 500 guests and twinkling with fairy lights on every table, as Mark Trinka, president of Hephzibah Children’s Trust and a former board member, spoke of Mary Anne’s accomplishments and the lasting impression she leaves on the hearts of those who have worked with her.

Senator Don Harmon issued a proclamation recognizing Mary Anne as a life-long champion of children’s needs, and thanking her on behalf of children and families in the state of Illinois.

Dan Farley, a former Group Home resident, presented Mary Anne with the Heart of Gold Award.

“She let me know that she was there for me, smoothing the path ahead and keeping a watchful eye,” Dan said. “Mary Anne was a beacon of light for me then, and she continues to be on my side.”

Farley recalled the comfort she gave him when he first came to Hephzibah at age 9, during a rough, uncertain stage in his childhood. Now 21 years later, Farley has graduated from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; he lives in Madison, WI, and works as a project manager for a prominent electronic medical records vendor.

Also attending the event were former Hephzibah Home residents, all of whom have stories of how Hephzibah and Mary Anne Brown helped them navigate a critical time in their lives.

An exciting live auction kicked off the evening, including Bulls seats on the floor and premium Hamilton tickets.  Bidders vied for The Sky’s the Limit package – a private helicopter tour of the city, embarking from the recently opened Vertiport facility, which was paired with dinner and wine at Eden, a restaurant launched in November by Jodi Fyfe of Paramount Events.

Hephzibah supporters helped this year’s Heart of Gold Ball exceed expectations in every way – by donating to the auction, attending the event, and sharing heart-felt messages to honor Mary Anne. Many made generous financial contributions to ensure Hephzibah’s legacy of providing hope and help to children.

Click here to view PHOTOS from the event, and here to see hilarious live-action GIFS.

We are grateful to an outstanding Gala Committee whose hard work was evident in every detail. Gwen Tonino was our stellar Event Chairperson, supported by Committee leaders Jen Weaver, Auction, Kathy Malpede, Event Production, and Donna Rolf, Sponsorship, and hard-working Committee members: Laura Connelly, Christina Ewing, Kim Green, John Grimes, Lisa Grimes, Kim Lutz, Kenna MacKinnon, and Cam Niederman. We could not have found a more dedicated, thoughtful group.

For coming together this year to help pay tribute to our special Heart of Gold Award recipient, Mary Anne Brown, we thank these  Honorary Committee members: Graham and Brooke Allen, Tony and Jean Barbato, Cuyler and Julie Brown, Kevin and Linda Conway, Bruce Elegant, Ron and Cathy Fox, Maria Garvy, Sr. Michelle Germanson, O.P., Senator Don Harmon, Marty and Mary Lou Noll, Dave and Lynde O’Brien, Perry and Diane Pero, Brent and Maureen Stratton, and Jack Vainisi.

Please assist us in showing our appreciation to the generous Event Sponsors who helped making the evening possible. Silver Heart Sponsors: Chicago Association of Realtors, Hephzibah Children’s Trust and Retail Properties of America. Bronze Heart Sponsors: Maria Garvy and William Keffer, Perry and Diane Pero, The PrivateBank and The Sidley Austin Foundation.

Table Sponsors: Graham and Brooke Allen, Jackie Barlow, Max and Mary Anne Brown, Sherry and Paul Carbery, Carleton Hotel/Ron and Cathy Fox, Cushman Wakefield/Eric and Lisa Sorensen, Shaun and Lisa Emerson, Christina Ewing and Jim Christofferson, Forest Park National Bank, Gerber Family, Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose Ltd., The Horton Group, John and Nancy Ide, Shaun and Roberta Lane, Byron Lee and Audrey Williams-Lee, McCarthy and Trinka, Noel and Michele Moore, Dave and Lynde O’Brien, Rush Oak Park Hospital, Cheryl ter Horst and Burt Constable, Pietro and Gwen Tonino, Lance and Mary Tortorici, US Bank, Tom Yates and Diane Ratekin. Friend Sponsors: Terry and Linda Brown, Community Bank of Oak Park  River Forest, Kevin and Linda Conway, Senator Don Harmon, Jim and Kathy Malpede, Oak Design & Construction, Amy Paris/The Pet Health People LLC, Donna Rolf, Brent and Maureen Stratton, Juliet and Rocky Yera.

