Healthy Kids Resource Fair Opens Doors to Good Health

Presently, more than 70,000 Chicago Public Schools students who are eligible for health insurance lack coverage. That’s 20 percent of students in one of the largest school districts in the country.

Through a new initiative called Opening Doors, United Way of Metro Chicago and CPS aim to reduce that number. By directly connecting families to healthcare navigators,  they’re able to help parents research, identify and enroll in health insurance plans. This approach effectively simplifies a process that often deters low-income families from accessing vital care. 

With a goal of enrolling 10,000 students in Medicaid and Marketplace health insurance over the next two years, United Way and CPS, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, hosted on Saturday its first Healthy Kids Resource Fair. This free event allowed neighborhood  students and their families to meet with navigators and explore other health and household resources.

Stationed in Michele Clark Academic Prep Magnet High School in Austin, booths of more than a dozen non-profits and businesses lined the hallways, offering a range of services and information. Vendors were on hand to help attendees with everything from reducing utility costs to counseling to enrolling families in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

“One of the greatest challenges with closing the gap between eligible and enrolled children and families has been limited enrollment staff within schools and a lack of accessible enrollment sites across many communities,” said Jose Rico, senior vice president of Community Impact at United Way of Metro Chicago. “The Opening Doors Initiative is enabling us to widen our reach across neighborhoods and provide increased opportunities for enrollment education and assistance.”


Promoting healthy lifestyles

As part of the resource fair, Matt Forte, a former Chicago Bears football player and United Way ambassador, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository teamed up to teach students, including athletes from Michele Clark High School and community members, the importance of adapting a healthy lifestyle.

While whipping up a kale and apple salad in a cooking demo, Matt broke down the benefits of making healthy food choices, like adding dark greens into your diet to improve energy and reduce deadly health conditions like heart disease. “It’s important to educate these kids on how important health is,” Matt said. “Unfortunately, in the Chicago area, the resources and educational aspect of healthy eating and living is not so prevalent in certain communities.” 

Matt’s lessons of football and healthy lifestyles were well-received by the young athletes in the audience, including Lamont Pringle, a student basketball player at Michele Clark High School. “I learned new things about kale and new ways to use it,” Lamont said before heading back to the court. “It was helpful, and it’ll help me improve my game. And it actually tasted good.”

Following the demo, community members were sent home with samples, apples and recipes to make the salad and other healthy dishes at home.

As the newest United Way of Metro Chicago ambassador, Matt is excited to work with United Way and CPS to promote healthy living in communities that often lack access to quality goods and to improve the number of students and parents enrolled in healthcare. A father of three and long-time athlete, Matt views access to healthcare as the foundation for educational and life success.

“Some students don’t see doctors for an entire year or they don’t have a healthcare provider. That translates back to graduation rates and being attentive in class,” Matt said. “If you’re not feeling well, you’re not going to perform well no matter what you’re doing, whether that’s sports or education.”

Those within the school system share similar sentiments.

“Children  with unaddressed vision, dental, hearing or mental health problems do not perform in school as well as they could, said CPS Chief Health Officer Dr. Kenneth L. Fox “We want to prevent health problems from occurring and eliminate health-related barriers to learning. We must act to get kids covered, and Opening Doors helps us take action in ways that matter now and have profound impact over a student’s life course.”


Looking forward to healthier futures

United Way and CPS recognize that there’s still much work to be done. The Opening Doors Initiative is focused on four networks with the greatest need – Networks 1, 2, 3 and 10 – where additional trained healthcare navigators are serving children and families in schools and community-based organizations.

At United Way, we believe that schools should be “community hubs” were students and families can find life supports in addition to a quality education. The Opening Doors Initiative is intended to meet families where they are, and, in turn, make healthcare enrollment more accessible than ever to these communities.

“We see schools as a community engagement hub, a location where community can come in and be serviced in many different aspects – not just through educational curriculum but anything from enrollment in health insurance to behavioral health services,” said Sergio Obergon, manager of CPS’ Children and Family Benefits Unit in the Office of Student Health and Wellness.


Healthcare Navigators Help Enrollees Steer Clear of Insurance Confusion

Copayments. Deductibles. Premiums. The complex world of health insurance coverage can be confusing for even the most informed patients. But for immigrants, refugees and other underserved populations, our country’s healthcare system is particularly daunting.

