After the Table

Meet the Host: Christa Hamilton

Edited by: Sonya Lewis | April 19, 2018

Christa Hamilton, CEO and executive director at Centers for New Horizons, is dedicated to reducing violence in Englewood. Although she’s been an On the Table guest for multiple years she’ll serve as a host for the first time this May.

What motivated you to host a 2018 On the Table?

I have attended several On the Table gatherings and enjoyed the conversations and networking opportunities. I have been working on violence reduction strategies with stakeholders in Englewood, and now is a great time for me to bring them all together to get feedback and recommendations.  I also want to brainstorm new strategies.

Pictured above: Christa Hamilton is a 2018 On the Table Host.

Why is this issue important to you?

I am from Englewood and have many family members and friends who still live in the community. Approximately four years ago, I lost my nephew to gun violence in Englewood, and I know the trauma that it causes families to experience. So, I am dedicated to saving lives, reigniting hope and eliminating that trauma for as many families as I possibly can through my efforts.

Who did you invite to your table?

This year, we have invited aldermen and state representatives who serve the Englewood community, police officers from the 7th District, a City Colleges of Chicago representative, community organizers, Centers for New Horizons program participants, and residents.

What excites you most about hosting On the Table?

I am extremely excited about hosting On the Table, because it will offer key stakeholders from the Englewood community a chance to discuss our successes, challenges and opportunities in reducing violence. Over the last year, my organization helped launch a pilot violence reduction program, using transitional jobs and cognitive behavior therapy as the treatment. We will be sharing the results of the program thus far.

What frustrates you about Chicago?

I am most frustrated about the media attention that Chicago receives regarding violence, which is a real thing, but it is a symptom of a greater issue. Therefore, my organization, along with others, is working to course correct as many individuals as possible to reshape the narrative.

What do you love most about living in Chicago?

I am a loyal Chicagoan! I love that the city is multi-dimensional and you can have so many cultural experiences by traveling from one side of town to the other.  Also, after traveling to all of the major cities across the United States, I can safely say Chicago has the absolute BEST food!

What’s the #1 goal you hope to accomplish with your guests?

I hope that my guests are inspired to think of additional resources for the community so we can make a collective impact for families.

What are  the top 3 questions or conversation starters you have planned for your discussion?

  • Why is reducing violence in Englewood important to you?
  • What do you think is the root cause of violence in Englewood?
  • Who should be at this table, but is not?

If you could invite a famous Chicagoan to join your table who would that be and why?

I would love to invite Jennifer Hudson to my table. As a native Chicagoan who’s from the Englewood community, she understands the trauma of losing a family member to gun violence. I think she would be able to bring a perspective of love for the community, interest in helping families through trauma and reducing  gun violence.
After the Table

On the Table guest creates “Little Free Libraries” with Acting Up award

Pictured above: A“Little Free Library,” located at Forest Park Individual Education, 1220 California Ave. in Joliet, IL.

by Yolanda Y. Harris | April 16, 2018

Residents on Joliet’s East Side don’t have a library branch. But thanks to Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski and a $2,500 Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust, East Side residents began accessing free books and information about various social services through “Little Free Libraries” last winter.The approximately 6-foot-tall libraries, which stand as wooden boxes on top of wooden posts, are located on the outdoor grounds of 11 sites, including schools, park districts and recreational centers, on Joliet’s East Side. The 12th Little Free Library is expected to go up at the end of the year.

The Herald-News of Joliet reported that Catherine, deputy director at Joliet Public Library, used the Acting Up award to build the libraries. They were constructed by her father, Dick Yanikoski, who owns and operates Ferry Street Woodworks in Vevay, Ind. She also got a $500 donation from Joliet Noon Lions to purchase materials for the libraries.

Catherine said the libraries have been well-received by people in the community.

“They have been responding to them so positively,” she said.

People are retrieving materials from the wooden boxes and, although not required, they sometimes return books that they’ve read, she added.

Owners of the sites where the libraries are located maintain the libraries. Volunteers, mostly from the Kiwanis Club of Joliet, Joliet Noon Lions Club and Joliet School District 86, keep the libraries stocked with family-friendly reading materials and social service flyers and pamphlets.

Pictured above: Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski, a 2017 On the Table guest and Acting Up award recipient  

Catherine got the idea for creating the libraries after attending an On the Table hosted by the University of St. Francis in Joliet last spring. She was a guest at a table with representatives from the university, Joliet Area Community Hospice, Guardian Angel Home Health Care, Greater Joliet Area YMCA and other organizations. Her group discussion focused on advocacy and community awareness of social service agencies.