Many thanks to everyone who helped support the Heart of Gold Ball and the children of Hephzibah.

Teddies Bear Love to Kids

Avis Budget Group gives a personalized bear to welcome each child who comes to live at Hephzibah

Employees of Avis Budget Group, including Jim VanVliet and Mike Flynn have a strong connection to the kids at Hephzibah and seek ways to help however they can.

Employees of Avis Budget Group have a strong connection to the kids at Hephzibah; they host special outings and go out of their way to help.

For 10 years Avis Budget Group employees, friends, and families have partnered with Hephzibah Children’s Association to provide a personalized teddy bear to each child who comes to live at Hephzibah Home. The welcome bear is a special tradition that helps ease a child’s transition to the Group Home with a snuggly friend wearing a t-shirt that bears his or her own name.

On Friday, February 24th, Juanita Avila, of Avis Budget Group hosted an event with guests from ABG, Hephzibah, and representatives from 800BEAR. The partners celebrated with a fancy cake and the announcement that 234 additional bears have been purchased – enabling the welcome bear project to continue for another decade!

Thank you to our wonderful long-time partner, Avis Budget Group!

Rock ‘N Roll Raises $50,000

The Western Auxiliary Board's annual party was a hit with guests and a home run for Hephzibah!

Penny Latta, Lisa Diomede, Megan Scheck and Tami Wanless are part of the Western Auxiliary Board whose members organized the Rock 'N Roll event.

Penny Latta, Lisa Diomede, Megan Scheck and Tami Wanless are part of the Western Auxiliary Board whose members organized the Rock ‘N Roll event.

At its annual fundraiser on Friday, Feb. 10, an enthusiastic crowd of 180 guests helped Hephzibah’s Western Auxiliary Board raise more than $50,000!  Rock ‘n Roll for your Heart & Soul at Glen Oak Country Club rocked past midnight with three bands, auctions, appetizers, games and more. The annual event doubled the amount raised in 2016. In addition to silent auction items that guests could bid on, there was an exciting live auction featuring a long weekend in Galena, the chance to ride a Harley motorcycle for a week, and a party with ice time at Johnny’s Ice House.
In addition to fundraisers, the volunteer group also organizes events with children who live in Hephzibah’s Group Home. Learn more about this dynamic board.

A Tribute to Mary Anne Brown

Marge Tye Zuba shares her surprise at the joy and laughter she found behind Hephzibah Home's French doors

three girls on playground equipmentMessages have been flowing in steadily since Hephzibah’s Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown, announced that she will retire in June 2017. At the gala on March 4th, Mary Anne will receive Hephzibah’s Heart of Gold Award.  — an honor she originated, and one she has given to many generous supporters. Marge Tye Zuba, a writer and educator who worked closely with Mary Anne, penned a tribute we’d like to share.

“Describing Hephzibah as an orphanage housing 26 children, ages 4 to 12, who have experienced horrific abuse and neglect at the hands of parents and foster parents, conjures up deep sadness and outrage. And, if you were fortunate to visit Hephzibah, you might steel yourself before entering, assuming that, within those doors, you would find little to smile about.  And you would be right. There is not a “little” to smile about.  There is a LOT, to smile about and to laugh about. Hephzibah is a happy home!  You won’t step over the threshold without sensing the joy, the peace and the fun of Hephzibah.

Mary Anne Brown’s contribution to society can be seen in the lives of the many children who have lived at Hephzibah Children’s Association over the past forty years she has been the executive director.

Take ten steps inside and you will find the French doors that open to Mary Anne Brown’s office. Over these past forty years those doors have been open, and often, emanating from within, you would hear almost raucous laughter from behind the desk of this woman whose head and heart have created a safe home, a warm haven and a new beginning for so many children who have suffered the label “ward of the state of Illinois.”

Believing in the goodness of children and knowing that there is great resilience within young broken lives, Mary Anne has surrounded herself with a staff of highly competent, passionately committed and creatively adept staff. Under her leadership, rebuilding lives begins one day at a time.   It is, for many of the children, the first real home they have known.

