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Spring 2021 Newsletter

Chromebook Distribution Thank You Notes

In partnership with the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Immigrants & Refugee Welcoming Centers, we provided ESL and digital literacy classes to students who had lost all or part of their income. Graduates of this initiative received Chromebooks to continue their job search and education efforts.

“I would like to give thanks to the people who donated the computers. Thank you for thinking of me because due to COVID I was unemployed. I am also taking care of my son with disabilities, he is taking remote classes at home and I am doing the computer classes that were offered to parents beforehand, I am grateful for your donation, thank you very much.” – Blanca

” I am very grateful for the Chromebook and for the help that you have gifted me in these difficult moments that we are experiencing due to Covid, for us to be able to continue to learn and study in my English classes. I am of very low resources, and that is the reason that I continue to seek help with your organization. Thank you for always supporting every person to continue moving forward with our goals and dreams, thank you may God continue to bless you.” -Rudy

Read More Thank You Notes

Note from The Executive Director

This past year has brought many new challenges and opportunities. We are fortunate that those who make up Onward House – our staff, boards, volunteers, funders, and donors have helped us remain financially strong. This has allowed us to be nimble in rapidly addressing the pressing needs of the Belmont Cragin community with in-person and online programming.

Whether it is running to the store for more food and diapers, adding new computer and ESL classes, or making calls for vaccination appointments, we appreciate your trust in our work.

In our last newsletter, we mentioned an increased focus on health – and I am proud to say that CommunityHealth is now a part of our home. In 2021 we will be looking into how we can support the health of the community at all levels:

  • Facilitating connections to health: from being a trusted resource for vaccine information, referrals, and on-site health care opportunities.
  • Provide education around health issues: We will provide more workshops, recipes, exercise classes, and health fairs that promote an active lifestyle.
  • Advocacy: We are known to be great health and disability advocates for children in our programs, and will extend our advocacy efforts to support the Belmont Cragin community.

We hope that you will continue to support us with your words of encouragement, connections to other organizations, donations, and volunteer time.

Thank you for your support,

Mario F. García

CommunityHealth at Onward House is now Open!

The first telehealth clinic of its kind in Chicago, CommunityHealth uses the power and accessibility of telehealth to link uninsured patients to CommunityHealth providers. At Onward House, patients can now receive an assisted virtual visit, access to lab services, medication distribution, referrals to Onward House education and support services, and access to CommunityHealth’s full comprehensive services.

Onward House and the Belmont Cragin neighborhood was specifically targeted to make health care more accessible to those who can benefit from CommunityHealth’s services. 27% of Belmont Cragin residents are uninsured, and 1 in 5 individuals reported using the emergency room as their primary source of health care. Belmont Cragin is ranked as one of the top 15 neighborhoods in the City of Chicago’s COVID Vulnerability Index. By adding on-site services, we are seeing many of our parents and adult learners sign up for this new initiative.

Food Pantry Update

Our Food Pantry has had quite a year. The Greater Chicago Food Depository reported a 175% increase in food distribution from our site. We jumped from 58,559 lbs to 160,851 lbs of food. This does not include the many food donations from our supporters. We appreciate everyone who has donated food, diapers, and supplies.

We’ve moved! Our Food Pantry is currently located in our adult education offices and classrooms while we search for a new permanent space. Stay tuned for opportunities to help us make this transition over the next year.

Teacher’s Corner: Notes from the Classroom

“I live work and thrive in the Belmont Cragin community I have been in this community for over 50 years. I enjoy helping kiddos learn a concept and applying what they learn to other things. I enjoy watching the kiddos become confident and independent.” – Rita

“Working at Onward house has been such an inspiration to me. It has encouraged me to think outside the box and try new ways of teaching to support every child in my care….I have become a confidant and an advocate for parents and children. I have become a voice for children and parents that are unable to articulate the needs that they experience in their day-to-day lives. I am proud and honored to be a part of such a wonderful and inviting organization that serves the community, parents, and the whole child.” – Marteen

Read More from Onward House Teachers

How Your Donation Can Help

$1,000: Quality supplies for a whole year for one classroom, including items that parents can take home to extend the learning experience.

