Onward House Families, Staff, Auxiliary Board Celebrate at the Annual Holiday Party

Posted December 2008

Holiday Party 6

Christmas came to the Onward House-West Town location a little early this year as parents, staff and Auxiliary Board members celebrated the annual Holiday Party on December 17, 2008. Partygoers of all ages were treated to pizza, soda and an assortment of baked holiday treats.

The sounds of Christmas Carols and children’s singing were heard throughout the classrooms. Auxiliary Board members, teachers and parents engaged in variety of crafts and games with the children—to entertain them until Santa stopped by to offer good tidings and some early gifts.

Just as important to the event were the 11 “invisible Santas” who donated toys as part of the Onward House Holiday Gift Program. The donors, comprised of various groups and interests, purchased toys to give to each of the 425 children enrolled in Onward House’s West Town and Belmont Cragin locations and those enrolled with our Partnership Providers.

Whether it was baking cookies, playing games or buying toys to make sure a child has a gift under the Christmas tree this holiday season, this year’s Holiday Party would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the Onward Community—our families, staff and supporters. Onward House would like to thank the Auxiliary Board, our teachers and everyone who bought gifts for our families this year. To view more photos of the event, click here.

Happy Holidays to All from Onward Neighborhood House!


High School Food Drive helps to keep Onward Families, West Town Residents Fed this Holiday Season

Posted December 2008

Food Pantry 3

This year marks the 34th year that Glenbrook South High School has donated food to the Onward House Food Pantry. On November 25, 2008, three school busses loaded with non-perishable foods arrived at the Onward House West Town facility as part of the Holiday Food Bag Program.

Food Pantry 2

By the time the first bus arrived in the late afternoon, 35 community volunteers and Onward House employees eagerly stood by to unload the foodstuffs. The volunteers worked together with vigor to unload all of the food in a short two hours time.

Food Pantry 1

After unloading, foods were sorted and bags were prepared for distribution to the 83 Onward House families who use our services at the West Town and Belmont Cragin locations in addition to the volunteers involved. The surplus of food not distributed for Thanksgiving is redirected into inventory for general distribution in the Food Pantry and used for Christmas baskets for families enrolled at the two facilities.

Howard Romanek, a retired Glenbrook South teacher and long-time Board Member, recalls how far the food drive has come from its humble beginnings. "In December of '74, we said 'Let's have a food drive'" he remembers. "That first year, all of the food fit in two cars." Since then, net donations have increased exponentially over the years and it has been estimated that over 300,000 pounds of food have been donated to Onward House on behalf of Glenbrook South High School.

The current need for food donations is greater than ever. A report distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that consumers should expect food prices to rise 5 to 6 percent this year-the largest annual increase since 1990. Onward House has witnessed the effects of high food prices firsthand; the number of households using the Food Pantry has increased 22 percent and the number of individuals 21 percent. In light of these increases, the total poundage of food purchased from the Greater Chicago Food Depository increased by only 11 percent.

Food Pantry 4

Onward House would like to thank the Glenbrook South High School for their generosity and continued commitment to advancing our mission. The efforts of supporters like Glenbrook South have allowed Onward House to purchase more food and match the rising proportion of those who use the Food Pantry. If you are interested in making a donation to the Onward House Food Pantry, please contact Gabrielle Fiege at gfiege@onwardhouse.org or (312) 666-6726.


Onward House Fall 2008 Newsletter

Posted December 2008

Fall Newsletter

Onward House recently mailed our Fall 2008 newsletter. Inside you will find updates on the new Belmont Cragin center, news from the Executive Director, a feature article on the Glenview community, and other stories.

If you are not on our mailing list and would like to be, please email Adam Talaski at atalaski@onwardhouse.org. You may also download a copy of the newsletter here.