In a city where 10.5 percent of people lack health insurance coverage, United Way of Metro Chicago community partners are turning to healthcare navigators to help reduce barriers to healthcare access.

“Health insurance is just something completely different and complex,” said Dalia Galvan Morales, manager of Health Access and Immigration and Refugee Services at Heartland Health Centers, a United Way community partner.

“[It’s] very complicated for anyone, but our target population is immigrants and refugees. Coming from a different country and experimenting with this whole new system can add an additional layer of difficulty,” she said. “Having someone you can trust and identify with makes people a little bit more likely to seek services that they need.”

That’s where Zinah Kadhim, a 36-year-old from the suburbs, comes in. She’s one of a few navigators working for Heartland Health Centers on Chicago’s North Side. An immigrant from Iraq, Zinah seeks to help new communities – immigrants, refugees and asylees – understand America’s intricate healthcare system.  

“I like [my work] so much because we are helping many families that really need the help,” Zinah said. “They’ve got a lot of papers mailed to them and they don’t know what they mean. We are helping them and educating them about the health system here.”

On any given day, Zinah and her colleagues, including Stephanie Castrejon, respond to pressing healthcare questions, field client calls and facilitate up to 30 appointments at their office.

Their clients typically need help determining which health insurance plans they’re eligible for, researching details of insurance plans and applying for or renewing their insurance coverage. Since 2013, through state, federal and private grant funding, United Way of Metro Chicago has helped facilitate over 26,000 enrollments in health coverage.

Healthcare navigators continue to offer support every step of the way, helping with anything from reviewing enrollment paperwork to filing appeals with the federal Department of Health. Even after someone has health coverage, navigators work to ensure that they have access to care by assisting clients in finding providers within their plan, scheduling appointments and ensuring medical cards are issued. They also offer referrals to other agencies that address a client’s outstanding needs.

Like Zinah, Stephanie, a 24-year-old native Chicagoan, takes great pride in connecting families to the coverage necessary for them to live their healthiest lives and protect themselves from devastating healthcare costs.

“I love working with the communities around me, the underserved population,” Stephanie said. “Especially since I grew up in a neighborhood like Albany Park where there are a lot of different cultures and people come from a lot of different countries.”

These community members often have difficulty finding information in their native languages and may lack health literacy, making it difficult to understand healthcare terminology and concepts – a struggle that exists for many residents. 

To break down those barriers, the healthcare navigators, who receive extensive hands-on training, offer services in multiple languages, assess clients’ level of understanding and work diligently to explain terminology in words and phrases that are easily understood.

“I’ve definitely learned that the health coverage system is not very user friendly. A lot of our clients who come in, English is not their first language. They have that language barrier already, and then understanding health coverage lingo. It’s pretty difficult,” Stephanie, an English and Spanish speaker, said.

By resolving these difficulties and teaching community members how to navigate this system, Zinah, Stephanie and their colleagues directly improve the lives of enrollees who can finally access the care they deserve.

“It really makes me feel good once I see that I’m able to explain [the healthcare system] to them and they’re able to understand and reassure themselves that they understand what’s going on,” Stephanie said. “Doing one simple thing for them goes a long way.”


Housing Program Provided “Safe Haven” for Recovering Veteran

Seventeen years ago, while living in a recovery home, David McGowan received an offer he couldn’t refuse. A native Chicagoan from the Cabrini-Green neighborhood, David was invited to leave the recovery home he shared with 18 other men and move into his own furnished studio apartment in Wicker Park.

Having been homeless for years, David quickly accepted the invitation, though it meant embarking on the grueling journey of recovering from drug addiction.

That life-changing offer came  in October 2001 from Renaissance Social Services (RSSI), a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner working to end homelessness in Chicago. Each year, RSSI places hundreds of the city’s most vulnerable individuals, like David, in permanent supportive housing, while also helping to tackle their other challenges.

In its 21-year tenure, leaders of Renaissance Social Services have recognized that homelessness and poor health work in tandem. Homelessness can be both the result and cause of mental and physical health issues, and stable housing, in addition to supportive health services, is a critical factor in improving people’s mental and physical health.

Utilizing a variety of wraparound services, RSSI case managers and other community providers address and help clients mitigate the root causes of their housing insecurity, including mental illness, chronic health conditions, substance use disorders and more.

