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”

Winter Newsletter 2017

The 2017 Onward Update Winter Newsletter is out, featuring our cover story about a parent who has become a leader among her peers!

Sandra would have preferred to stay with her daughter until she was ready for kindergarten. However, she needed daily childcare while she worked to support her family.

She was apprehensive about placing her daughter in a daycare, especially after hearing horror stories on the news. “For me that was the biggest thing, needing to trust that someone would take care of your child the way that you would.”

Continue reading “Winter Newsletter 2017”