Onward House shares informal evening with Auxiliary Board, Guests

Posted November 2008

Onward House would like to thank the Auxiliary Board and everyone who attended the November 19th bar fundraiser at Timothy O'Toole's Pub. The Onward House Auxiliary Board welcomes young professionals who are interested in supporting the mission and ideals of Onward Neighborhood House through community service and fundraising events. For more information, please visit our Auxiliary Board webpage


Onward House Happy Hour Benefit!

Posted November 2008

Happy Hour

For more information, please contact Gemma Petrie at gpetrie@onwardhouse.org or (312)666-6726.


Belmont Cragin Grand Ribbon Cutting Event

Posted November 2008
Ribbon Cutting

Onward House parents, students and staff formally acknowledged those who were instrumental in working to make the opening of a second facility in Belmont Cragin a reality at the October 28th Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.

Among those in attendance were political and public officials, Onward House Board Members, contributors to the renovation project and long-time donors. Commemorative plaques and certificates of recognition were bestowed to Chicago City Clerk and Keynote Speaker Miguel del Valle, Commissioner Mary Ellen Caron of the Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services, and 30th Ward Alderman Ariel Reboyras for their service and dedication to Onward House. Board member Mark Stenftenagel was recognized for donating the renovation desgin work through his company, Whitney Design. Bruce Sturgis of J.C. Anderson Inc. was recognized for overseeing the rennovation.

"It was a little selfish of me to get money for Onward Neighborhood House," admits Mr. del Valle during his keynote speech. "Belmont Cragin had no human services and infrastructure."

There was a strong feeling of optimism and an intuitive sense of accomplishment among those who attended the event. "This is an opportunity for growth and significant impact," says Mr. del Valle before adding words of caution, "We can never do enough. There is always one more thing we can do to make things better."

Pictured above (L-R): Onward House Executive Director Mario F. Garcia, Commissioner Mary Ellen Caron of the Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services, Chiago City Clerk Miguel del Valle, Board of Directors Vice-President and Whitney CEO/Principal Mark Stenftenagel, and J.C. Anderson Vice President/Project Executive Bruce Sturgis.


Belmont Cragin Grand Ribbon Cutting Event

Posted October 2008

BC Classroom

Grand Opening Celebration!
City Clerk Miguel del Valle, Keynote Speaker
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Onward Neighborhood House is proud to officially celebrate the recent opening of our new center in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood of Chicago. We warmly invite you to share this momentous occasion with us. The celebration will include speakers, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and site tours. Light refreshments will be served.

Location: Onward Neighborhood House 5423 W. Diversey Avenue, Chicago, IL 60639 Phone: (773) 622-3215

To RSVP or if you have any questions, please contact Gemma Petrie at gpetrie@onwardhouse.org or (312) 666-6726.


Inaugural Onward House Golf Outing an Un-Fore-gettable Event

Posted October 2008

Golf OutingOnward House could not have asked for a more perfect day for the September 24th Capital Campaign fundraiser hosted by Transparent Container Company and Neutral Tandem. Over 145 people attended the golf outing and dinner at Ruffled Feathers Golf Club in Lemont, Illinois. The unseasonably warm and sunny event helped raise over $58,000 for the new facility now open in Belmont Cragin.

Onward House would like to give special thanks to Board Members Dan Greiwe, Jon Clopton and Rian Wren; Transparent Container organizers Irene Rodriguez, Eric Clamp, Jim Durham, Doug Fischer; Transparent Container, Neutral Tandem and our other sponsors (see below); and everyone who showed up in support of Onward House's cause.

Photos from the event came be found on Thynk Lab and our Onward House's photo stream.

Golf Sponsors


Auxiliary Board, Onward House End Summer with Picnic

Posted September 2008

Picnic FoodOnward House parents, children and employees had a blast at the End of Summer Picnic hosted by the Onward House Auxiliary Board. Over one hundred people from the Onward House community gathered at Smith Park on August 27, 2008 to socialize, eat and participate in crafts and games.

