Good News Sunday: Love of their late father inspires Latina sisters to launch their own wine label

This is Good News Sunday, a compilation of some of the more upbeat and inspiring stories published recently by the Daily Herald:

For Elia and Laura Rodriguez, wine equals love.

So when the suburban sisters launched their own wine label, Ella Wines, they did it with a love of their Mexican heritage in mind. And more importantly, the love of their late father, Macario.

The sisters are believed to be the first Latinas to introduce a new Mexican wine label in the Chicago area. The wines are sourced from three vineyards in the northern Mexican state of Baja California.

Working with a Mexican sommelier, they tried over 20 producers in the region before settling on the four varietals for their initial offerings: Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, merlot and Grenache Blanc.

The name Ella, which means "she" in Spanish, is also a combination of the first part of the sisters' names.

Though separated in age by 14 years, they were always on the same wavelength about what they wanted to do with their lives.

"We always aspired to more," said Laura, who lives in Hawthorn Woods. "And we think alike a lot."

"We call each other the other half of our brain," said Elia, who lives in Elgin.

For the full story, click here.

  Structured Opportunities for Academics & Responsibility (SOAR) instructor Krystal Luce talks with student Emmy Foster before making a coffee delivery to a teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Mount Prospect. Paul Valade/

Special needs students learn valuable life skills running coffee business

Every Wednesday morning at Lincoln Middle School in Mount Prospect, special needs students and their teacher don green aprons and become baristas.

Their SOARBucks coffee delivery service is part of the school's Students of the Structured Opportunities for Academics & Responsibility program, which aims to build life skills applicable in real-world settings.

"I love it because I get to interact with the students in a positive, fun way," said school nurse Susie Smith, who orders from SOARBucks every week. "And they make good coffee."

Teacher Krystal Luce started Lincoln's SOARBucks in 2019 after learning about a similar program at the Career Life Skills program at John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights. With a grant from the Mount Prospect Elementary School District 57 Education Foundation and support from the school, she purchased coffee-making equipment and supplies.

In a space once used for home economics classes - a washing machine in the room serves as a reminder of that era - students, who reflect a wide range of abilities, alternate between tallying receipts and preparing the coffee.

"Some of them will be gainfully employed in the future, and these are skills that they can apply to those kind of jobs," Luce said.

For the full story, click here.

  Luz Ramirez, a member of the DuPage Health Coalition navigation team, works with clients in her Carol Stream office. The nonprofit connects low income and uninsured DuPage County residents to low cost health services, including primary care, specialty care, testing, and medication. Brian Hill/

How the DuPage Health Coalition helps the uninsured

Carmen had hypothyroidism, a condition that caused her hair loss and muscle pain. If untreated, the thyroid disorder can lead to other health problems. But Carmen hadn't been able to see a doctor for about a year because she didn't have any medical coverage.

"I felt extreme fatigue," said Carmen, 57, who asked that only her first name be used for privacy reasons. "It's almost as if I couldn't get out of bed. I was depressed."

The Downers Grove woman discovered a program that helps uninsured people in DuPage County gain access to low-cost health care. Patients enrolled in Access DuPage pay no more than $15 for a primary doctor visit. Carmen currently pays $4 for medication to manage her thyroid issue.

"Now, I have no pain," she said through a translator. "The chronic fatigue is no longer there. My life is much more normal now, as normal as it could be with a diagnosis like this."

In the economic fallout of the pandemic, "there's just an awful lot of families that still don't have enough resources to make ends meet," said Kara Murphy, president of the DuPage Health Coalition, the nonprofit that operates Access DuPage.

Access DuPage served 5,741 people in fiscal 2022, almost 8% more than the previous year. Most are low-income workers.

For the full story, click here.

  Fremont Elementary School District 79 students, from left, Madeleine Hitt, Emma Cunliffe and Haylee Varvarezos-Fritch, enjoy shopping for the Fremont Township food pantry at the Mundelein Target. Paul Valade/

Fremont students learn value of giving at annual shopping trip

For 30 years, students in Mundelein-based Fremont Elementary School District 79 have participated in a shopping trip to buy food and household items for members of the community.

About 125 students from Fremont Elementary and Intermediate schools and 40 volunteers recently resumed that tradition, spending an hour at a nearby Target store purchasing items for people in need.

Three buses transported the enthusiastic students, who were split into groups once they arrived at the store. Each group could spend $100 from a predetermined list of goods.

The food and other items were set to be delivered to the Fremont Township Food pantry and distributed to local families.

"We try to build and foster empathy and the generosity of giving to those who are less fortunate than we are," Fremont teacher Chris Bratta said. "It not only helps the people we are buying for, but it also proves to be a valuable, meaningful life experience for our students."

For the full story, click here.

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