Grantee Stories

Here are excerpts from stories and reports submitted by recent grantees.

University Christian Ministry (UCM) Global Engagement  

UCM returned to El Salvador last spring.  Students prepared for the trip with personal research and readings.  The group met to familiarize themselves with the political, economic, social, and religious reality of life in El Salvador. This program is a long-term educational initiative to encourage students to connect with social justice issues they feel passionate about.

Two students have already started a weekly Bible study which explores relevant Biblical passages about social justice and the poor.  We hope students will be inspired to volunteer to work on social justice issues locally, take a trip (or another one) abroad with UCM or even organize their own trip internationally.  This year a UCM graduate (Class of 2010) who had been on several UCM trips organized and led a trip to Guatemala for a local middle school church youth group.  Through these trips and the witness of others, we hope that current students know the lasting impact of how they can make really work toward bringing the kingdomof Godto earth.

Neighborhood United Methodist Church (Maywood) Tutorial Program

A soft-spoken retired educator leads group sessions, and the children pay close attention so they don’t miss a word.  She is helping them learn the names of the 50 states, in alpha order, of course!

Some other features include the Word Wall:  Not easy words for these third graders – endanger; scalpel, patience, forgiveness.  They must

  • Say it
  • Spell it
  • Use it in a sentence
  • Identify the part of speech

Each child has his/her own scripture passage and what it means

  • For help with relationships go to Romans 12 – “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil. Hold fast to what is good.”
  • For comfort, turn to Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”

 And each child has their own historic hero, whom they learn about through the year.  A few include:

  • Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks
  • Martin Luther King, Jr , who has a Big Dream
  • Barack Obama, first Black President of the United States

The program recently began its 8th year and serves thirteen 3rd grade students from two neighborhood schools.  Students attend three days per week, and an optional Saturday session is devoted to field trips and computer activities. The academic focus on reading, writing and math works closely with classroom teachers.  Pre- and post- tests document the results, with many children achieving more than one academic year of competency over the course of the year.

 The program also instills character, moral and ethical growth based on Christian values: respect for neighbors; appropriate behavior; good citizenship; love for God.  Students form strong bonds with volunteer teachers, leaders and aides.  Former students return for homework assistance, and volunteers attended the 8th grade graduation of the several first year students.

 The Tutorial Program is a model of excellence in a Christ-based educational ministry to neighborhhod children.

Broadway UMC (Chicago) Youth Lounge

Broadway’s Youth Lounge welcomes homeless and vulnerable youth to drop in weekly.  The program builds on the church’s reputation as an inclusive, welcoming place.   The Lounge offers food, caring adults and safe space.  As needs and issues come up, programs and components are added.

 From its very inception, the primary focus of the Youth Lounge has been steeped in the Gospel message of “Radical Hospitality” aimed primarily at disenfranchised LGBTQQ youth who migrate to the Lakeview neighborhood seeking acceptance and safety. Open on Saturdays with trained volunteers available to welcome and listen, the Youth Lounge continues to welcome troubled and lonely youth who have been largely abandoned or hassled by others.  The Christmas party was a highlight for youth and adults who enjoyed food, fellowship and the hope of the season.

Disciples UMC (Mt. Morris) Mobile Home Ministry

Disciples UMC left its building to bring the church to the neighborhood, in this case the local trailer park.  They rented a trailer and began by doing Vacation Bible School on-site.  The Kids’ Club continued through the summer, and then families asked that the program continue into the fall and winter months.  To spread the Good News, the faith community left the security of its space and discovered a mission field that was waiting for them.

Now into its second full year, they regularly discover fruits of the ministry.

  • An interesting neighbor after getting to know Disciples’ volunteers work with children all summer said, “I often don’t like neighbors but you guys can stay a very long time.”
  • During a lesson about Jonah and the whale, one child asked the adult where God lives. While the volunteer struggled to answer, a 6 year-old piped up, “He lives in our hearts.”
  • Volunteers transported children to the community Vacation Bible School. They also bought each child’s family the music CD because the kids loved the songs so much.

The church shared a presentation with the local school board. One member was moved to tears because people would take the time to care for this forgotten population of people.

First UMC (Chicago Temple) Tutoring Center

The Chicago Temple calls itself “The Sanctuary in the Heart of the City”, and this urban congregation  has an active Children’s Ministry.  They have developed a collaboration with partners with the Reuben Salazar Bilingual Center to help children discover a love for books and reading.  Tutors and children meet weekly and read together, beginning when students are in the 4th grade.   In addition a weekly large group activity uses resources from the City to introduce the community, have fun and learn. Beginning its sixth year with its second group of students, the program hosts the same class for four consecutive years, often with the same tutor/student match. 

 Many of the 30 tutors work in the Loop and find the program a way to be engaged in the lives of Chicago children and families.  Tutors can see their students blossoming – “(She) loves reading and is drawn to science… (He is) curious about the world in general… (His) fluency has come a long way!…. (Her) confidence and ability to communicate are really growing”.  The children also give the program high marks – “I read faster now and spell better”…. “Reading is fun and it’s important because you need reading in everything, even math!”…. “School is way easier when you know how to read!”

Gary Memorial and Winfield UMCs Common Ground Community Garden

In 2010, Gary Memorial and Winfield UMCs partnered to establish Common Ground, a community garden.  Winfield had the land and both churches furnished seeds and many community volunteers worked in this garden patch.

The first year results harvested  750# of organic produce, most of it donated to their local food pantry.  A church volunteer commented on watching young children pick fresh food to take home and eat that very evening, the bounty of the seeds they had planted months earlier.

A Foundation grant helped build a natural irrigation system for the garden’s second year.  The poundage increased as did the variety of produce: squash (several kinds), tomatoes, carrots, onions, cukes, and the first of a permanent strawberry patch.  And a Fall Harvest Fest offered a pumpkin-decorating activity with the garden’s bounty.

Faith UMC (Lisle) Military Ministry Partners

Faith UMC may be a relatively small congregation, but they have a global-sized heart.  So they developed a Military Ministry Partnership with the 416th TEC Combat Engineering Reserve Unit, located in nearby Darrien.  Working with the local chaplain church members pray  daily prayer by name for each soldier deployed to Afghanistan – for their safety, for their families, affirming their courage in dangerous, unsettled territory.

And they didn’t stop there.  They provide devotional materials for soldiers and their families, personal notes of encouragement and periodic homemade goodies.  They practice a ministry of presence at deployment and welcoming home.  They participate in holiday parties for families of their troops. Most recently they have begun an online Bible study.

The first group deployed came back without physical injury.  The support has expanded to the family members waiting. Prayer, support and encouragement continue with the next group deployed.

Geneva UMC – Third Tuesday Suppers

No reservations. No tickets.  Just show up.

It is no secret. Third Tuesday Suppers at the United Methodist Church of Geneva is THE place to be each month!  Tables have tablecloths, fresh seasonal flowers and candles.  Two buffet lines are set. And the food is delicious of course.

Launched in 2009 as a response to the global recession, Geneva UMC decided to offer a few hours of respite, a sanctuary from the frenzy of the world.  Now into its third year, people across ages and life situation look forward to coming.

Welcoming their neighbors to break bread, Geneva UMC has no strings attached, free meal to all who come.  The Foundation made a grant to affirm this world-class way to offer Christian hospitality.  Single parents, traditional families, older adults living alone, single young adults, those between jobs and those employed – all are welcomed.

Read more about our 2013 Grantees