$800: Provides one month of subsidized affordable low-risk space for business owners at The Bounce retail accelerator.

$500: One year of supplies for computer classes. Including: Laptop repairs, paper, printing.

$400: Supports one week of food pantry administration including ordering, deliveries, volunteer coordination, and distribution.

$260: Ten packages of diapers to hand out at the food pantry, our most requested non-food item.

$150: One hour of nurse service, including observations in classrooms and health training for teachers and parents.

$100: One hour of mental health consulting or speech therapy.

$50: One hour of support for small businesses with computer, website/marketing, licensing questions.

With 8 youth classrooms, and over 16 adult education classes, a food pantry, and retail accelerator, we impact 5,500 individuals, 950 families annually.

Teachers Corner

My name is Rita B. I have been at Onward House since August. I teach in the Blue Birds Classroom. Blue Birds 2 to be more specific.This is my second go-around here at Onward House. I worked at Onward House from 2007 to 2016 I was the school-age group worker from 2007 to 2012 after I received my BA in ECE; I went to work in the Blue Birds classroom. I left in 2016 to pursue my Masters. In ECE and spend some time working with infants. I also worked two years in Oak Park at a small Christian preschool. It had to close due to Covid. Which lead me back to working at ONH in my neighborhood. When I am not working at Onward House hanging out with my awesome kiddos I volunteer here in the Belmont Cragin community. I am vice president of the Blackhawk Park Advisory Council I have started my second year in this position. I am also on the Board of Directors for Las Damas, which is a group of moms in this community who are trying to do intentional things to raise the reading level of our youngest residents. I live work and thrive in the Belmont Cragin community I have been in this community for over 50 years. I enjoy helping kiddos learn a concept and applying what they learn to other things. I enjoy watching the kiddos become confident and independent. 

-Rita B.

My name is Rosita Feliciano. I have been working in Onward House for nine years and in that time I have been working with 3 to 5-year-olds at classroom as well as the two-year-old room and I have helped in school age. I made the transition to the two-year-old classroom in 2017. I enjoy working with creative curriculum studies because it reminds me of when I was working with the Reggio Amelia approach. I have 20 years in my background as a Reggio Amelia approach.

-Rosita F.

My experience at Onward House:  My experience at Onward House has been interesting. I have learned many things from many different children, coworkers and families. Onward House is home to many away from home. Thank you!

-Crystal Bell

Hi, my name is Marlene, I was part of the extended ONH family, I worked at ABC preschool and on my last day there, ONH invited me. I am loving Blue Birds.I have taught for a number of years. I took a break to work in a substance recovery program. My grandkids are under five and so much that I learned while working on my BA in Early childhood. I am applying here and at home with my grandkids. Right when I started here at Onward House my husband had a stroke and I am grateful for the management at Onward House for giving me time to get him back on his feet he has a long road of recovery ahead of him. One great thing about ONH are all the Kendall graduates at ONH!

-Marlene O.

Working at Onward house has been such an inspiration to me. It has encouraged me to think outside the box and try new ways of teaching to support every child in my care. Through the trainings and support of different coaches, I have grown as a teacher. I have learned to look at children individually, create math activities in the classroom, successfully prepare children for kindergarten, use We- Thinkers to support children’s social emotional development and most importantly I have learned how to get children extra support by creating teacher reports using observations and help from the Head Start Coordinator (Ms. Jenny) to help children receive services through CPS. I have become confidant and an advocate for parents and children. I have become a voice for children and parents that are unable to articulate the needs that they experience in their day-to-day lives. In my almost 8 years of working at Onward I have learned how to evaluate, observe, and teach children using strategies that I had never thought of before my decision to come to Onward. I have grown as a teacher, parent, and friend within my years here. Being a team member and problem solving for our day-to-day operation seems like second nature as I always have my colleagues on my mind. Although there has been struggles, the pandemic, and misunderstandings. The policies in place and the people inside these walls bring me back every day. I am proud and honored to be a part of such a wonderful and inviting organization that serves the community, parents, and the whole child.

