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.

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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Spring Newsletter 2019

Agustín’s Story

Agustín owns Airos Electronics, a small shop that specializes in electronic repairs. “My customers tell me that if I can’t fix it, it can’t be fixed.”

After immigrating to the United States to study electronics, Agustín got his associates degree in computer science at Wilbur Wright College during the 1980s. After graduation, he knew he wanted to fix electronics. While working part time at a grocery store, Agustín worked as an unpaid apprentice at a similar repair shop. “I learned a lot working there, but after a while I said that they had to start paying me,” he laughed.

After only a few years working for a local repair shop he knew he wanted to start his own business. After buying an abandoned storefront in Little Village, Agustín began repairing radios, stereos and TVs.

After coming to Onward House to learn how to use Photoshop, Agustín came back to learn even more about computers.

“Now I use excel to manage my inventory, before I had to write everything down and it took much longer.”

Agustín is seeing more business now that people are seeing the value in reliable, vintage electronics. “People have an attachment to these things. A man came in and paid me to repair his TV because it was from his son, even though he could have gotten a better one he wanted this one repaired.”

“My professor, Mauricio, has helped a lot” and with the help of Onward’s eCommerce class, Agustín has started repairing computers, tablets and even smartphones. He also was able to redesign his website with an easily customizable WordPress template.

With the new website and word of mouth Agustín has seen a 10-15% increase in customers. “I think that eventually I’ll need someone to help, maybe I’ll get some interns and pass on some of this knowledge.”

Onward house Golf Outing 2019

Thank You Notes

Belmont Cragin has one of the largest populations of on English Speakers, and many report less than a high school education. One of Onward House’s goals is to encourage participants to further their education through GED and ESL classes in partnership with Wright College’s bridge programs. Onward House takes participants on a field trip to Wright College to introduce them to opportunities to register for college credit courses, obtain student identification cards and tour the facilities. This allows participants to see themselves in a higher learning environment and obtain information on how to pursue additional educational options.

I am Salvadorian. I came to USA searching for better opportunities for my son’s education, because we are facing the challenge of applying for him to go college.

I will be able to reach that goal only if I learn English, and to be honest I feel comfortable in this facility and I feel that (even) going slow I am learning.

Thanks for this help that you all give us and helping us in moving forward.

I came to Chicago in November 2017. My arrival to this country was because my island of Puerto Rico after having survived the havoc of hurricane Maria.

Me, my wife, and my kids came to this country to see if we could improve our economic position. I learnt about the ESL course through a friend, his wife has been taking classes [at Onward House]. Later, my wife and I enrolled in this course to learn more English and thus achieve a better job and a better salary.

Despite the circumstances, this experience of taking English classes has been the best that has happened to me, because I feel that I have learned more, and the teachers Marta and Rebeca are excellent teachers, very professional and they teach very well.

Today I feel very grateful for the opportunity that this place offers me, to be able to take English classes for free.


Sceneworks Pilot Program at Onward House

Our friends at Poverty Alleviation Chicago are piloting their new program, Sceneworks with the School Age program at Onward House.

This summer, students will participate in an 8 week program that is designed to help children gain confidence and self-esteem through improv-based activities. The program will be supported by a licensed social worker who will be available for the program participants. Poverty Alleviation Chicago has identified Emily Worden Candini to lead the first program in Chicago, and expand it to LA in the fall of 2019.

“We are super excited to see this program come to life. Improv can help a person become comfortable in uncertain situations, and we think the students at Onward House will come out of this program with more confidence and communication skills, “ said Heather Whinna, Executive Director at Poverty Alleviation Chicago.

This spring we are remembering our former Development Coordinator, Melissa Tracy.
Melissa was full of life, always smiling, ambitious, and wanted to achieve big things. She got along with everyone, and everyone on staff loved her. She is fondly remembered for taking the time to organize staff appreciation events like Pączki Day and ice cream socials.
Onward House is better for having known Melissa, and we send condolences to her family and friends.

Photo Highlights

Winter Newsletter 2018

The 2018 Onward Update Winter Newsletter is out, featuring our cover story about Daniela, and her journey to continue her education.

When Daniela saw Onward’s poster for GED classes, she knew it was time to take a step toward her goals. “It was my red flag to go back to school. I had no more excuses because the classes are so close, and as an adult I have more responsibility and can push myself to finish this.”

Continue reading “Winter Newsletter 2018”

2018 Spring Newsletter

The 2018 Onward Update Spring Newsletter is out, featuring our cover story about Kaylee — and how she became confident and successful in the classroom!

When Kaylee started in the School Age program at Onward Neighborhood House, she was having trouble in her 4th-grade classes.

Continue reading “2018 Spring Newsletter”