The picnic kicked off at 5:00 p.m. and lasted until dusk. Many Auxiliary Board members arrived early to help with set up and food preparations. As the teachers, children and parents gathered, there was no shortage of activities to choose from. Face PaintMany children and their parents participated in face painting, bead jewelry, Wiffle ball, sack races, soccer and parachute games while others chose to just relax and enjoy the late summer afternoon.

Food was in abundance as well. Picnic-goers had their choices of hamburgers, hot dogs, summer salads and a smorgasbord of snacks.

Onward House would like to give special thanks to Meghan Regan for acquiring the donated food items and the Auxiliary Board for having the enthusiasm and desire to host the gathering. Like summer, we didn't want it to end.


Belmont Cragin Facility Gets New Sign

Posted September 2008

New SignTraveling on west Diversey Avenue, one might notice something new about the front of Onward Neighborhood House's Belmont Cragin building. A bold and bright new sign identifies Onward House, completing the last phase of planning for the renovations of this former tile store.

To make Onward House better known in Belmont Cragin, a strong and visually appealing design was needed to truly catch the eyes of passersby. Erin McConnell, an architect from Whitney Design, composed the winning design for the front sign. The sign's wide, white lettering against a burnt-orange backdrop reflects the ambitions of both the agency as well as the families and individuals Onward House serves through the Early Childhood and School Age programs, the Family Support Services and the Community Computer Resource Center (CCRC).

Onward House Executive Director Mario Garcia commissioned Chicago artist Andrew Paczos to paint the new sign. Mr. Paczos first came into communication with Onward House two and a half years ago when he purchased the Onward House annex across the street and converted it into a studio and living space. A self-described "documentary painter" of Chicago's unoccupied industrial landscapes, Mr. Paczos has also created various commercial works that can be seen on water towers and inside institutions throughout the city.

Onward House would like to thank Ms. McConnell and Mr. Paczos for their time and efforts in visually communicating Onward House to the public. An exhibition of Andrew Paczos' urban industrial landscapes will be on display starting January 18, 2009 at the Hyde Park Art Center (5020 S. Cornell Ave., Chicago). For more information on the event, call (773) 324-5520 or visit their website.


Onward House Summer Volunteers Head Off to College

Posted August 2008

AmeriCorpCheerios and fresh strawberries were the breakfast offerings. It was five minutes to nine o'clock and the last remaining parents who had not yet dropped their children off were trickling in. After the customary goodbye hugs and kisses from the mothers and fathers, the five year old children began to take their seats around the semi-circle table to help themselves to breakfast. Abruptly and somehow inevitably, a girl knocked over her Styrofoam bowl filled with Cheerios-not yet filled with milk-that sent hundreds of dry cereal bits onto the floor.

Reuben Delgado, an Onward House summer volunteer who within a week's time will have traded classroom sing-a-longs and nap time for lecture halls and cram sessions, patiently walks over to the broom and dustpan located just feet from where the mess occurred. His body language suggests that a meal mess clean up was to be expected. "We have very energetic kids in the class," he admits. "They can be a handful."

For the past seven and a half weeks, AmeriCorps volunteers have been seen throughout the classrooms and hallways of Onward Neighborhood House. Most of the volunteers spent their time with the preschool and school age children playing games, reading stories or participating in arts and crafts projects, though some helped with other work like preparing foods and washing dishes in the kitchen and providing clerical assistance for the coordinators and administrators. "We're a jack of all trades here" says Sara Biaza, a student in her second year at DePaul University.

The experience of working with a non profit organization also brings incentive. Under the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, volunteers who complete 300 service hours receive a one-time education award of $1,000 and a summer stipend to help cover living and traveling expenses. Despite this allure of college financial assistance, the volunteers' true desire was born out of a call to service rather than economics.

Volunteer Elizabeth Burba, an incoming freshman at DePaul University and recent graduate of Noble Street College Prep school, sees being a positive influence on the children as the best part of the experience. "We're not just disciplinarians," she says, "we're young enough where they can relate and hopefully we're someone that they can look up to and be a model for."