In 2017, RSSI housed 252 homeless individuals and families and provided clinical services that resulted in 81 percent remaining out of inpatient psychiatric facilities, 92 percent avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations, and 82 percent achieving mental health stability.

For David, a 65-year-old Vietnam War veteran, Renaissance Social Services not only provided a place for him to call home, they gave him a “safe haven” and the structure needed to turn his life around.

“It meant the world to me. For so many years, I would get out of treatment and because I was a chronic relapser, every time I’d go back and do the same thing and get the same results,” David said of his drug use. “So, I needed a place to go where the whole set and surroundings were different. I needed a new structure, a new way. And this was the beginning.”

Since then, David’s moved to another Renaissance apartment complex in Bucktown. However, he’s maintained a sense of stability that’s encouraged his sobriety. He generously credits Renaissance Social Services for playing a critical role in his recovery by creating an environment absent of drug activity, teaching him life and homecare skills, holding him accountable for taking his medicine and helping him navigate systems so he can receive public benefits.

“When you’re in an addiction and you come out of that addiction, you are really undisciplined. You don’t know how to pay your rent. You’re not really about taking your medicines and housekeeping,” David said. “[The case managers] were my perseverance. You know how some people have a good luck charm? They were my motivators.”

With his life and health stabilized, David is closer with his family and serves as a sponsor for others living with addiction.

“If I can just stay sober, help another [person] , and be available for my children and my grandchildren and my great-children, that’s a whole bunch right there,” he said with a smile.


Suburban Coalition Relieves Families of High Healthcare Costs

When Dave and Jana Jenkins decided to return to the United States in 2012 following 19 years of missionary work in Africa, the pair expected to face challenges. What the parents of five didn’t foresee was healthcare being a costly barrier to their assimilation back into American life.

“Most of our professional lives we’ve been missionaries and were overseas,” Jana said. “So, it’s been a little harder to get our start here in the U.S. Because of that, we’ve kind of fallen into a low-income family.”

With their son Timothy requiring surgery and care for a pre-existing condition, Dave and Jana, in 2015, sought help navigating the complex task of finding affordable health insurance. That’s when they connected with the DuPage Health Coalition, a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner.

The coalition helped the family enroll in health insurance and, later, accepted them into its Silver Access Program to further reduce their healthcare costs.

“Our work is rooted in the belief that being poor should not be a barrier to being healthy,” said Karen Doyle, Director of Development & Communications for the DuPage Health Coalition.


The Jenkins Family

Dave and Timothy visiting Long Beach Island.

A family of seven, the Jenkins returned to America when their eldest daughter enrolled in college in Wheaton, Illinois. Wanting to live nearby, the family relocated to the Midwest and, eventually, settled in DuPage County.

The transition was challenging and, at times, required the parents to work numerous jobs to support their family.

“We did really well in Africa, and then we came to the States and we kind of fell into categories that made it difficult for us to find substantive employment,” Dave said. “At one point, between the two of us, we were doing four different jobs to pay the bills.”

In addition, it was nearly impossible for the family to find affordable health insurance that covered care related to Timothy’s cerebral palsy, a muscle condition that created nerve damage in his right hand.

“We fall into the category of self-employed, and I have a son with a disability. We would typically not be able to get insurance, or we would get insurance that was expensive and generally poor coverage,” Dave said.

In 2015, three years after their move, Dave connected to a healthcare navigator in DuPage County who walked him through the process of enrolling in health insurance. Together, they found a plan on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace that covered the family for about $54 per month. “I remember when we got done, I was just stunned,” Dave said. ‘It was like ‘Wow, I’ve never had such good coverage for so little.’”

Timothy runs track for the Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association.

The following year, that cost fluctuated, rising to $300. Dave inquired about the DuPage Health Coalition’s healthcare assistance program and was soon approved for its Silver Access program. It proved to be incredibly necessary, as Timothy would soon undergo a surgery that greatly improved his quality of life.

“The cerebral palsy created nerve damage and the worst part of it is in his hand,” Dave said. “Without being able to grip anything, he can’t use any of his other muscles.”

“They cut here to extend the tendons in my [forearm,] so they could get my arm to go more like this,” Timothy, an athletic high schooler, added, straightening his bent wrist with his other hand. “[With the help of a brace,] I can use it a lot easier now. I can go to the gym and lift weights and stuff.”