“I thought that from beginning to end, it was really valuable,” Catherine said. “I was very excited to be able to go to On the Table. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to hear everybody’s thoughts.”

One key takeaway from her On the Table experience was learning that so many organizations had the same challenge–conveying the availability of resources to the people who need them.

“There are so many resources available to people, but there are still so many people who don’t know about them,” she said. “How do you get that information out to people?”

For Catherine, the solution is to take the information to the people. Thus, the creation of the Little Free Libraries. The libraries cost about $3,500 to build, including labor and material.

“I was so appreciative of the opportunity to receive the Acting Up grant,” Catherine said, adding that she’s looking forward to participating as a guest again this year at the University of St. Francis’ On the Table.”

Pictured above: Catherine Yanikoski Adamowski and her father Dick Yanikoski pose in front of one of the 11 Little Free Libraries that Dick built on the East Side of Joliet, with the help of Catherine’s Acting Up award. This Little Free Library is located at the Hartman Recreation Center, 511 Collins Street in Joliet, IL.

After the Table

Meet the Host: Lena Walsh

Pictured above: Participants in Legal Prep Charter Academy’s 2016 On the Table.

Edited by: Yolanda Y. Harris | April 16, 2018

Lena Walsh is development and special programs manager at Legal Prep Charter Academy. This is Lena’s third year as an On the Table host, and it’s the school’s fourth table event. She’ll focus her table’s discussion on gun violence and Chicago’s racial climate.

Legal Prep has hosted several tables at a time during its On the Table events. Who participates in your table discussions?

We usually host seven to 10 tables of 10 to 15 people. Our events regularly involve students, teachers and parents. We have also invited community members from the West Side, such as police officers, after school program administrators, volunteers and representatives from the state’s attorney’s office.

Pictured above: Lena Walsh is a 2018 On the Table Host.

Why are you hosting an On the Table gathering again this year?

We have really enjoyed the dialogue that this event has created between young people and adults. Young people do not often have a voice at the table when it comes to issues like neighborhood culture or disparities in economic resources, but they have deep thoughts and ideas about it. This event gives students a platform for discussion and reminds adults that young people have a lot to say. It is great to hear from a variety of age groups about issues that are relevant to the community our school serves. It is also a great tool for the employees or volunteers who come from outside the community to better understand their role in supporting it.

What are some issues you’d like to discuss at your table?

In the wake of the national conversations around gun violence, many feel that would be a meaningful place to direct conversation. Also, there  cannot be talk about violence without talking about the systemic issues around the racial climate of Chicago, an important topic to us. We hope to fold those issues together for our discussions. We also want adults and students to think about things we can do in our locus of control as individuals or as a school to proactively reduce and repair harm in our community.

Why are these issues important to you?

Our neighborhood sits at the center of some of Chicago’s most shocking statistics in terms of crime and violence, but that does not and should not define it. Creating space for solution-oriented conversation around the realities for our young people is our goal.

What tips can you offer other hosts who are organizing tables this year?

As a host, try not to set big expectations for where a conversation should go. You never know where a conversation will lead. We host multiple smaller tables that have the same conversation starters but have wildly different results. People will want different things from this event. Allow them the space to take what they need and give what they can. You, in turn, will get richer responses and more meaningful conversation.

Where will your table convene, and what kind of food will you serve?

We will host our event at our school, located in West Garfield Park. We typically cater in different local favorites.  Last year we enjoyed MacArthur’s Restaurant, a southern food restaurant on the West Side.

Pictured above: Participants in Legal Prep Charter Academy’s 2016 On the Table.

After the Table

Meet the Host: Dale M. Cain

Edited by: Raquel Venado | April 10, 2018

Dale Cain is a professional nutrition specialist with a passion for promoting good health.  An experienced On the Table host, Dale will focus her discussion this year on health disparities within the African-American community. She is founder and executive director of Advocates for Community Wellness, Inc.

Why do you think there is a health disparity between racial and ethnic groups?

What I have observed is that so many people of color are in a survival mode. Many are working, trying to provide basic things for their families and themselves. Sometimes that means you may have to work more than one job, pick up overtime whenever possible and not have time or the energy to follow your dreams and pursue your health goals.”

What drew you to host an On the Table this year?

