When I started working here 28 years ago, they were just beginning the renovations on what would become our child development center in Chicago Lawn. The building was nothing but a warehouse back then, with no concrete or carpeting, just a dirt floor. Now, it’s a beautiful, brightly colored building that’s filled with laughing children who learn and grow with us on a daily basis. This year, we were blessed with 153 children from our community at our site.
I have the opportunity to provide low-income children with quality, affordable, early childhood education, as well as offer health and education workshops for their parents. We have been blessed to get to know these families on a personal level. We see how their children’s lives are changed because they have the best educational start that’s available. They receive that regardless of how little money their parents may make.
There are so many success stories that I have seen over the years but one always comes to my mind first. We were working with a family who was new to this country and the mother’s only source of income was selling fruits and vegetables as a street vendor in the neighborhood.
All of her children were enrolled in our program and she always made sure they came to us to get the education they needed. The children did so well in all of their studies and we had become so close to them that we stayed in touch over the years. We recently learned that her oldest daughter is now in college on a full scholarship. When I heard that, it filled my heart with so much hope and joy.
Each year, we see the children we work with overcome great challenges. Some of them have sensory issues or difficulty paying attention but we partner with each child individually and personalize what each child needs.
We are very proud to have grown by word of mouth and reputation. It’s all about the way we treat our families. It’s our goal to serve as mother figures to them and get to know them as best as we can.
It’s not just the children; it’s the parents that we work with, too. We recently had a father who was struggling with leaving his child at the center each morning. She would cry every time her father would turn to leave, and we just had to encourage him that this was normal, and she would adjust. After about a week, his daughter ran to us one morning and smiled back at her father, waving and saying, “Bye Daddy!” His smile, knowing his child had adjusted and was happy, was priceless.
It’s amazing to do this work. We see the children grow and we get to assist these families. I love what I do and I love giving back to the community. It is an honor to work with Catholic Charities.