Unable, or unwilling to accept the status quo, Mary Anne has sought out opportunities to enhance and enrich lives. Believing that academics are most critical for these children, Mary Anne initiated an Academic Advisory Board. She solicited funds to hire an educational coordinator to work with the children who attend the Oak Park Public Schools. Through the years she has crafted a strong partnership with District 97 that continues to this day.

Hephzibah Children’s Association is one of those places where no one expects the focus to be on reading…It is an orphanage! And yet, everyone who works there believes and embraces the value, joy and transformational power that reading has in the lives of these young children.  Reading is one of the critical issues she has concentrated on over the past six years.  Books, tutors, a reading clinic at University of Illinois at Chicago…all of these are just a small part of the daily celebration of reading.  While children in foster care often have many social and psychological needs, Mary Anne Brown recognizes the critical need for each child to be able to read.  As she puts it, “Reading is the ticket.”

Mary Anne Brown is extremely non-linear. While, in the middle of planning for the sixth Hephzibah Summer Reading Academy, she points to a box of cowboy hats that just arrived…”Wouldn’t the kids love a rodeo?  Let’s have one.”  And within hours, staff has secured the services of a downstate stable and horses will arrive outside Hephzibah’s door, along with carnival games, etc., to celebrate the end of the school year in June.   While closing off a boulevard may be daunting to some, it is incidental to Mary Anne.  For her, it is about the bigger picture.  For her, it has always been about the children.  It is about each of them stepping into that stirrup and riding high down the street…It is about a photo taken of each one.  It is about a memory to treasure.

And, then there are the arts. How Mary Anne loves the arts.  “Yes, the children must have a summer art experience” she says.  And, again, within hours, through community networking, artists are sought out, dates are determined and so began the five year Colorful Days Festival, providing arts every Thursday for nine weeks in the summer.  And so, the children were introduced to the harmonica, painting murals, gospel singing, dancing, face painting and drumming.

Over the years, many of the children at Hephzibah celebrated “family” at Sibling Camp. Many had siblings they had not seen in a long time.  Mary Anne’s idea of a Sibling camp took shape quickly and now the annual camp finds brothers and sisters treasuring those “taken for granted” sibling moments of sharing stories, taking walks, and swimming together.

There are awards, many awards that Mary Anne has received. Yet, there are none as rich or meaningful as seeing Jon read for the first time, or hearing Tony play the harmonica, or seeing Michael on top of the Pinto pony.  Mary Anne’s joy is about that summer afternoon in August at Thatcher Woods where 26 children celebrated the end of the summer reading academy by releasing the butterflies they nurtured from caterpillars.  Her joy is about hearing Julia referring to the butterfly who didn’t fly away quickly and stayed on the grass for a while “He’s not hurt.  He’s just scared about being free.”

We are most fortunate to have such a woman within our midst. And, honoring her is about honoring the children for whom she lives and breathes and with whom she laughs and loves.”

Thank you to Marge Tye Zuba for sharing this tribute. It’s not too late to take part in the Heart of Gold Ball by attending, placing an ad in the program, or making a donation in honor of Mary Anne Brown’s Heart of Gold Award and her enduring contribution to Hephzibah. The ad book deadline is February 15th. Learn more.

Executive Director to Retire

Hephzibah's iconic Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown, has announced that she will retire in June

mab-retirement-picture_optMary Anne Brown, Executive Director of Hephzibah Children’s Association for more than 40 years, has announced she will retire on June 30, 2017. Under Mary Anne’s leadership Hephzibah expanded from a day care center with an annual budget of $100,000 to a nationally recognized child welfare agency with a full complement of interrelated services and an annual budget exceeding $9 million dollars.

 “A Home With a Heart,” is how many describe Hephzibah, thanks to Mary Anne’s compassion for children and determination to help them succeed. As an iconic leader who greets each child by name in her sunny office at 946 North Boulevard, she has shaped the lives of generations of families, while inspiring an entire community to join the cause.

The Oak Park, IL-based agency’s programs include two group homes: a short-term diagnostic center for abused and neglected children and a residential program for children ages 3 to 11. The agency also supports more than 70 specialized foster homes throughout the state, assists families in crises, offers after school care for over 500 children, and provides Head Start and early Head Start programs for preschoolers from low-income families.

