Chicago Early Childhood Employers Ready to Implement New State Education Bill

Onward Neighborhood House joins a new employer-led early childhood education workforce partnership addressing teacher shortage, increasing educator diversity and compensation, and creating better career pathways. 

The newly formed employer-led workforce collaborative, Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Partnership, has announced its support of the recently passed education component of the Black Caucus’ omnibus bill. 

“As early childhood employers in Chicago, we stand behind the Illinois Black Caucus who championed legislation that seeks to solve the inequities in our early childhood education system,” said a spokesperson for the workforce partnership. “The legislation aligns with our 2021 Action Agenda of increasing compensation for early childhood educators, creating better pathways for existing high-quality teachers to meet degree requirements, and generating a new pipeline of early childhood educators. We look forward to collaborating with the State and local partners to bring this legislation to life for our Chicago communities.” 

The Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Partnership is a group of 18 early childhood  employers who seek to build the best early childhood workforce in the US–marked by high-quality, diversity and equity. Based on the group’s research effort produced by Bellwether Education Partners, it is clear more than ever that high-quality early childhood services benefit children, families, and the broader economy. The research also highlighted a need in Chicago for 3,000 new educators as well as “upskilling” of 1,000 existing educators whose current roles now have higher degree/credential requirements by 2024.

Members of the Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Partnership include:


Anita Andrews-Hutchinson, Chief Operating Officer at It Takes A Village Family of Schools

Bela Moté, Chief Executive Officer at Carole Robertson Center for Learning

Bryan Stokes II, Chief, Early Childhood Education at Chicago Public Schools

Leslie McKinily, Deputy Chief, Early Childhood Education at Chicago Public Schools

Christina Krasov, Chicago Early Childhood Workforce Partnership Convener
















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About Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance:

Since its founding in 2012, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA) has engaged over 30 funders to advance its shared mission of collaborating with employers and other workforce stakeholders to increase employment, earnings and racial equity for underprepared workers in the Chicago region. The Funder Alliance is known as the region’s major convener of the philanthropic community interested in workforce development and employment. Through a combination of grant making and civic leadership the Funder Alliance has used this role to carve out a unique position at the complex intersection point of workforce development, social justice, education and economic development. Learn more about CWFA and its initiatives at and follow us on: Twitter or LinkedIn

A 2020 Note from the Great Depression: Marion’s Story

We are working on a final push to bring holiday cheer (and funds!) to our programs before taking a much-needed break to close out 2020. It has been a challenging year. Receiving this letter about Marion’s family, who went to Onward House for help during the Great Depression, is a reminder that our Good work has a lasting impact on the families that we serve.

The full story is shared with permission from the author, Marion’s daughter Bobette:

December 17, 2020

Dear Onward House,

I’m writing this letter in memory of our loving mother Marion Tummillo Varsalona.

She grew up on Ohio & Leavitt during the depression and was 1 of 7 girls in their family. She passed away in July of this year at the age of 90.

All my life she talked about her loving Onward House and what they did for her & her family.

Five of her sisters were named after women that worked at the House. She called it her safe place when things at home were not safe. The Ridge Farm she went to as a child to help her gain weight, oddly she moved within 1 mile of the farm later in life and took us there to show us the property.

No story was ever told without tears. Every year on her birthday I would take her to the old neighborhood to see Holy Rosary Church where they were married, their old apartment, and the last stop was always Onward House.

Our last visit was special. It was the July before it was torn down but luckily we were able to go inside to see the place. Mom’s dementia was getting worse but she knew exactly where we were. Again tears were rolling down her beautiful face.

This picture was taken on our last visit.

Please accept this donation knowing the impact it had on her family’s life and the memories I will always treasure.

Keep up the Good work,

Bobette & Kathy Varsalona
In Memory of Marion Tummillo-Varsalona

Ms. Varsalona referenced our history post, and asked if we could find any additional information on her mother in our archives at UIC or The Chicago History Museum. If you know your way through Chicago’s history archives and want to help uncover more about this story – please contact us.

Help us continue our work:

2020 Winter Newsletter

Belmont Cragin, the resilient and diverse community that Onward Neighborhood House calls home, has been impacted greatly in 2020.

Reports and experience have shown that we are at an intersection of inequity, topping the lists in the city of COVID-19 cases, first time unemployment, and lack of access to the technology needed to participate in online learning, request relief resources, remote work, and more. We are seeing a need for increased capacity and resources to address these issues.

Since March, we’ve grown the number of families and individuals served by our food pantry, helped small businesses request and secure Payment Protection Program loans, and increased the amount of time available for childcare to essential worker parents.

As we prepare for the winter, we are adding more resources for the residents of Belmont Cragin. We have established partnerships with CommunityHealth to open a telemedicine micro-site at our center and Lurie Children’s Hospital to provide mobile healthcare for children. We are also expanding our offerings for digital literacy classes in an effort to continue chipping away at the digital divide.

We have been able to respond to the needs of our community as a direct result of the support we have received from our donors. We will only get through this pandemic by working together, and we are truly grateful for our funders, partners, participants, volunteers, and neighbors. A special thank you to the foundations who released us from specific program obligations or gave additional funding to support us during this crisis.

Thank you for your support,

Mario F. García
Executive Director

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Winter Supply Drive

Winter Supply Drive

Help support those in need during these difficult times. The communities we serve are some of the most vulnerable during this pandemic. During these uncertain times our mission and services are needed more than ever.

Make a difference

Donate diapers and new hats and gloves for children ages 0 – 12 years. We will be collecting items from December 9th to 11th at Onward Neighborhood House. If you are unable to donate items, please consider making a monetary donation online.

How it works?

To ensure the safety of all involved in this program, all persons dropping off items at Onward House are required to wear a mask upon entering our facility.


December 9 – 11th , from 9 AM – 5 PM. If you need to drop off outside those times, please make sure to contact us and we can make arrangements.


Onward Neighborhood House
5413 W Diversey Ave, Chicago, IL

Please call us in advance of your drop-off so we can be prepared (773) 622-3215. 

What we need

  • Hats (ages 0 – 12)
  • Gloves (ages 0 -12)
  • Diapers (Especially sizes 3 – 5)

COVID Update: JCK Boutique Moves to The Bounce

Many businesses and industries that have been impacted by COVID-19 like shops catering to Quinceañeras, a cultural staple.  Estella, an Onward House student, opened JCK Boutique 5 years ago, and has taken Onward House digital literacy classes, including e-commerce and one-one on one technical assistance. Most recently, she graduated from The Lab, Onward House’s entrepreneurship program. COVID-19 and the shelter in place order severely impacted her business. She reached out to Onward House, and as a graduate of The Lab, was able to move in to The Bounce, our affordable retail accelerator, and reduce her rent 78% until her business recovers.

Watch the full story here (Telemundo – Spanish):