Growing Power provides the means for communities to grow and distribute healthy food among their own residents through three important functions: growing demonstrations, education, and food production. Demonstrations come in the form of workshops designed to teach locals of the Midwest, the South, and New England how to grow fresh produce. On the education side, outreach programs for farmers, youth, and entire communities help spread awareness about the importance of community agriculture. Finally, the organization produces food in demonstration greenhouses and rural and urban farms in the Midwest. It distributes the produce and grass-fed meat it produces through 300 family farms as part of the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and to local families through the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program. This way, the people the organization benefits can have access to nutritious food regardless of location, income, or scarecrow phobias.
In 2011 The Interrupters documentary introduced audiences to three Chicagoans whose job it was to walk the streets of their neighborhoods mediating violent disputes. They were part of CeaseFire?Chicago's Cure Violence program?working with other Violence Interrupters to mediate potentially lethal conflicts in the city. In 2013, CeaseFire workers mediated nearly 700 high-risk conflicts, often by physically standing between feuding individuals, putting their lives at risk to make their communities safer.
In addition to its work in Chicago, Cure Violence operates programs in five other Illinois cities and 22 cities across the US, and across four countries. The organization's founder, Dr. Gary Slutkin, is an epidemiologist who approaches violence as an infectious disease that should be treated like any other?with scientifically proven methods. Those include detection, intervention, and behavior modification, combined to alter a community's perspective of violence and stop the problem at its source.
Within violence-plagued neighborhoods, the organization's Violence Interrupters?often former violence perpetrators?detect and mediate potentially lethal conflicts. Outreach Workers, meanwhile, work with high-risk individuals to change the way they think about violence and help them improve their lives within the system. On a larger scale, Cure Violence shifts the discourse within whole communities and society at large, emphasizing a health approach to violence instead of punishment.
The Teen Center is a fresh, new program that offers students a semistructured setting in which to engage the arts, establish new friendships, and bolster a stronger school community. Supporters have secured a dedicated space, time, and a staff person for the endeavor, but budget constraints prevent purchasing the resources and equipment necessary to strengthen the program. Among its needs are visual art supplies and music materials, technological resources, and resources for community-building activities.
Dedicated staff members at Mercy Home for Boys & Girls strive to provide a true home for young people in their care. A venerable Chicago institution since 1887, Mercy Home has sheltered more than 25,000 youth who have suffered abuse, abandonment, the death of a parent, and other challenges. The organization provides around-the-clock care, setting expectations and schedules for youth ages 11 to 21.
Young people in the program are given lodging and meals and sent to school. They can work on homework during study time, and paint or sculpt during art therapy sessions. In addition to the residential program, Mercy Home provides lifelong support and resources such as therapy, scholarships, and career referral for former members after they age out of the program, along with academic support and one-on-one mentoring for other children in need.
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CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Cook County helps protect and advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children involved in court cases. Through its well-trained volunteer advocates, CASA ensures that each child's voice is present in court, with the hope of securing safe, permanent homes where children can grow and thrive. Each advocate champions one child, researching the case and providing valuable information to the court so judges can make the best decisions about the child's future. Advocates work with the child for as long as necessary, which can last from a few months to a few years, but is typically about a year. In the last year, CASA volunteer advocates invested 12,000 hours of advocacy to 483 children in Cook County.
Entrepreneur turned high-school math teacher Steve Mariotti made an interesting discovery when he started teaching in the South Bronx in the '80s. When students from low-income communities were given the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship, they could often easily translate their street smarts to business smarts. Inspired by this realization, and eager to help students at risk of failing or dropping out of school, Mariotti founded the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).
Since its inception in 1987, NFTE has worked with more than 500,000 young people, providing hands-on learning programs that inspire youth from low-income communities to stay in school and discover new opportunities. Entrepreneurship education strengthens foundational skills such as reading, writing, and math, and also equips these students with the necessary tools and knowledge to start businesses in the future or be better prepared to fill existing jobs. NFTE programs are held in cities across the country, including Chicago, the DC region, and Baltimore.
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