“Mary Anne is leaving big shoes to fill,” said Tom Yates, president of Hephzibah’s Board of Directors.

“She has spent 40 years passionately fighting for children and expanding Hephzibah’s offerings to serve an increasing number of children and families and we are grateful for her years of dedicated and tireless leadership. Mary Anne has made Hephzibah a model of how to care for children in an effective and caring manner. We will miss her spirit and enthusiasm.”

During her tenure, Mary Anne initiated innovative programs including a Summer Reading Academy to boost academic performance, the Hephzibah Huskies high school volunteer group that connects kids to the community, HeartMates who mentor group home children on a weekly basis, and Camp HepSibah, a unique summer camp that reunites siblings separated by foster care for a week of shared fun and healing.

People return to Hephzibah with stories of how the agency, as envisioned and led by Mary Anne Brown, helped their family navigate difficult times, how it provided high-quality affordable day care so they could work, or offered a safe haven in their childhood.

Mary Anne has received leadership awards from Concordia University in River Forest, IL, the Oak Park Education Foundation and the Illinois Humane Society. She was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Dominican University and was identified by Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Women in Chicago.”

She will be missed by all those in our community who came in contact with the myriad of services provided by Hephzibah. Her knowledge, expertise and warm and outgoing manner are responsible for forming Hephzibah into the organization it is today. She is known by all to be a fierce, loving champion of children.

The organization plans to honor the work and accomplishments of Mary Anne Brown by awarding her with the Heart of Gold Award at this year’s Heart of Gold Ball. Leading from the Heart: A Tribute to Mary Anne Brown, is the theme for this year’s event which will be held on March 4, 2017 at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago. To learn more about the event and how to share your message of gratitude, contact Gina Donlin, gdonlin@hephzibahhome.org, 708-649-7140.

 

Unlocking the Potential of Oak Park’s Youngest Learners

Hephzibah's programs for children ages 0-5 ensure that every child in our community - regardless of family income - gets the best possible start in life.

Heph15-4708_opt for websiteRecent advances in neuroscience tell us that a child’s brain goes through an amazing period of development between birth and age three—producing 700 new neural connections every second. Yet children born into poverty have slower rates of brain growth. By the age of four, an achievement gap of about 18 months separates many of these children from their more affluent peers.
Studies show that high-quality learning experiences during the first five years of life can help prevent this achievement gap, increase high school graduation rates and even enable children to become better team players and problem-solvers later in life. Yet, despite these documented benefits, the U.S. currently ranks 32nd out of 39 developed countries worldwide in enrollment rates for early childhood education. Within the U.S., Illinois ranks a dismal 29th out of 51 states.
To meet the urgent unmet need for early childhood education in Oak Park and surrounding communities, Hephzibah began offering Head Start services for children between the ages of three and five in 2011 and launched an Early Head Start program for children from birth to three in 2015.
One hundred percent of the 101 children served by our Head Start programs this past year met or exceeded developmental benchmarks in social-emotional, language, math and physical development. Learn more.

Kerry Wood is a Hit With the Kids

It isn't every day a Cubs pitcher tours the Hephzibah residence and helps decorate cookies.

Kerry Wood, Mary Anne Brown, and Graham Allen.

Kerry Wood, Mary Anne Brown, and Graham Allen.

When Kerry Wood visited Hephzibah Home in December, the smiles and double-takes from adult staff members were the main clue you’d have that Wood is a famous athlete. The former Chicago Cubs pitcher, tied for the major league record of striking out 20 hitters in one game, is a modest guy with a sincere desire to help kids. Wood, a father of three, put the Hephzibah kids at ease by asking questions, listening to their stories and sitting down at a table to decorate cookies.

Still, the young residents between the ages of 6 and 11 who live at Hephzibah’s Group Home in Oak Park, IL, knew Kerry Wood was someone special. The young tour guides were eager to show Kerry their rooms as they vied to hold his hand. Hephzibah’s residence is a safe refuge for 26 children who have been removed from situations involving abuse or neglect.

“With the kids giving you a tour, you get a look at their daily life and what’s offered to them here,” said Wood. “I’m so glad a place like this exists. It’s amazing.”