Thank You for this Opportunity!

Sincerely,

Marteen Wrencher

CommunityHealth at Onward House

Onward Neighborhood House will now Host CommunityHealth’s new telehealth satellite clinic to connect uninsured individuals to free, comprehensive health care.

We are very pleased to announce that our partners at CommunityHealth will open a telehealth satellite location at Onward Neighborhood House in Belmont Cragin on April 9, 2021. The ceremonial ribbon cutting will take place on April 9, 2021, at 1:00pm Central Time.  

We invite you to watch live via CommunityHealth Facebook page: https://facebook.com/communityhealthchicago  

The first telehealth clinic of its kind in Chicago, this location will use the power and accessibility of telehealth to link uninsured patients to CommunityHealth providers. At Onward House, patients will receive an assisted virtual visit, access to lab services, medication distribution, referrals to Onward House’s education and support services, and access to CommunityHealth’s full comprehensive services. CommunityHealth recognized telehealth’s potential after adopting telehealth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This innovative approach to health care will increase access to underserved communities by rethinking space and place for point of care and meeting patients in a trusted organization in their neighborhood,” says Stephanie Willding,

CommunityHealth CEO. The Belmont Cragin neighborhood was specifically targeted to make care more accessible to those who can benefit from CommunityHealth’s services. 27% of Belmont Cragin residents are uninsured, and 1 in 5 individuals reported using the emergency room as their primary source of health care. Belmont Cragin is ranked as one of the top 15 neighborhoods in the City of Chicago’s COVID Vulnerability Index.  

Onward House Executive Director, Mario F. Garcia says, “We are excited by the additional services this new partnership with CommunityHealth will bring to Belmont Cragin. Access to free medical services is something that is much needed in the community.” CommunityHealth at Onward House services will be available at no charge to uninsured adults whose income is at or below 300% of the Federal Poverty Level.

Interested in a tour of the site? Please contact Nikki Way at nway@onwardhouse.org or replying to this email to set up an appointment.

Thank You Notes (Welcoming Center 2020)

In partnership with the the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Immigrants & Refugee Welcoming Centers, we provided ESL and Digital Literacy classes to students who had lost all or part of their income. Graduates of this initiative received Chromebooks to keep so they could continue to navigate the online world through their devices.

“Thank you for giving us the main tool needed to continue learning. Due to the fact that we were affected due to COVID and it has been a bit difficult for me to purchase a computer thank you to the professor Tobar for giving us his time with out asking for anything.” – Adriana

“I would like to give thanks to the people who donated the computers. Thank you for thinking of me because due to COVID I was unemployed. I am also taking care of my son with disabilities, he is taking remote classes at home and I am doing the computer classes that were offered to parents beforehand, I am grateful for your donation, thank you very much.” – Blanca

“…Thanks to Onward House, I have been taking advantage of time – instead of it being time lost, it has become a time of learning. My children and I express our most sincere gratefulness to all the team at Onward House who with the teacher do an excellent job. Being that without you, it would not have been possible a lot of the things that I have learned for the benefit of my children and myself….Thank you for being a professional team and for sowing knowledge in those we need the most.” – Cecilia

“I can affirm that there is a before and after the [Computer] course, because when the pandemic started and the virtual broadcasts began, my working days were more difficult. I really feel very grateful that there are people or institutions that care about the adult community, that for different reasons we have been left behind with technology. This is a wonderful opportunity, from the moment I found out that Onward Neighborhood House was offering computer classes for adult, do not hesitate to call and ask for information to register. In Fact, this computer will help me continue studying and keep updated on the daily changes that are happening in technology. Thank you very much for all the support in general the program offers, to the administrative staff, to the excellent teachers who teach the courses, for the patience they have with us and for the human quality, they possess. Thank you very much also for supporting people who like me believe in constant personal improvement.” – Elda

