With more than 20 locations in Illinois and operations in Wisconsin, Missouri and Florida, One Hope United works to prevent child abuse by providing support services to at-risk families.
One Hope United will host its 11th annual Blue Ribbon Event fundraiser from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 13, at the Lehmann Mansion in Lake Villa.
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If you goWhat: One Hope United's 11th annual Blue Ribbon Event, which features luncheon, raffles, silent and live auctions, and keynote speaker author and child advocate Steve Pemberton.
Why: Funds raised go toward programs that prevent child abuse through education, parent support, and counseling.
When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 13
Where: Lehmann Mansion, 485 N. Milwaukee Ave., Lake Villa
Cost: $100; $900 for a table of 10
Here's what Joyce Heneberry, director of fund development for One Hope United, had to say about the organization and the upcoming event:
Q: Tell us the story of how One Hope United was founded and who was behind it?
A: One Hope United was founded as Chicago Baptist Orphanage in 1895 and Hudelson Baptist Children's Home in 1903. The scope of services of both organizations evolved over the years, expanding to include foster care, clinical services and early childhood development.
The two organizations entered into a management agreement in 1987, creating a historic partnership between the agencies. In 2001, we expanded our services to Florida during the state's transition to child welfare privatization.
In 2004, we transformed into a federated partnership to reflect our position as a national organization working toward the same mission: protecting children and strengthening families.
In January 2010, as a federation, we changed our name to One Hope United.
Q: What are OHU's primary goals?
A: As One Hope United, we are uniquely positioned to advance our mission of protecting children and strengthening families throughout our service areas by providing an array of prevention, intervention and community-based support programs to vulnerable, high-risk populations, as well as education and advocacy on the local, state and national levels.
Q: What drew you, in particular, to this organization?
A: My story is similar to many who have become involved with the agency over the years. I was not familiar with the work of the agency until I began working for it. I thought it was a temporary job and I would eventually return to teaching high school English.
As I met the incredible and humbling staff and understood how they changed children's lives to allow them to become what they could be, and as I met and learned the unending need to support children and families in need, I never looked back.
Q: How exactly does OHU help children and families?
A: Its mission is protecting children and strengthening families, as well as educating and nourishing and empowering young children through a variety of programing, including foster care, adoption, residential care, counseling, family support and early education and care.
Q: How many people have you helped?
A: One Hope United impacts about 18,000 children and families annually in the Chicago area and more than 40,000 across the four states where we provide services.
Q: Tell us a story that illustrates how One Hope United has helped someone.
A: Nicholas Stodt has some impressive numbers. In June, the 18-year-old honor student graduated from Romeoville High School in the top-10 of his class. Last spring he notched a 32 on his ACT. And this fall, when Nicholas enrolls at the University of Illinois-Chicago, he'll be one of just 2 percent of foster kids who goes to a four-year college.
Nicholas' case was brought to the attention of DCFS in the summer of 2009 after his mother was arrested for the attempted murder of his stepfather. After further investigation, it was determined that Nicholas and his mother had been victims of severe domestic violence and sexual abuse.
When Nicholas was 10 years old his mother and stepfather married, and Nicholas' stepfather adopted Nicholas and became his legal guardian. When Nicholas' mother was sent to prison he was left in his stepfather's care. The abuse continued.
Then Nicholas began working with OHU caseworker Shirica Flowers. They built a trusting relationship, and, after awhile, Nicholas found the courage to tell her that he needed to get away from his stepfather.
"The biggest thing that has happened with his case is he is very vocal and able to share his opinion, which is really good for him," Shirica said.
After learning of the abuse, Nicholas' mother's parents fought for Nicholas to be placed with them. The hearing was difficult.
"When (Nicholas) was younger he didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings because he was unhappy," Shirica said. "In his court case he had to do that in a room full of people, even with his other grandparents and stepfather there. But he did it. He stated how he felt."
After the hearing, Nicholas was placed with his mother's parents in Romeoville, where he continued working with OHU and Shirica. Nicholas persevered through therapy and was discharged after only two years of treatment.
Despite his unstable past, Nicholas has always shown a tremendous commitment to academics. At Romeoville High School, he received several awards for his academic and community achievements, and was recently awarded a DCFS scholarship, which is given to only a handful of deserving foster children, and the Viretta Wisse Scholarship from One Hope United.
Nicholas' grandparents couldn't be prouder.
"He is so excited to be going off to school in the fall. I'm worried about him, but he's not scared at all," said Nicholas' grandmother. "It's such a great opportunity for him that he probably wouldn't have been able to do without help."
Nicholas' grandfather knows his grandson is destined to do great things.
"I know he'll do something with this."
Q: How much money does it take each year to run your organization?
A: The operating budget for One Hope United Northern Region is $32 million. The income is a combination of dollars through public contracts for service, such as foster care and for early education, fees for services provided, as well as private contributions from United Way partnerships and donations from individuals, churches, corporations and foundations.
Q: How did the Blue Ribbon Event get started?
A: Eleven years ago, a group of local volunteers -- primarily women from the Women in Business Chamber group -- got together bound by the idea that they wanted to make a difference funding prevention efforts. It was initially not in April, but has been for the last 10 years. Today, the committee is larger than ever and spans the geography of both Lake and Cook counties for its volunteers. Truly wonderful, committed volunteers.
Q: How many people does the event usually draw?
A: Attendance is anywhere from 250-300.
Q: How much do you hope to raise?
A: We hope to raise $100,000.
Q: What does the money raised go toward?
A: The funds raised go toward programs at One Hope United that prevent child abuse through education, parent support, and counseling.
Q: How can people donate even if they can't go?
A: Anyone can donate by going to onehopeunited.org/blueribbonevent. There is an option for an outright donation rather than sponsorship or purchasing a ticket.
Q: What's the draw of this event?
A: The cause -- prevent child abuse -- crosses so many people's sensibilities it has wide appeal. It is right for the child, right for the family and right for society as a whole. It is investing in prevention rather than paying to fix serious problems after they occur. Many repeat guests (attend) because it is both fun and inspirational, as well as working together for a cause. Great shopping at the auctions, a beautiful location, blending fun with a good cause.
Q: How important is the event to your funding?
A: Any dollars we raise for programs that prevent child abuse are important, and this event is one of the top fundraisers each year for OHU.