Early in December, the Chicago Department of Environment finalized its grant to St. Leonard’s Ministries for Special Projects through the Stimulus/American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As a result of this grant, Pete Baker, SLM Facilities Director, will help transform all SLM sites into greener, more eco-friendly settings. During the course of the next two years, Pete will create six new jobs by hiring graduates of the MBC Green Building Maintenance Class, three per year, to assist in this conversion process as Green Technology Specialists. Upon completion of their yearlong participation, the six program participants will be equipped to move on to other green technology jobs. They will also have developed teaching skills as they serve as teacher aides in the MBC Green Building Maintenance classes. At the conclusion of the two year grant period, SLM buildings will be more energy efficient, less costly and friendlier to the environment.
SLM program participants are keenly aware of the responsibility to give something back to the communities in which they will soon be living. One very concrete way to do this is by helping young people examine their lives closely and make positive choices that will lead to better futures for them. SLH Program Director, Victor Gaskins, has organized a number of outings to Chicago Public Schools to allow SLM residents the chance to talk with students and to help them navigate some of the rough roads that are part of their lives. Feedback from school administrators, teachers, students and the SLM participants has been thoroughly favorable. Some mistakes can’t be corrected but helping others to side-step such mistakes can be very therapeutic in the recovery process.
Early in November, Grace House held its Annual Luncheon with Mrs. Richard M. Daley acting as the Honorary Chair. The theme for the event was “Lend a Heart, Lend a Hand.” And those present did just that. GH residents lifted their voices in song and shared some of their stories leaving all the guests moved by the challenges that they have faced. The Barlow Center Basic Culinary Arts Class prepared the meal; the Advanced Culinary Arts Class created the desserts – both works of art. In addition to lending a hand as mentors and tutors, luncheon guests were very generous. More than $8,000 was raised from the event thanks to efforts of the Grace House Advisory Board chaired by Nicole Neeley and hard-working GH staff members led by Mary Dolan, OP, GH Administrator.
The Michael Barlow Center proudly graduated four classes during this last quarter. Two Culinary Arts Classes, Basic and Advanced, completed course work. Both classes had several opportunities to show off skills during the course of the class. A large Green Building Maintenance Class graduated a few days before Christmas; among other things, they have become experts in “deconstruction” and building insulation. The High School Completion Program conferred diplomas on 26 graduates during the same week. Sister Jean Hughes, OP, SLM Staff and one of the High School Program creators, was the Commencement speaker. Staff at the Barlow Center work with those graduating to ensure that the diplomas or certificates received are not just hung on the wall but that they become the ticket to finding and keeping employment. Even in these very difficult economic times, having credentials can make the difference in getting a job.