News & Views

Walkin’ on the Right Side

A little light rain didn’t deter the staunch supporters of St. Leonard’s Ministries who turned out for the 5th Annual Agency Walkathon, held on Sat., Sept. 24th. SLM Board Members, under the leadership of Event Chair, Kevin Dolan, planned and carried out the Walkathon. Hinsdale folks made up the largest single contingent of walkers – they also ate the most donuts! Walkers made their way east from SLM passing by Grace House and the Viceroy Hotel site. The route took them further east on Washington and then back to the starting point by way of Randolph Street – a really good look at the Near West Side. Once the Walk was finished, participants vied with each other for various and sundry silent auction items – everything from a Tiffany-style lamp to a signed Black Hawks hockey puck – with tickets to 6 Flags Great America thrown in, too. Walkin’ and talkin’ – a good time for everyone! Thank you to all who supported our walk-a-thon.

Viceroy Hotel Project

It seems to be taking forever, but little by little the Viceroy Hotel project (Warren and Ashland) is moving along quite well. Heartland Housing, the project’s primary developer has been working carefully to complete all the final pre-construction phases: drawing of architectural plans, permitting with the City of Chicago and development of various funding streams needed for this really large undertaking. Although the details have not yet been worked out, SLM has been approved for funding from the Chicago Housing Authority for 17 units of permanent housing that will be available for Grace House residents at the Viceroy. This is a major step forward for SLM’s part in the housing component of the project. A loan of $350,000 from IFF has been approved by the IFF Board and by the SLM Board of Directors; these funds will be part of the capital costs of the Gracie’s Coffee Shop site on the first floor of the Viceroy. As a result of this up-front sharing in capital costs, SLM will not have to pay rent for the Coffee Shop site for its first five years of operation. It is too soon to establish an actual move-in date, but if construction/rehab work moves along as planned, the end of 2012 will see GH women moving into their housing units and coffee brewing at Gracie’s Coffee Shop.

Smart Life Decisions Program

Working with Communities in Schools of Chicago, St. Leonard’s House and Grace House residents participate in the “Smart Life Decisions” Program which sponsors SLM residents going into Chicago Public Schools to share life experiences in hope of preventing the children from experiencing the same things. Students are encouraged to stay in school and not make bad choices of getting involved with gangs, drugs and criminal activity. St. Leonard’s House and Grace House have been part of this program for three years; every year appearance requests grow. School officials believe that young people are more apt to listen to someone who has “been there/done that” rather than an individual just telling them “don’t do it because I say so.” From the letters and emails received after each appearance, it is clear that differences have been made in many of the children’s lives. For the men and women of St. Leonard’s House and Grace House, there is no better way to give back to their communities and to make a difference the lives of young people.

Green – Green – Green

Behind the Barlow Center, occupying a small piece of formerly unused ground, sits the newly created Michael Barlow Center for Green Technology. Pete Baker and his staff are the creative geniuses behind the Center. Re-cycling is a primary activity, but an urban garden, complete with composting activities, is also planned for next season. A small green house outfitted with solar light panels is part of the physical complex. The green house was designed and built by students in the most recent Green Building Maintenance Class at the Barlow Center. Small vegetables will be grown in the green house during the winter and moved to outside space next spring. Vegetable crops will be shared between the St. Leonard’s House Kitchen and the Barlow Center Culinary Skills classes. The Green Tech Center is an example of lots of activity taking place in a very small space.