“I love the kitchen table area because it feels like a real home,” Wood said, when he sat down with eight kids in Hephzibah’s Diagnostic Treatment Center to spread frosting and sprinkles. The red and blue C that Wood wrote on his cookie drew admiration from fellow cookie decorators.

“That looks good. Eat it!” one boy said. And Kerry did.

Wood and his wife, Sarah, share a commitment to improving the lives of children in Chicago, which led them to start the Wood Family Foundation in 2011. The Foundation supports efforts that empower youth and families, based on the belief that a child’s potential should never be underestimated.

Wood’s visit was suggested by his friend, Graham Allen, president of Sloan Valve Co., who has been a long-time supporter of Hephzibah. Yes, that’s the same Sloan as Sloan Park — the Cubs’ spring training ballpark in Mesa, AZ. Allen serves on the board of directors for Wood’s Foundation.

Allen’s tie to Hephzibah began through his childhood friend, Cuyler Brown, son of Hephzibah’s Executive Director, Mary Anne Brown. Friend-to-friend connections are at the heart of Hephzibah’s network of support.

“Once you visit Hephzibah, you realize what a special place it is and how it really can change these kids’ lives,” Allen said.

True Tales of Generosity

Donors go to great lengths to make wishes come true for the children of Hephzibah

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We know that the holidays are not all about toys. But for kids with few happy childhood memories, it can be especially thrilling to see a wish fulfilled. Some heroic adults will do whatever it takes to avoid disappointing a child at the holidays. Here are just a few examples from our dedicated donors:
Each year for the past several years, Sandra Castillo-Meza and her husband Ricardo Meza have donated more than $1,000 worth of toys from Hephzibah’s wish list. They are owners of On-Line Communications, a family business Ricardo started when he came to the U.S.  Each year in November, Sandra contacts Deb Poe, Hephzibah’s Donor Relations Manager, to get a wish list of specific items.
This year Sandra searched high and low for a Barbie Malibu House, only to find it on the Toys R Us website for in-store pick up only. Only 4 states offered the in-store option and Illinois was not one of them. Sandra saw Colorado had in-store pick up and called her big brother. “How far away is this Toys R Us from you?” she asked.
Her brother, Adrian Castillo, was happy to help. He bought the Barbie house in Colorado over the weekend and shipped it to Sandra on Monday.
“I’m so excited and relieved,” Sandra said. “I would have been heartbroken if we could not have given this little girl her gift.”
Long time donor, Debbie King, from David King and Associates in Oak Park, is known for her ability to procure hard-to-find items.  Over the years she has searched high and low for special requests; this year she ordered a basketball shirt from Japan to fulfill one child’s wish!
Last season one toy was requested by five separate boys in the Group Home. This toy was so popular, it quickly sold out across the country. Donors who shopped early were able to get it, but several were not. A volunteer told some friends about the problem, and they decided to chip in, paying twice the retail price on Amazon to make sure that three of the boys were not left out of the gift-opening glee.
Sometimes our donors are so passionate in their support of Hephzibah, they spark generosity in others without realizing it. This happened last week to Jim VanVliet, a long-time Hephzibah supporter. He was driving a customer at O’Hare airport and began discussing weather. The man said Wednesday’s forecast was for snow.
Jim said, “I hope not, I have a special party to go to that night.”
Jim told the man about the Bring-A-Gift party Hephzibah hosts each year to provide toys for children and families in need. Before they parted ways, the man pressed two hundred-dollar bills in Jim’s hand
and told him to share it with Hephzibah.
“I asked for a business card so we could send a thank you and he told me ‘no, it’s really not about that,’” Jim said.
Thank you to
everyone who helped make 2016 a wonderful year for the children of Hephzibah. This generosity is the type that spreads from one person to another. For that, we are truly grateful. We couldn’t do it without your heart-felt commitment. Do you have a true tale of generosity you’d like to share? Email Gina Donlin with your story.