Without their enrollment in Silver Access, the costly surgery and aftercare could’ve devastated the family’s finances, Dave said.

“We had been one of those families who don’t go to the doctor and everything that comes up causes this emotional fear,” he added. “Sometimes, you’d end up with medical bills that would take you a couple of years to pay off, but, [with Silver Access], it has been a completely different world for us.”


A “Silver” Lifeline

A unique initiative in Illinois, the Silver Access program has provided a vital lifeline for more than 1,000 individuals and families in DuPage County.

Offered by the DuPage Health Coalition, a partnership of local health providers that strive to make it easier for low-income families to receive high quality healthcare, Silver Access enrollees receive help paying their insurance premiums, or monthly payments.

To qualify, enrollees must be legal residents of the United States and DuPage County and purchase health insurance from the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Once approved for Silver Access, applicants will pay their premiums for one or two months. Then, the program will cover the remaining premiums, up to $150 per family member each month.  

“Silver Access puts people in a place where they can actually use their insurance,” Karen said.

They encourage enrollees to do so through education classes that teach them how to use their coverage effectively, like prioritizing preventative care and using a primary doctor rather than relying on costly emergency room visits.


Paying it forward

Because of his hand surgery and access to braces that support his wrist, Timothy is able to lift weights with his dad.

For three years, the Jenkins family has utilized the Silver Access program, and though it hasn’t resolved all their financial woes, it’s freed up some of their energy to focus on their future and opportunities to serve others.

Today, Timothy keeps himself busy running track, competing in long jump and playing soccer. He recently travelled to San Diego to participate in a development camp with the USA National Paralympic Soccer team and became the proud owner of his first therapy dog, Bailey.

Dave and Jana serve as house parents for a DuPage County nonprofit that aids young mothers, while they work to build their own nonprofit to help East Africans who migrated to America navigate their new situations and life challenges.

 “When we’re not fighting for our basic survival, like healthcare, that gives us a lot of energy and resources to put into other people,” Dave said.


At Annual March, Little Village Residents Call for Peace

On a crisp Autumn afternoon, Little Village residents and their allies, clad in purple t-shirts, weaved through their southwest Chicago neighborhood marching for peace and an end to domestic violence.

Hosted by the Marshall Square Resource Network (MSRN), participants of the 5th Annual Peace March sought to commemorate the lives of individuals who’ve been killed in acts of violence and unite neighbors on a peaceful front. The march is an extension of the Little Village Neighborhood Network’s goal to reduce violence in the neighborhood, which frequently experiences both domestic and community violence.

“Every October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The last five years, as a Network, we’ve decided to pay honor to that month,” said Jennifer Idrovo, the director of MSRN, a group of community agencies who’ve partnered with United Way to help meet the needs of residents on the east side of Chicago’s Little Village community, known as Marshall Square.

A recent study by Sinai Health System, one of the Neighborhood Network’s partners, found that one-third of individuals in South Lawndale, the larger region where Little Village and Marshall Square are located, have reported domestic partner violence. In addition, 78 percent have reported witnessing domestic violence, Jennifer said.

“We gather here in Marshall Square and we march around the community to let people know that domestic violence is an issue that is very focused on homes and families, but we want to make sure that we call attention to it in the community,” Jennifer added. “Violence affects everyone — their education, their health.”

Neighbors encourage peace

Carrying signs and chanting positive messages, dozens of residents joined the procession, including Ana Gonzalez, a 13-year resident of Little Village, and her young daughter.

“We want people to know that we are working together to show others it is possible to make peace,” Ana said, as the young girl scribbled away on her sign that read: “Pasos para la comunidad,” meaning “steps for the community” in Spanish.

One of her comrades in the march, Julian Zuzarte, works as a caseworker and translator at Taller de José, another United Way partner agency. Though he doesn’t live in Little Village, he works closely with its residents every day and cares deeply about their safety and prosperity.

“I think it’s a great way to bring everyone together, especially in a festive season, to let them know that these are daily occurrences of violence…and to have this event that is bilingual and brings people together in a city that is pretty segregated,” Julian said.

