On June 17, groups of volunteers from Bank of America and Lurie Children’s Hospital, as well as Catholic Charities staff and parents, spent their Saturday building a playground for the children of Chicago Lawn at Catholic Charities Child Development Center in the neighborhood.

Throughout the day, they constructed a jungle gym and raised gardens, and completed clean-up projects both inside and outside the center. The playground build was made possible through a connection with Lurie Children’s Hospital and funded by Bank of America.

The impact of the center is felt throughout the community. When a neighbor walked by and saw the volunteers, he asked if vegetables were needed for the raised gardens. He returned moments later with a donation of nearly 20 tomato plants, which the children planted the following Monday morning.

Community members Francisco Alvarez and his son also attended the playground build and regularly volunteer at the center. It’s not a requirement; they just think it’s important.
All five of Francisco’s children have attended the center, and have lived one block from the center for 13 years.

“The parents in this community would be missing out on a good education if Catholic Charities wasn’t here,” Francisco said.

Francisco said he and his wife wouldn’t have been able to provide their children with an early childhood education if it wasn’t for Catholic Charities.

“We would’ve just waited to send them to kindergarten,” Francisco said.

Francisco’s oldest daughter, who is now 16, started attending when she was just 3 years old. Today she is at the prestigious Whitney Young Magnet High School in the West Loop neighborhood of Chicago. His other children attend the local elementary schools and Francisco said he gets nothing but good reports from their teachers.

Tasha Johnson, Department Director of Catholic Charities Head Start Program, oversees the Chicago Lawn center.

“Every child deserves the best education, regardless of what their parents’ financial status is,” Tasha said. “Whether they come from Lincoln Park or Chicago Lawn, they are equal and they deserve the best.”