Thanks for Giving

An energetic team of high school students helped us spread the word on Giving Tuesday

img_5836_optThe Huskie Helpers at Oak Park-River Forest High School helped Hephzibah’s Giving Tuesday efforts this year by collecting donations before school, at lunch periods, and after school in downtown Oak Park. With canisters in hand, more than 30 smiling volunteers in purple t-shirts took donations and passed out stickers and candy to help spread the word about Hephzibah. Thank you to everyone who waved hello or made a contribution.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving, designated to create awareness for charitable organizations at the holiday season. For more information about the Huskie Helpers or becoming a volunteer at Hephzibah, contact Hannah Weigel.

Volunteers Inspire Us

Congratulate our four Heart Print Award winners on their commitment to making a difference.

Hephzibah kids decorated signs with the winners names: Harper Lane, Anneliese Vukotich, Anton Hutchinson and Ben Melickian.

Hephzibah kids decorated signs with the winners names: Harper Lane, Anneliese Vukotich, Anton Hutchinson and Ben Melickian.

“You enrich our community. You make people feel proud to be Oak Parkers,” said Anan Abu-Taleb, Oak Park’s Village President, to a group of high school volunteers at Hephzibah’s Parent Open House. “Organizations like Hephzibah would not be sustainable without volunteers.”

On October 2, Hephzibah gave Heart Print Awards to four outstanding high school seniors who have invested their time helping kids in our programs: Anton Hutchinson, Harper Lane, Ben Melickian, and Anneliese Vukotich.

Anton Hutchinson, a Fenwick High School senior, began volunteering at Hephzibah as a sophomore because of his mother’s involvement with the Western Auxiliary Board. He has been a big brother in the Group Home for three years. His welcoming, easy going personality helps kids feel comfortable very quickly.  Anton chose not to be matched with one child because he enjoys spending time with everyone.

Harper Lane began volunteering in the after school Day Care program when she was still in middle school. She joined the Huskie Helpers club at OPRF High School, continued to work in Hephzibah’s Day Care program during the school year and the summer, and recently became a big sister to a child in the Group Home.  Known for her ability to adapt to any situation with a smile, Harper is an encouraging friend to kids and a strong leader among her peers.

Ben Melickian started volunteering with Hephzibah as a big brother during his sophomore year. His relationship with his little sibling in the Group Home has grown into a strong, supportive friendship. The two are always outside playing basketball or running around. Last year Ben began volunteering twice a week instead of once a week. He has shown maturity beyond his years and outstanding dedication to Hephzibah.

Anneliese Vukotich has enhanced the Day Care program at Longfellow school with kindness and acceptance since 2015. With weekly visits throughout summer and the school year, she has been a consistent role model and special friend to the kids.
“Their faces light up when she enters the room,” said Leslie Taylor, Longfellow’s Site Director.

At the Open House, the award winners received t-shirts and signs decorated by the kids. Guests toured the Group Home, enjoyed shaved ice treats from Tropical Sno, and heard words of congratulations from Anan Abu-Taleb and River Forest President, Cathy Aducci.

Abu-Taleb said that when he first learned about Hephzibah, he was blown away. He thanked volunteers for their time and for helping children secure a stronger future.

“The feelings and emotions that fill this house can be felt from the street. It can be observed through the interaction and the bond between the volunteers and the children.  It can be seen in the eyes of the kids that come through here, volunteers and the alumni that return with open arms bearing messages and gifts of thanks,” Abu-Taleb said.

“I am here on behalf of the village to say thank you. This place inspires me. Your work inspires me and you inspire our whole community.”

Congratulations to our HeartPrint Award winners and thank you to all the volunteers who are making a difference in the lives of so many children. Learn more about volunteering at Hephzibah.

Tom Dart Shares Insight on Youth

The Cook County Sheriff will speak at Hephzibah's Annual Meeting on Friday, September 16

tom-dart-enews1_optJoin us at our Annual Meeting on Friday, September 16 at 9:00 am, when Cook County Sheriff, Tom Dart talks about how the community can get involved to help keep kids out of the juvenile justice system. Dart brings an unparalleled perspective having served as a prosecutor and state legislator before becoming Sheriff in 2006. He serves as chief executive of the second largest department in the U.S., behind Los Angeles. Dart has focused efforts on protecting the most vulnerable members of society.