Accessing resources for care

As the sun set and the march dissolved, the group of peacemakers made their way to Apollos 2000 Theater, where leaders of the march organized a rally, complete with a buffet dinner, ornate alters to celebrate the lives of those lost to violence, speeches from residents and a resource fair for residents to learn about health, educational and violence prevention and response services.

“We want to make sure that we’re highlighting all the amazing things that are happening here in our community, so we have about 15 organizations that are at our rally talking about their youth programs, talking about their peace circles,” Jennifer said, standing alongside her colleague Maritza Guzman, another MSRN leader. “We want our residents to know about all the great things that already exist here in Marshall Square.”

 “We want you to know that if you are a victim of domestic violence, there are resources for you,” Maritza added. “You are not alone.”

If you or someone close to you is experiencing domestic violence and wishes to get help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).



Communities across the Chicago region are faced with interrelated problems that no agency or leader can tackle alone. Through our Neighborhood Network Initiative, leaders of ten communities have partnered with United Way of Metro Chicago to strategize, plan and resolve the daily challenges their residents face.

With a goal of creating a healthier, safer and more resilient community, stakeholders in Little Village, a vibrant Latino neighborhood, joined together to form the Marshall Square Resource Network (MSRN). Together, they make up the Little Village Neighborhood Network. These partners are working together to curb violence, improve schools and help residents achieve economic security.

Driving out community violence with peace

Each year, the community of Marshall Square, a subset of Little Village, brings awareness to the issue of domestic violence by organizing an annual march. While snaking through their streets, residents call for violence to cease and neighbors to offer compassion and support to those who have been harmed. Following the Peach March, residents are connected to local resources to help them identify, respond to, and heal from violence and trauma.

Through collaborative projects between the Network’s partners, stakeholders are also providing much-needed outlets and resources to address other deeply rooted issues such as gang violence, obesity and depression.

One example is an initiative for local youth organized by Teatro Americano. Meant to challenge the normalization of violence in relationships, the program combined education about healthy relationships with theater exercises to create an interactive and informative environment.

Training parents to improve students’ education

The collaborative groups aim to create positive school environments and academic experiences for Little Village’s students by involving the entire family.

Through the Supportive School Communities initiative, local parents have been trained to facilitate community discussions in four Marshall Square community schools. They educate their peers on the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in the classroom and in their homes.

When parents are involved in their child’s education, children are more likely to be engaged and receive help at home, putting them on the path to academic success.

Encouraging healthy lifestyles through safe spaces

In addition, local leaders are promoting healthy lifestyles through exercise and gardening. By creating safer, more accessible outdoor spaces, they hope to reduce childhood obesity, a problem too many Marshall Square children face.

Through a walkability study, leaders have assessed obstacles and safety concerns that may impede outdoor activity, like unsafe intersections and hazardous sidewalks. Then, they’ll mitigate those problems.

A new community garden is in the works, too. MSRN recently announced the launch of a plot at Charles G. Hammond Elementary School. Hundreds of community members will have the opportunity to utilize the garden, providing them with access to fresh homegrown produce, as well a space for community-building.

Our community partners in the neighborhood also offer obesity prevention and weight loss services at neighborhood schools and obesity reduction programs at two community health centers. Starting this spring, an after-school walking club for neighborhood kids will take its first steps

Improving a community is a group effort

MSRN’s wide reach shows what’s possible when neighbors come together to drive long-lasting change.

Individually, these community partners offer vital services that drastically improve lives. But together, they create a community that neighbors are proud to call “home.”

Bike to Work Week 2013

United Way staff getting prepared for Bike to Work Week 2013

United Way staff getting prepared for Bike to Work Week 2013

A little more than a year ago, commuting to work by bike seemed like a really great, healthy, money-saving, green idea-for other people, that is. But me actually biking downtown? That sounded, well, terrifying.

A year later, I now bike almost every day, to almost everywhere I go. I’m never quite sure which reason to name first when I’m asked why I bike -because it’s fun and fast, because I like to get out my door and go, because I automatically get my exercise in, because it’s free, etc. – but getting to this point was no small step for me.