“I am a mother of 5 and now that everyone is taking remote classes at home, I had no idea how to help them and how to communicate with the teachers… Thanks to this laptop that I received I will be able to do my work better, since I did not have a computer and I did it with my cell phone, with more difficulties but with all the desire to learn. And now with my laptop I will be able to do my work and take my class more comfortably and easier. Thank you for your generosity and support.” – Anon

“I am grateful to the Onward House Organization for giving me this support at this time. Onward House is giving me computer classes, and it is a great help because at the moment that we are going through. That now it is all about technology and the classes that they are giving me a laptop to continue to take my classes is very helpful, and I am grateful for having an excellent teacher of the computer classes. Brandon is very patient, excellent person, because I work in cleaning and cleaning houses and right now with COVID people do not want me to clean their houses, for that I give thanks, Thank you for providing this support. God bless you so that you continue to support the community. Thank you.” – Elvia

“Due to the fact that the children are not going to school and I have to be at home for my daughter with special needs to be present in the Online classes I have stopped working, helping my husband with the payments of the light, water, and rent. The Online classes have helped me a lot; at the beginning, I did not know how to open the page for CP, but thanks to the classes and the teacher who explains very well and is very patient with the people who are learning I have learned to be up to date with the things of my daughter’s school. In addition, in communication with the school.” – Anon

“I thank Onward House for offering this resource to Latinos to continue moving forward in this country. I wish that in the future that you may continue offering English classes and computer classes, being that many Latinos need this to grow to continue to move forward and reach the American dream.” – Guillermo

“Through this letter I would like to give thanks to the Organization Onward House, located in 5413 W. Diversey Ave. Chicago IL. For the opportunity of being able to take the computer classes. Being that sadly due to the pandemic, I have stayed without any finances and I have no employment, In actuality these classes are of great importance for me and my children, being that I have little knowledge of computer and I know that these classes will help me for me to be more updated and like that be able to help my children in the future of technology.
Finally, thank you very much for gifting me this computer for my benefit and the one of my children.” – Iliana

“I was affected by COVID-19 and I lost my employment of 12 years and I was sick from the virus, I was sick with bone pain, headaches, flu, teary eyes, dry cough, sore throat and fever. I thank God that I am recovering. I went to go get tested for covid and I was positive, I thank you a lot for your help. Thank you for the laptop it will help me in my computer classes online that I am taking right now. In these moments, I am not working and I am helping my kids during their virtual classes.” – J

“My name is Juanita, and I want to give thanks to Onward House for gifting me a computer. The truth is that I do need it to be able to take my English classes. I would like to share with you that I was born here, but my parents took me to Mexico when I was small, I lost all the opportunities from this beautiful country. There are times that when I travel and they see my documents and they ask me why don’t I speak English. The truth is I want to learn the language, and sometimes I reproach my parents, why did they take me to Mexico, I lost my chances of studying, but I know its never to late to learn. I am very happy that I have been gifted the computer, right now the truth is I do not work my husband sometimes has a job and sometimes he does not. And the truth is we do not have the budget for a computer. I am grateful with Onward House and I am excited with a lot of desire to continue studying and preparing myself. May God bless you all always, to all the people that put their little grain of sand to help all the people that are in need.” – Juanita

“Through this letter I would like to give thanks to Onward House and everyone that makes it possible that we are able to benefit from these free computer classes in the comfort of [our] own home. I am immunocompromised so that is good. This time has been difficult for everyone but with programs like yours make it bearable, I am a mother of 5 students and it has been overwhelming being that many don’t know a lot about technology . Now I can help my children and have a good job from my home. Also I was facilitated a Chromebook” – Karina