"I feel that I did something good this summer, something useful," says Lizbeth Meraz, a student going into her senior year at Noble Street College Prep high school.

With the summer now coming to a close, nearly all the volunteers were surprised at how much they learned about themselves, the children and the families they work with over the course of the past seven weeks.

"[Before volunteering at Onward House], I did not know how much need there is for help at community organizations or the real need for quality educators," says Biaza.

"I'm surprised how I was able to handle the kids," says Areli Delgado, an incoming freshman at Lewis University who plans to major in criminal justice. "I can see how hard it can be for a parent [to raise children and work], and I'm glad to assist."

Other volunteers like Ruben Delgado, a freshman at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and recent graduate of Holy Trinity High School, were amazed at how sophisticated and individualistic Onward House's children are. "The diversity is a plus," he explains when discussing his encounters with preschool children whose first languages range from English to Spanish and Ukrainian, "it's amazing to see the ways kids learn."

"Every day you're here [at Onward House], you learn [something new]," says Sergio Rocha, who will be starting his first year at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor this fall. "I think I learn a lot more than the kids; they teach me."


Belmont Cragin Computer Center Hosts First Graduating Class

Posted August 2008

CCRCThe Onward Neighborhood House Community Computer Resource Center (CCRC) hosted its first graduating class at its Belmont Cragin location on August 1, 2008. A record 24 graduates were in attendance, up from a 10 students average at the West Town facility.

In order to receive a certificate of completion, students were required to successfully pass the Computer Introduction and Touch Typing course and the Microsoft Office Suite course. By the end of the two sessions, students gained hands-on knowledge of computer components, keyboard typing competence, the ability to navigate the internet and e-mail accounts, and effectively use Microsoft Office programs like Word and Excel.

Among those who received a certificate were an eclectic mix of men and women of Honduran, Cuban, Puerto Rican and Mexican origins. Nearly all students lived within walking distance of Onward House's Belmont Cragin center, though one student had traveled seven miles each way from the northwest suburb of Schiller Park to attend classes.

The Onward House CCRC is the only technology center open in Belmont Cragin to offer free computer classes and computer access to the community. Daily computer classes run in the morning from 9:30 a.m. to 12: 35 p.m. and open access is available from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. For more information regarding Onward House's Community Computer Resource Center and upcoming classes, contact Mauricio Blanco at (773) 622-3215 or mblanco@onwardhouse.org


Inaugural Onward House Golf Outing

Posted July 2008

Golf OutingTransparent Container teams with Neutral Tandem to cosponsor a charity golf outing at Ruffled Feathers Golf Club!

This charitable golf outing is in support of Onward House's current capital campaign to raise money for the new, additional location focus in the Belmont-Cragin area of Chicago. Golf, food, prizes, silent and live auctions, raffle drawings and much more!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Ruffled Feathers Golf Club
1 Pete Dye Drive, Lemont, IL 60439

11:30 a.m. Registration and Lunch
1:30 p.m. Shotgun Start
6:00 p.m. Dinner and Silent Auction

$250 per person, includes lunch, golf, dinner and silent auction. $50 per person, dinner and silent auction only.

To register for the event, or if you would like to be a sponsor, please contact Irene Rodriguez at 708.236.1331 or via email at irodriguez@transparentcontainer.com

For more information, please visit the Transparent Container website.


School Age Senior Project

Posted July 2008

The Onward House school age program is conducting a community project to provide senior citizens with food and other basic provisions. A canned/non-perishable food and tolietries drive is currently underway. Donations can be dropped off at Onward House's West Town location by July 31, 2008. In August the children will deliver the items to Casa Central Nursing Home (1320 N. Kedzie).

Tolietries can include, but are not limited to: shampoo, paper products, deodorant, brushes, body wash, soap, toothbrushes, socks, and toothpaste.


Belmont Cragin: "We're Open!"