As a legislator Dart re-wrote child welfare bills, wrote the state’s Sexually Violent Predators Commitment Act and led the state’s first-ever study connecting homelessness and prostitution. As Sheriff he has introduced sweeping changes at the Cook County Jail, the nation’s largest single site jail, aggressively re-structured the Sheriff’s Police force, and improved operations of the Court Services.

The Annual Meeting will be held at Hephzibah Home, 946 North Blvd in Oak Park. Visitors are welcome to attend. Please RSVP to Gina Donlin, Special Events and Communications Manager.

 

Women’s Guild Makes Kids Feel Special

Having the right backpack is no small thing to a child headed back to school

Womens Guild enewsKids don’t just love attention, they need it.  Being listened to is one way a child develops a sense of her own value. At back-to-school time, when all 26 kids in Hephzibah’s Group Home are preparing to return to school, it can be challenging to get each one equipped and ready to go.
Oak Park Women’s Guild members help Hephzibah with this task by making sure that each child has the backpack of his or her choice. Members host a popsicle party in July and interview kids about their backpack preferences. It’s a great way to start kids thinking about their likes and dislikes, and what makes them unique as individuals.
A few weeks later, Guild members return with backpacks labeled with each child’s name. Some backpack requests such as Mutant Ninja Turtles are easy to find, while others may require an internet search. Guild members take delight in granting special wishes! Having just the right backpack gives kids a boost of confidence heading into the new school year.
“Members of the Women’s Guild are enthusiastic, nonjudgmental and magnificent!” said Mary Anne Brown, Hephzibah’s Executive Director. “We are so lucky to have them as supporters.”
Children who come to live at Hephzibah have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect; they range from 3 to 12 years of age. Women’s Guild members also act as personal shoppers to provide the clothes and shoes that each child needs when entering our Group Home. When children receive items that have been selected especially for them, they feel so special. We are grateful to the Oak Park Women’s Guild for supporting Hephzibah since 1999.

Benefit Concert Raises $1,200

Thanks to everyone who took part in the Jackson Mud Benefit Concert on August 13th!

IMG_9221Three cheers for the Jackson Mud band! The Chicago blues group led by Josh Caterer performed a free concert on Saturday, August 13th at 931 Lake Street, in the parking lot of Calvary Memorial Church. Concert goers donated more than $1,200 to Hephzibah Children’s Association.

At 5 pm, just as a perfect summer day was drawing to a close, people gathered with blankets and lawn chairs to hear some classic blues. The scene was relaxed and neighborly with seniors tapping their toes alongside babies in strollers. People sat down to chat and enjoy the evening while volunteers cooked up $2 burgers at the concession stand, kids decorated the pavement with chalk drawings, and a casual bag-toss game took place on the sidelines.
Jackson Mud’s easy mix of old favorites and newer tunes was well received by the audience. Caterer, a Chicago- area musician best known for his role in the band Smoking Popes, currently serves as Calvary Memorial’s pastor of worship and music.
“The concert was a way for everyone in the community to support the outstanding work being done here in Oak Park by groups such as Hephzibah,” said Jonny Cummings, pastor of local and global outreach at Calvary Memorial.
Some members of the congregation serve as foster parents; others have gotten to know Hephzibah through volunteering to provide Sunday suppers at the Group Home. And although the event took place in the church parking lot, its goal was not to promote a particular faith, but to say thank you to Oak Park.  Thanks to everyone who supported this wonderful evening!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake Sale is September 10

The Oak Park Auxiliary Board's Annual Bake Sale is a sweet way to support Hephzibah

bake sale logoLooking for a delicious treat? Check out our pop-up bake shop on September 10 between 7 am and 1 pm at the Oak Park Farmer’s Market, 460 Lake Street. The members of  Hephzibah’s Oak Park Auxiliary Board will sell cookies, cakes, brownies, muffins, pies, gluten-free bakery items and other fan favorites. For best selection, get there early.

Would you like to help us with the bake sale? Please consider providing baked goods or signing up to help on sale day. Contact Lauren Dain, Bake Sale Chair at ldain@yahoo.com

The Bake Sale is also a great way to meet some Auxiliary Board members and learn about joining this dynamic group of volunteers. The group meets monthly to plan activities with Hephzibah’s kids and support fundraising to benefit our agency’s many programs.  To get involved, contact Hannah Weigel, Volunteer Manager.