“I want to give a warm thanks to Onward House for the wonderful advanced computer course they are giving us, which will finish at the end of the year. Not only is it being a very up-to-date course to the work needs of our time, but we have also had digital resources, such as recording of classes to be able to be able to study later at home; help from our teachers at all times, even on days when we don’t have classes; and at all times, the correct answer to our questions, which clearly showed the professional level of our professor Brandon. I learned a lot, in this course and I am invited in the future for another, I will be happy to keep in touch with Onward House. Thank you so much.” – Louisa

“I give many thanks to Onward Neighborhood House for the computer classes that I have been taking with you because this way I am going to be able to compete In this new world of technology to be able to work in the future.” – Maria

“Good Morning through this letter I would like to give thanks to Onward House. For all of the support that has been given to me during this time of Covid-19 for me personally it has been a great help over everything in being able to take my English classes from home for personal development, and this I owe it all to you who make it possible for us to continue moving on. For me it has not been easy with the pandemic I was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and I was in the hospital for 3 weeks without working for about 4 months. But I thank God I was able to return to work even though it is a small amount of hours, but I still have a job. No it has not been easy I am a single mother and my children depend on me.” – Maricela

“A special greeting: To Onward House and at the same time to thank you for all your work and your services at the same time thanking you for the English classes that are of great help to me for a better communication and a better job because due to the pandemic we are out of work and family members including my husband. My son is the only one that works. Always trusting in God and everything will pass and return to normal.” – Miriam

“My name is Rosa, this letter is to give thanks to all the people who are giving us support with this program, being that it is very important during this time for us to be able to be able to communicate virtually with people now being that many families are being affected in one way or another because of the pandemic that we are living. The computer classes are making it easy for me to understand and support my children’s education.” – Rosa

“It is a pleasure to greet you and wish you many blessings in every single one of your projects that you realize in the community. I am very grateful for the Chromebook and for the help that you have gifted me in these difficult moments that we are experiencing due to Covid, for us to be able to continue to learn and study in my English classes, I am of very low resources and that is the reason that I continue to seek help with your organization and thank you for always supporting every person to continue moving forward with our goals and dreams, thank you may God continue to bless you.” – Rudy

“Thanks to you for the gift. I am going to be able to take my computer classes…I was using my children’s tablet and I was not able to download any programs, neither was I able to do my homework because of the tablet. I am also taking English classes and it is going to be useful to me and it will help me feel more comfortable in my classes. Again thank you for the computer, which is going to help me so much in my future and be able to be successful and more prepared I will be able to find a better Job.” – Maricela

“I want to thank the people who make this program to help us as people. To me personally, it has helped me be able to help my children to enter them in school programs. In the future, it will help my children that I have that [computer] knowledge, so I can help them in their homework, and it can help us a lot to generate income for our families.” – Mireya

  • *These thank you notes have been translated and edited slightly for clarity.

Night of Bright Futures Virtual Gala

Join us for the Night of Bright Futures Virtual Gala, which will be held in support of our mission on March 11, 2021, at 7:30 PM. The event will feature a comedy showcase highlighting Immigrant & Refugee Performers including Luz Pasos, Katie Boyle, Odinaka Ezeokoli, Michael Robinson, Meghana Inurti, Vikram Balaji, and hosted by Adam Burke. The event is made possible by our presenting sponsor, Inteliquent.

The families we serve have been hit hard by the impact of the pandemic, and we are working at the intersection of high cases, high first time-unemployment claims. The Nights of Bright Future Gala will be a virtual comedy showcase featuring performers with immigrant and refugee backgrounds to celebrate Onward House’s enhanced role as an Illinois Welcoming Center. The event will help raise funds and awareness for Onward House programs and our ongoing pandemic relief efforts, including relocating our food pantry and basic needs distributions.

For over 128 years, Onward House has served immigrants and low-income individuals through education, support, and economic programs including Early Childhood and Elementary education programs, Adult Education programs including Citizenship, ESL, GED, and Professional Development for job seekers and entrepreneurs, and a food pantry.


“We’re very grateful to Onward House for all the support they have given us in these difficult times during the pandemic, despite having no family in this country, we feel in you a helping hand.”

Melba, parent