Posted June 2008

BC ClassroomFor the first time in the 115 year history of Onward Neighborhood House, a second facility is now open in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Located at 5423 W. Diversey on Chicago's northwest side, the eagerly awaited facility addresses the needs of a rapidly growing community that continues to have a shortage of available social services. Onward House is helping to fill the void by providing residents with quality childcare and adult education that encourages individual and community development.

The Belmont Cragin neighborhood has undergone several demographic shifts over the past decade and a half. Comparative census figures from 1990 and 2000 show a population influx of over 21,000 individuals in Belmont Cragin and increases in the percentage of families and individuals living in poverty of 88 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

The new facility, like the original West Town location, offers childcare, after- school programming, adult education and community access to computer technology. Onward House will continue to emphasize their services from a holistic, outcome-based perspective that focuses on individual achievements as the means to widespread community improvement.

The 12,500 square foot Belmont Cragin facility contains a two-year old classroom, three early childhood education classrooms for children ages 3 to 5, and three additional rooms for children ages 5 to 12 enrolled in the after-school program. An 18-station computer resource center is available to adults to enhance language skills, improve technical development, and increase employability.

Onward Neighborhood House would like to thank our Board of Directors, Mark Stenftenagel and the very creative and supportive staff at Whitney Inc., J.C. Anderson Construction Co., Sidley Austin LLP, Burnham Nationwide, PricewaterhouseCoopers, City Clerk Miguel Del Valle, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Chicago Department of Children and Youth Services, Alderman Ariel Reboyras of the 30th ward, St. Peter's United Church of Christ, Alderman Ray Suarez of the 31st ward and all of the many contributors and volunteers who helped to make this dream a reality.


Annual Onward House Gala: Celebrating a Great Cause

Posted March 2008

2008 GalaThe second annual Onward Neighborhood House Night of Bright Futures Gala was a huge success! Over 275 people joined us on March 1, 2008 to enjoy food, cocktails and live jazz. Auction items included original artwork, sporting event tickets and vacation getaways. The event helped us raise $55,000 to sustain and improve the programs and services that we provide to Chicago communities. We would like to give a big thank you to the Onward House Auxiliary Board, Neutral Tandem, GTCR, BMO, The Northern Trust, The Public Response Group, James and Corrine Mirabile, the Matt Young Group and everyone who volunteered, donated and attended. We're already looking forward to next year!

Click here for more pictures from the 2008 gala.


West Town Receives NAEYC Reaccredidation

Posted March 2008

naecyThe Onward Neighborhood House West Town facility received a five year reaccredidation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), a national standard earned by less than 10 percent of early childhood education programs. NAEYC's newly restructured accreditation process uses a more rigorous set of standards and criteria that further establishes their certification as a gold standard in credibility, professionalism and program auditing.


Third Annual Chiditarod Donates Food

Posted February 2008

The third annual Chiditarod, Chicago's urban Iditarod, will take place on March 1st, 2008. Teams of five will compete (often in costume) through the Wicker Park and Ukrainian Village neighborhoods.

This event raises over 2,000 lbs. of food annually and the organizers have chosen Onward Neighborhood House's food pantry as one of this year's recipients. We are very grateful to everyone involved for their support of Onward House and the individuals we serve in the Ukrainian Village community. Those interested in signing up for this fun event are encouraged to so on the Chiditarod website. (Though note that the date is unfortunately the same as our Night of Bright Futures Gala!)

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Our Mission

The mission of Onward Neighborhood House is to empower families and individuals in need to achieve their full potential in a community-based setting through participant-driven educational, recreational and social service programs.

Onward House Locations

Administrative Offices
5413 W Diversey Ave
Chicago, IL 60639

Ph: 312.666.6726
Fax: 312.666.6735

Belmont Cragin
5423 W. Diversey Ave.
Chicago, IL 60639

Ph: 773.622.3215
Fax: 773.622.4074

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