Our Food Pantry needs continue to grow: Please consider volunteering, donating food, or hosting a food drive. Our needs can be found here:

Onward House staff have been working hard to ensure we support our community:

  • Early Childhood & School Age Programs: On July 7, we reopened our classrooms. In September, our School Age program opened full-day to help students with their remote learning. Our teachers are using e-learning curriculum, and are supporting families via phone and video.
  • Computer Classes: When Northwest Housing CDC and First Midwest Bank needed computer training to help businesses prepare to apply for loans/grants assistance, they contacted Onward House. First Midwest Bank provided financial support to help us continue to close the digital divide and provide tailored computer training through platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp for those who need email addresses and basic computer skills to navigate an all-virtual world of assistance funds.
  • Food Pantry: In April, we saw the number of people coming to the food pantry double from 40 – 60 families to over 100 202 250 families. Those of us who are not high-risk for Covid-19 have taken shifts to pack and hand out food packages, diapers, and other necessities.
  • Cash Assistance: To date (August 2020) we have distributed $48,649.50 in cash assistance to help families struggling to pay rent and utility bills.
  • Restaurant Program: A grant from the Lavin Foundation has allowed us to partner with two restaurants: Las Americas Grill and Latin Patio to provide free meals to approximately 210 children and parents from Onward House through July and August. This grant provides income for the restaurants, as well as a hot, stress-free meal once a week for families.
  • The Bounce: We are working with a graduate of The Lab, JCK Boutique, to help them get back on their feet by reducing their rental costs by 78%. Currently, 5 businesses have had approved PPP loan grants through Onward House application assistance.

Direct Relief

While Onward House is financially stable at this moment, we know that the ripple effects of a financial hit will last the longest for our families with few resources. We have made hundreds of phone calls to collect data on needs, childcare arrangements, financial situations, technology needs, and providing referrals where necessary. Our recent survey data shows that:

  • 35% of the people we have been in contact with have been laid off or lost their jobs – they are cleaners, caregivers, food & restaurant workers, spa/salon workers, and factory workers.
  • Over half the 227 people we’ve surveyed reported difficulty paying for their expenses, including rent, utilities, and grocery bills.

Our friend, former staff, and board member, Linda, has started a campaign for direct financial support that will go towards our most vulnerable families, including those who do not qualify for other relief funds. We have also received emergency funds from the Chicago Community Trust’s COVID-19 Relief fund toward this effort. We have distributed approximately $23,000 to 26 families to pay their rent and utilities. If you’d like to donate to our direct-assistance fund, you can do so here. Of course you can always donate to Onward House and we will allocate it to programs that support our entire community.

In the coming months we will be working to expand our social services, access PPE, finalize a reopen plan, and continue to serve as a hub for support, services, information, and resources for 5,500 neighbors annually. Read our Thank you notes from those who have received services during the COVID-19 crisis.

Touring Quality Catering

Quality Catering provides breakfast, lunch, and snacks for Onward House Early Childhood Education and School Age programs. This August, our School Age students had the opportunity to meet the owner, along with the cooks, delivery drivers, and office personnel who provide our program with nutritious meals each day.

During their tour, the children designed their own chef hats with their favorite foods. They got to tour the catering facility and learned that 90% of their food is prepared daily. The children learned how the ingredients are shipped, how their breads are handmade, baked, and sliced. They saw how the ground beef burgers/meatballs are grounded and cooked. The children were most amazed at how the Mega Tron (named from the movie Transformers) sliced their fresh fruit in just 7 seconds! And lastly, the children were served hot lunch fresh out of the kitchen.

After seeing how their food is made and delivered, the students are even more excited for meal times. Thank you Quality Catering for the opportunity to how our food is made!

Reported by Crystal Bell, School Age Group Worker