I have been participating for the past four years, and last year was very successful. We focused on the eight dimensions of wellness (financial, social, emotional, physical, occupational, spiritual, intellectual and environmental health). They represent the quality of life. This year, the goal is to continue with that conversation and focus on health disparities in general. We want to have a conversation about them and learn what we can do at a community level to change the trend.”

What are some of the issues you would like to discuss?

We took a poll about which of the eight dimensions of wellness people felt that they needed more information on. Mental/emotional health was at the top. It is really about addressing the emotional state of being and how this affects every aspect of our lives.”

Why are these issues important to you?

In my research as a nutrition specialist, I came across one question that people struggle to answer: Why am I not doing the things I need to do? It really comes back to the fact that our spiritual and emotional health drive our behaviors.  It is important to spend more time having honest conversations about them so families and communities can take a deeper look at what is creating not-so positive behavior.”

What do you hope to accomplish through your table?

Our goal is to be an agent of change, starting with participants and their families, so that mental wellness resonates with the people they come in contact with most often and then radiates into their communities. Our goal is to have wellness workshops in every community.”

What advice do you have for people who will be hosting tables?

Whatever the table is, select something that you love and are passionate about and be willing to take it to the next level.”

After the Table

Award helps Latino elders “act up” and develop their artistic skills

Pictured above: Latino elders paint during a La BROCHA workshop. La BROCHA was created with the help of a 2016 Acting Up award.

by Raquel Venado | April 10, 2018

Painting made me feel awake and happy! La BROCHA is like therapy.
“Painting made me feel useful.”
“Painting made me feel like Leonardo DaVinci.”
These sentiments, expressed by students in a special workshop, prove it’s never too  late to become an artist, and members of La BROCHA (The Paintbrush) are doing just that.

Initially created for Latinos age 60 and older with Alzheimer’s disease and their families, La BROCHA quickly evolved to become painting workshops for all Latino older adults, with a special invitation to those who have Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative conditions.

La BROCHA was launched in 2016 with an Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust. Two workshops were held that first year; and in 2017, thanks to a second Acting Up award, the workshops blossomed into a well-attended art exhibition.

Pictured above (left to right) are La BROCHA founding members: Judith Rocha, Susan Aguiñaga and Yadira Montoya.

The exhibition, “La Salud, Arte y Tradición,” was held on Dec. 2, 2017 at the National Museum of Mexican Art. It featured 98 pieces by 67 artists, and two interactive art tables, where participants were able to create clay sculptures and easel magnets.

Yadira Montoya, one of La BROCHA´s founding members and the Senior Engagement Coordinator for the Rush Alzheimer Disease Center, led an educational game of La Lotería.  In this case, the traditional images of the Mexican board game were substituted with images representing healthy aging, such as broccoli (healthy eating), swimming (exercising the body), socializing with friends, and books (exercising the mind).

In a get-to-know the artist kind of way, the participants were asked six questions:

  • Painting made me feel…
  • What´s the secret for a long life?
  • What´s the best advice you have ever received?
  • What is the best part of being your age?
  • What is the worst part of being your age?
  • What is your first memory in Chicago?

In general, participants said they feel happy and free; most of their first memories involved seeing snow for the first time in real life and seeing Chicago’s tall buildings.

The workshops welcome people who are 60 and older, but they make exceptions for younger people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.

“The art exhibit was a unique platform to highlight the artistic talents of Latino elders, but also to provide much-needed education on brain health and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Yadira.

La BROCHA is a passion project for its founding members: Judith Rocha, Yadira Montoya and Susan Aguiñaga.  For Judith, it is also a personal cause. The idea of La BROCHA started when Judith decided to take her mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 12 years ago, to an art workshop which had her mother´s favorite actress, María Félix, La Doña, as a theme.

“I wanted to see how she would do with an activity like that and she loved it,” says Judith. “For me, La BROCHA has been an opportunity to just expand on that and to have a space for older adults.”

La BROCHA changes themes every time and keeps attracting new people. The day of the exhibit, attendees signed up to stay connected to the project. Yadira says that during their first 2018 workshop, a handful of the seniors who attended the art exhibit took the next step and registered to participate themselves.

The workshops are also expanding beyond Little Village and Pilsen. In 2018, they are being held in Gage Park, Southeast Chicago and Humboldt Park. Judith says they now have groups of people following them wherever they host the workshops.

“It is nice to see that they are acting on their sense of community and traveling to different settings with La BROCHA.”

Pictured above: Paintings created by seniors were on display at the “La Salud, Arte y Tradición” exhibit, developed with support from a 2017 Acting Up award. The paintings, displayed on Dec. 2, 2017 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, were based on the traditional Mexican board game La Lotería, with images such as “El Corazón”, “El Nopal” and “La Calavera.”