Part of that feat was personally overcoming my fears, but there were some really helpful external factors too. Here at UWMC, I’ve enjoyed the support of my co-workers, and the thumbs-up and way-to-go’s gave me a lot of encouragement, especially when I first got started. UWMC’s involvement last year in the Bike Commuter Challenge provided space for me to learn more about biking to work, and connect with other like-minded folks-both the regular and the tentative/occasional bike-commuters. In fact, it was during the Bike Commuter Challenge week that I biked 5 workdays in a row for the first time-including a UW event in the Loop itself. I’d strolled around neighborhoods and I’d made it to our former office on the edge of the Loop, but heading into the heart of the Loop was my final biking frontier. (And now my fear hasn’t vanished just because of habit and skill– with more protected lanes in the Loop, it’s become way more bike-friendly!) And once I realized I could do it and felt good about it€¦ why stop?

Riding my bike, I feel healthier, and I’ve gotten to know my community in new and wonderful ways. I want to spread that great feeling, and I’m excited that UWMC is again participating in the Bike Commuter Challenge this year (June 8-14). Whether it’s one trek to work or a daily routine, get out on those two wheels and enjoy the Chicago summer!

Submitted on behalf of Shira Saliman, Manager of Community Investment Operations and Evaluation at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. 

Third Annual Tribune/United Way Golf Outing Takes Philanthropy to the Links


Last month, Tribune Company held its third annual Tribune/United Way Golf Outing, raising over $24,000 for United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. The day began with roughly 100 golfers taking to the links and ended with a dinner and auction involving a live Blackhawks painting by Artbeat Live!

Golfers participated in friendly competitions while on the course, including a wager hole, closest to the pin and longest putt. At hole 8 they were greeted by Tribune Publishing and Chicago Tribune CEO, Tony Hunter, who showed his support for United Way by participating in a “Beat the Boss” closest to the pin contest.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago would like to thank the Tribune for its long-standing partnership and commitment to providing the resources needed to help build self-sufficiency through creating practical solutions addressing challenges in the areas of education, income and health in the Chicagoland area.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago would also like to thank A Marketing Resource, Alvarez & Marsal, American Litho, FujiFilm, Turn-Key Solutions and Giordano’s for sponsoring the Tribune/United Way Golf Outing.

June Volunteer Action

This month United Ways across the country are making their mark by hosting volunteer events to help advance the building blocks of self-sufficiency: Education, Income and Health.

2013 marks the 6th annual United Way Day of Action and we are using this day to not just highlight a single month of action, but use it as a launching pad for ongoing engagement. If we can mobilize almost 700 volunteers in June alone, imagine the possibilities for Chicagoland year-round.

United Way of Metropolitan Chicago would like to show the community how some of Chicago’s corporate partners contribute to a larger network of volunteers across the country during this single month of action.

Thank you to Accenture,  American Agricultural Insurance Company, AT&T, BlueCross BlueShield, BMO Financial Group, Deloitte, Dow Chemical, Mesirow Financial, Nielsen, Northern Trust, Performics, True Value Company, and Zurich North America for lending their muscle this month. Below are descriptions of various projects supporting United Way Partner Agencies.



Early June, Mesirow Financial will beautify the grounds of Burroughs Elementary supporting United Way’s newly launched LIVE UNITED Neighborhood Network in Brighton Park. As a supporter of this initiative, Mesirow is further focusing its resources by targeting volunteer efforts here, creating a deeper and lasting impact.

On June 7, as part of their national volunteer day, Performics will partner with United Way to mobilize over 200 volunteers. They will participate in a variety of projects that support agencies that specialize in education programming and financial stability.

  • 30 volunteers will set up the Fun day for school-age youth (last day of programming); prepping for Summer Fun, landscaping, updating bulletin boards, etc with Chicago Youth Centers at their Elliott Donnelly Youth Center.
  • 150 volunteers will deep clean, paint, garden and tutor youth at three different YMCA locations across Chicagoland. These facilities host educational programming for youth after school and during the summer.
  • 30 volunteers will shelve books, audio disks, and work with adults and children who are blind or visually impaired at Chicago Lighthouse.

Saturday, June 8, United Way will send 25 volunteers from our Young Leaders Society to paint Marshall High School in a Chicago community of greatest need. These young philanthropic leaders are supporting education by ensuring children have a safe and clean environment to learn.

June 13, 25 Nielson volunteers will support children, teachers, and faculty through tutoring and various needs, including painting and administrative support, truly helping asses and meet a number of different needs this agency has in one day.

June 28, 40 Accenture volunteers will chaperon summer day camp at Youth Crossroads in Berwyn, playing games and leading educational workshops. This promotes active learning for youth over the summer.