Download Bake sale 2016 flyer

Download Bake-sale-details-and-guidelines

 

Race to Fund Technology

Help us promote greater access to technology by supporting Terri's Race on Sunday, October 2

Terri's relatives gather for the race. Back row: Nathan Race (son), Brandon Johnson (nephew), Mariel Race (daughter), Jason Race (son), Jim Neufeldt (father). Front row: Cathy Neufeldt (sister), Tasia Race (daughter).

Terri’s relatives gather for the race. Back row: Nathan Race (son), Brandon Johnson (nephew), Mariel Race (daughter), Jason Race (son), Jim Neufeldt (father). Front row: Cathy Neufeldt (sister), Tasia Race (daughter).

Terri Race’s legacy of giving kids the gift of technology continues at Hephzibah with the donation of $6,354 which enabled the Group Home to add five new iMac computers to our technology room. Mrs. Race was a River Forest resident with a generous heart and a desire to promote greater access to educational technology.
The donation was made through the Terri Race Educational Technology Fund, founded her husband Charlie and four children: Jason, Mariel, Nathan and Tasia. After Terri lost her battle to leukemia in 2010, they launched a running race to raise money that would support a fund in her honor and continue her quest to provide everyone greater access to technology.
Terri’s Race takes place Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., beginning and ending at Lincoln School, 511 Park Avenue, River Forest, IL.  Participants are invited to run, walk or rollerblade through the 3K course that Terri followed for her daily workouts. Use this link to register for the 5th Annual Race at $30 per person, or make a donation to the fund.
Terri was an inspiration to friends and family, always helpful and determined to see a project through to the end. She moved to River Forest in 1981, retired from a banking career in 1986, but didn’t stay on the sidelines for long. In 2000, when her kids were enrolled in public school, she took a job as Technology Aide for School District 90 in River Forest. It was a time when schools everywhere were challenged with embracing emerging technology in ways that would improve education.
Terri was completely self-taught when it came to learning to use Mac Computers. She became the “go-to” person for installing hardware and training teachers and students to use new software programs. Terri was devoted to the district’s technology initiative and spread her enthusiasm about the endless possibilities of technology for use by all ages.
Thank you for the new computers – an exciting addition to Hephzibah’s technology program. Volunteer Technology Mentors work with children at the Group Home each week to help them master vital computer skills. The new equipment will be put to excellent use. Join Terri’s Race on October 2 and help raise money for more technology donations!

Party Puts the Fun in B-T-S

Belmont Village residents have planned a special event to help ease the transition back to school

belmont village websiteDon’t say it! Not many kids are ready to hear the words back to school. The residents at Belmont Village of Oak Park are ready – and that’s a good thing for Hephzibah foster families. Belmont Village is helping us host a Back-to-School pizza party to help ease the inevitable end to summer and equip foster families and other families in our programs with the school supplies kids will need this fall.

Belmont Village residents and team members are busy making brightly colored gifts bags for the children and families who attend the party. They’ll set the stage with festive Crayola colors, pizza and decorations, and some Belmont Village residents will attend the August event to help hand out gifts.  This is not the first time Belmont Village residents have been involved helping Hephzibah; members of the Memory Care unit have done several projects with our Group Home kids, such as making birthday treat bags that the children can bring to school for classroom celebrations.

“Our relationship with Hephzibah has been an enriching, rewarding experience for everyone involved,” said Patricia Porter, Community Relations, Belmont Village.  “Our residents love doing projects that keep them engaged in helping others, and have enjoyed meeting the kids from Hephzibah when they visit.”

To make the party even better, volunteers from Your Children’s Bookshelf, a division of House of Light, LLC will bring a selection of books so kids can choose several titles to keep.

At the Back-to-School party, foster families will have a chance to “shop” for free school supplies from a selection of items collected by groups such as Red Hen Bread, Oak Park, IL, and GES Global Experience Specialists, Hodgkins, IL.  In addition, The Mattress Firm has donated school supplies as part of its Foster Kids program.

“A great network of donors and supporters like these allow us to provide important resources to children and families who need help,” said Deb Poe, Donor Relations Manager at Hephzibah.  Thanks to everyone for making it more fun to head back to school.