Pictured above: The “La Salud, Arte y Tradición” exhibit drew people to its interactive tables of clay sculptures and easel magnets.

View Yadira Montoya’s 2017 video submission on what she would do with an Acting Up award: La Salud, Arte y Tradición / Health, Art & Tradition.

After the Table

“Bike Lady” uses Acting Up award to inspire wellness in Riverdale

by Yolanda Y. Harris | April 6, 2018

When people see Deloris Lucas, 62, riding her bike in the Riverdale community on Chicago’s far Southeast Side, it’s not uncommon to hear someone yell out, “There goes the bike lady!”

After all, she often wears a bright yellow or orange hoody, matching gloves, ankle reflectors and a black or gray helmet. And, she honks an old clown horn that she mounts on the donated bike that she rides for the day.

Ever since she was a teenager, Deloris has ridden her bike throughout Golden Gate, a Riverdale subdivision where she’s lived since 1967. She’s turned her love for biking into a community-wide biking and wellness initiative for the Riverdale community: We Keep You Rollin (Bike and Wellness Group).

Her On the Table experience

Last May, Deloris used her passion for wellness to host an On the Table discussion on achieving wellness in Riverdale. That 15-person discussion at Carver Park, and the resulting ideas for community action, led to Deloris becoming a recipient of a $1,000 Acting Up award from The Chicago Community Trust last June.

Deloris described her On the Table experience as “enlightening.” 

“It brought out people in the community who would have never come out, It brought us together. It gave us a chance to get some feedback on what they wanted to work on.”

Deloris Lucas

And although participants tended to over-reminisce about Riverdale in its heyday, Deloris, a former Carver High School pom-pom girl and 1973 class president, nudged the discussion toward future action. For Deloris, future action involved community wellness.

Deloris used the Acting Up award to purchase repair supplies, to recycle bikes back into the community and to build a shed where bikes are stored for the residents. She also organized the second annual “We Keep You Rollin’ Community Bike Ride”on July 15, 2017.

Her inspiration for wellness through biking

Biking took on special significance for Deloris when she was diagnosed with high blood pressure several years ago. She saw biking as a way to maintain better health.

“I am always trying to work on my wellness by losing a little weight, maintaining my pressure, keeping it tight, riding to work,” she said.

Deloris often rides her bike to Riverdale schools, such as Aldridge, Carver and DuBois elementary schools, where she works as a substitute teacher.   

She said: “People would always see me riding, and say ‘Hey, I need to be riding with you!’”

So in 2015, she started a bike repair shop and bike sharing program to help get people on wheels. 

View Deloris Lucas’ video submission on what she proposed to do in 2017 with an Acting Up award: Community Bike Riding

Her activities since Acting Up award

Today, We Keep You Rollin’ (Bike and Wellness Group) has evolved into a nonprofit organization focused on biking, walking and wellness. Deloris says the nonprofit serves all residents of Riverdale (which encompasses Golden Gate, Concordia Place, Riverside Village, Pangea Lakes and Altgeld Gardens), no matter if they’re walking, biking or using a walker on wheels.

Since receiving the Acting Up award, Deloris has built new partnerships with other bike organizations, TCA Health Center and the Forest Preserves of Cook County.  For example, Working Bikes donates refurbished bikes to her. In her “Earn a Bike” program, she gives area residents a chance to earn points for a free bike by performing helpful tasks in the community, like picking up trash, watering flowers, pulling weeds and passing out fliers for community activities. 

She’s especially excited about her new partnership with China-based ofo (sic), which donated 13 dockless bikes to create a bike-sharing program. Dockless bikes don’t require a docking station and can be located, locked and unlocked using a smartphone app.

We’re not charging a fee for these bikes,” Deloris said. “We’re riding them for wellness.”

Deloris continues her activism for wellness in Riverdale today by organizing bike rides, wellness workshops and biking ecotours and by teaching residents about community resources and nature areas. She also will host another On the Table event this year. Her 2018 table discussion will focus on pedestrian safety, neighborhood beautification and anti-littering.

Pictured above: Bikers at Golden Gate Park preparing for takeoff at the second annual “We Keep You Rollin’” community bike ride for residents of the Riverdale community on July 15, 2017. The Chicago Community Trust’s Acting Up award helped Deloris Lucas purchase bike repair supplies, provide storage space for bikes and organize the bike ride.