Summer Camp is the Best!

Story-1-MAIN-Summer-Camp-200x200pxBefore long, summer vacation will be here. And thanks to you, that means two very important words for many Chicago-area children: SUMMER CAMP!

Just ask Brianna (11), Arianna (9), and Jayden (8), who had the time of their lives last summer at The Salvation Army’s Wonderland Camp.

As soon as they boarded the bus in their gritty Englewood neighborhood for the two-hour ride to camp, all three were giddy with excitement.

“The first night we had a campfire,” says Brianna. “I made s’mores for the first time!”  Continue reading “Summer Camp is the Best!”

How to Keep Your Grandson off the Streets

Mother-Nelson_OL_250x250Eighty-five-year-old Vera Nelson has seen many changes on Chicago’s South Side over the decades. One of the first African-Americans to move into the West Pullman neighborhood in the 1970s, she says it was “a really nice area” at the time, “much different from how it is today.”

She’s seen plenty of hardship, including the loss of four (out of eight) children to illness. As a result, she took one of her grandkids, Aronda, then 9 months old, into her home. Now 12, Aronda is at an age where boys are at-risk, when they often begin getting into trouble with gangs and other dangerous activity on the streets. But not if Vera has anything to say about it. Continue reading “How to Keep Your Grandson off the Streets”

‘A Huge Relief for Me’

Simpson--IMG_0969_cr_250x250Amber Laster hadn’t planned on motherhood at the age of 16. But when her son Jabari was born, she had no plans to quit school, either. Only 50 percent of teen mothers end up with a high school degree, and Amber intended to be one of them.

She enrolled in Chicago’s Simpson Academy, the only public school for pregnant girls and teen mothers in Illinois, which has a graduation rate of more than 90 percent. But what about Jabari? Amber couldn’t afford daycare, and she desperately wanted to stay in school.

That’s where The Salvation Army stepped in, providing a nearby childcare center for Simpson’s students. The Salvation Army’s certified caretakers staff three rooms for infants and one for toddlers.

For young moms like Amber, it’s a blessing. Continue reading “‘A Huge Relief for Me’”

When You’re a Single Parent with Ten Kids . . .

Tasha1_cr_250x250As if life wasn’t hard enough for Tasha, a 35-year-old single mother of five.

In a very short time, she had a devastating fall, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, and had to go on disability. Then, when her cousin fell on hard times, Tasha stepped in to care for her five children.

Ten children. On a limited income. Unable to find full-time work, Tasha spun into a depression.

“I was in a really bad place,” she says. “I had no money, no inner peace, and I was full of anger that spilled over onto the kids.” Continue reading “When You’re a Single Parent with Ten Kids . . .”

‘They Love Me for Who I Am’

Maurice-Bufford_030_250x250Salvation Army helped him conquer 41 years of addiction

When Maurice started using drugs and alcohol at 16, he says it was “so I could talk to girls.” But when he joined the Navy during the Vietnam War, his abuse spun out of control. The end of the war didn’t help, either. As a vet of an unpopular war, he was often met with disdain; some even spit in his face. Maurice had trouble finding — and keeping — jobs. So he continued drowning his problems in booze and substance abuse.

For 41 years, Maurice remained an addict, living a vicious cycle of odd jobs, thievery, prison, failed attempts to sober up, and even the loss of his family. “I was so low,” he says now. “I was scared, and I had nothing. I just wanted to die.” So he attempted suicide.

Now, two years later, he’s glad he failed. “God saved me,” he says. “I don’t know why, but He did.” Continue reading “‘They Love Me for Who I Am’”