June 4, United Way has paired with American Agricultural Insurance Company to beautify Countryside Association’s exterior. Over the course of a few days, 15 volunteers will paint, mulch, and garden, helping support the financial stability work this agency does every day. Through their volunteer efforts, this new business is looking forward to building a strong relationship with United Way

June 5, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) is conducting mock interviews for Erie Neighborhood House for clients in their Workforce Development Program. This is the second time YLS has participated, prepping over 25 clients for permanent placement in the job market.

The week of June 5, BMO Financial Group will be mobilizing over 150 volunteers to support a United Way Partner Agency which helps its clients gain financial stability. Volunteers can participate in four different projects:

  • Volunteers will paint client counseling rooms to provide a welcoming environment.
  • Volunteers will collect, organize, sort, and deliver women’s professional clothes to empower them for upcoming job interviews.
  • Volunteers will assemble “Starter Kits” for domestic abuse survivor victims getting back on their feet.
  • Volunteers will conduct mock phone interviews to job seekers who use this agency’s Community Career Center. Each call lasts one hour, 30 minutes for a mock interview and another 30 minutes for interviewer feedback and suggestions.

June 6, As part of their Global Community Week, Zurich will run its second annual Volunteer Fest and Skillshare Summit in Schaumburg. A shining example of skills-based volunteering, non-profits are invited to attend various capacity building workshops run by Zurich employees. These include:

  • The Power of Networking,
  • The Recipe for Working with a Corporate Volunteer Group,
  • Navigating the World of Social Media,
  • Learning How to Plan for Today’s Talent Demands.

On June 21, Dow Chemical will partner with Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired; purchasing supplies for a project to complete with 20 volunteer and adult clients, helping ultimately build social skills necessary for every day life and career success.



On June 1, 8, 9, & 23, 40 BlueCross BlueShield volunteers will partner with United Way to support agencies with health programming. As a health insurance company, BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois sends the bulk of their employee volunteers to health-related agencies by serving and distributing food. Volunteers will:

  • Help distribute food items to community members in need at Loaves and Fishes.
  • Act as cooks and servers for clients at Living Room Cafe.
  • Act as cooks and servers for clients at Inspiration Cafe.
  • Help sort and distribute food to community members where there is little-to-no access to fresh produce.

June 6, 40 Deloitte volunteers will volunteer with United Way as part of their National Impact Day. This project will consist of outdoor beautification and landscaping at the McCormick Tribune YMCA. This United Way Partner Agency sits on a very large piece of property with lots of flower beds and areas requiring weeding, clean-out, and maintenance.

Over the course of June 6  and 25, 50 Northern Trust volunteers will sort and organize food in the warehouse and package individual food boxes for distribution to the Mother & Child Nutrition Program and the Senior Citizens Supplemental Food Program.

June 13, 15 AT&T Women of Finance mentoring group volunteers will do a mix of painting and interacting with the summer day campers supporting active summer lifestyles at Indian Boundary YMCA.

June 28, 12 True Value volunteers will play games, arts & crafts, read, and participate in light physical activities with the Head Start youth education programs supported by United Way.

June 20, 15 Zurich volunteers are working with a Chicago Public School to help with their annual field day. This activity supports United Way’s Health Initiative as they will help with games, activities and healthy snacks.

If you would like to get involved in June Action this year or next year, please contact Kristen Johnson, Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, 312.906.2496,

Stamp Out Hunger On May 12

The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) National Food Drive is the largest annual one-day effort to combat hunger in the United States. Every year, millions of families, letter carriers and other postal employees, and volunteers do their part on this day to provide millions of pounds of food to those most in need. Last year, nearly 75 million pounds of food were collected in one day and donated to food banks, pantries and shelters across the country. The 2012 NALC National Food Drive is Saturday, May 12, 2012! It’s EASY to participate! Place non-perishable food products in a bag, leave at your mailbox on Saturday, May 12 and your letter carrier will pick up and deliver to local food banks or pantries. There is no better time than the NALC National Food Drive to show our appreciation for the important partnership between United Way and the NALC. This partnership is a prime example of how we work together with organized labor to advance the common good in communities throughout the United States. We have benefited greatly from this decades-long partnership, and are grateful for the support it brings us through gifts, volunteers and more.