After the Table

One conversation leads to diverse workforce opportunities for students with disabilities

Pictured above: A Southside Occupational Academy student arranges linen during his internship at Hyatt.

By Kimberley Rudd | May 1, 2018

When Joshua Long began planning for On the Table in 2017, he wasn’t shy about setting a topic – he was crystal clear. The principal of Southside Occupational Academy High School – a one-of-a-kind Chicago Public School for young adults, ages 18-21, with disabilities – Long knew what action he wanted his table’s discussion to lead to: more opportunities for his students.  

“While general-education students move onto the world of work or college, our students come to us for transitional life skills to make them as independent as possible once they graduate.” 

Joshua Long, principal of Southside Occupational Academy High School

Long said “We have both the enormous task and opportunity of giving these students the skills they need, while finding partners in the community that can educate them in a real-world environment. So, our table conversation was about how we could find more partners to diversify the community internship placements that we have for the students.”

Southside Occupational Academy, which has 270 students, places interns at nearly a dozen work sites in the city, generally in groups of 10, for two to four days a week. These unpaid internships offer work-based skills development and job training, along with a public transit stipend and mentoring from established co-workers at each site.

For On the Table 2017, Long merged invitation lists with his host partners, ADA 25 Advancing Leadership and the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and was pleased when the invited guests included Eric Charlson, an executive with Hyatt hotels.

“Eric came, and we just engaged him,” Long said about the table conversation. “We had been really successful with getting students working in hospitals, handling different jobs, from food service to central supply to hospitality to security services. Students can work independently or alongside a hospital mentor, and so we really wanted to get into a hotel to give our students that opportunity.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Charlson, area director of human resources, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Park Hyatt Chicago, was on board with the idea of engaging students. “Last year at an On the Table event, I met with a group of potential partner organizations at Southside Occupational Academy for a conversation to learn more about the school and potential future partnerships with it. I was immediately impressed and thought there could be a rewarding partnership with the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place to provide hospitality experience to their students,” he said. “The partnership made perfect sense, given a pillar of our Hyatt Thrive platform is our company focus on giving back through local community partnerships. In addition, I envisioned potential future job opportunities for Southside students within the hospitality industry upon their graduation from the school program.”

Pictured above: A Southside Occupational Academy High School student interning at a local Chicago hospital.

In a matter of weeks, Charlson collaborated with Sharon Bojan, a Southside teacher, to get the partnership up and running for the 2017-2018 school year. Today, 10 Southside Occupational Academy students work at the Hyatt locations two days each week in banquet and housekeeping departments.  

During a recent visit to Hyatt, Long was able to see students busy in several areas. They were  making gourmet sandwiches alongside a chef, removing laundry from a massive chute, washing dishes, restocking a hotel information kiosk and delivering supplies. For the 2018-2019 school year, Long is hoping to make the hotels full-time, four-days-a-week work sites.Other Southside Occupational Academy worksites include Navy Pier, the University of Chicago Medical Center, Mercy Hospital, Mt. Sinai Hospital, the Field Museum and the Museum of Science and Industry.  “So far the partnership has been fantastic,” said Charlson, “and we have worked with their students on job readiness within the hospitality industry by giving them hands-on experience.”

“The partnership has been so successful that we are excited to continue it into the 2018-2019 school year.”

Eric Charlson, area director of human resources, Hyatt

What does Long want to happen after this year’s On the Table?

“This work is so fluid,” he said. “We are, by CPS definition, merely a specialty high school, a place where students go who can be better educated in a separate environment from their general-education peers.”

“But we see ourselves as innovators,” he added.  “We’re looking at Chicagoland as an area where we can figure out how to best develop the skills that our students need as they transfer into adulthood.”

Southside Occupational Academy High School has two locations: Its main campus is at 7342 S Hoyne Ave., and its C3 Hub is on the third floor of 2710 S. Dearborn St. Joshua Long has been its principal for eight years. For more information, visit  

Pictured above: A partnership between two local Hyatt hotels and Southside Occupational Academy High School (a Chicago Public School for students with disabilities who are ages 18-21) was sparked at On the Table in 2017.  Now, 10 students are interns at Hyatt’s McCormick Place and Hyde Park locations, gaining work experience in hospitality, and the partnership is expected to grow in the 2018-2019 school year.

After the Table

Meet the Host: Jose Wilson

Pictured above: Jose Wilson of North Lawndale Employment Network, 2018 On the Table host.

Edited by: Yolanda Y. Harris | April 30, 2018

Jose Wilson is director of workforce programs and clinical services at The North Lawndale Employment Network. This year marks the third year that The North Lawndale Employment Network  has hosted an On the Table discussion, and Jose’s second year leading the discussion. Jose’s table will occur during breakfast and focus on drug use among youth and young adults.

What drew you back as an On the Table host this year?

We had a hugely successful and engaging conversation with our clients that focused on the multitudes of systemic barriers they face, such as mass incarceration, employment, tensions with police, poverty and gun violence. We look forward to continuing these conversations this year as we unpack the challenges our participants face and the solutions to resolve these issues.”

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

This year, we will discuss the following question: Why are so many of our youth, young adults and residents using drugs? We will invite emerging adults to participate in the discussion. Last year, we focused on an adult population.”

Why are these issues important to you? 

We hope to gain a better understanding of the driving forces causing the use of drugs in our community, especially marijuana. Unpacking the reasons for the drug use and types used can help identify the best intervention strategies to support the users.”

How has being a host for On the Table in past years benefitted your organization?

It has drawn us closer to our participants and those our organization serves. It helps remove the unspoken power dynamics that can exist between nonprofit staffers and clients so that we can connect with and better understand our clients and the obstacles they face. This leads to improved programs, strategies and approaches to reducing poverty and violence.”

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

Set the stage. We provided some helpful, guest-guided conversation parameters to ensure everyone felt safe and respected to engage in deep, meaningful dialog. We wrote out on paper at the front of the room some guidelines, such as “no judgement zone.” This allows guests to feel free enough to be themselves and not fearful of judgement and backlash. We wanted guests to be open and expressive since it can be hard to discuss difficult topics in an unfamiliar setting.

Pictured above: Staff and guests from Northlawndale Employment Network’s 2017 On the Table.

After the Table

Meet the Host: Rev. Adonna Davis Reid

Pictured above: South Shore United Methodist Church holds a bi-weekly community prayer circle and peace vigil in front of the Walgreens, on the corner of 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard. This prayer circle occurred in May of 2017.

Edited by: Yolanda Y. Harris | April 30, 2018

Rev. Adonna Davis Reid is pastor of South Shore United Methodist Church, 7350 S. Jeffery Blvd. The church’s On the Table dinner last year inspired it to hold bi-weekly prayer circles and peace vigils to tackle negative behavior on a street corner in the local  business district. A second-year On the Table host, Rev. Reid will continue to foster the conversation on community safety as it pertains to economic vitality this year.

Why did your church begin having prayer circles and peace vigils?

We partnered with the 3rd District of the Chicago Police Department to engage in “positive loitering” at troubled corners throughout our district. The negative activity outside of Walgreens, on the corner of 71st Street and Jeffery Boulevard, was a great concern for community residents and business management alike. So, we held a prayer circle and peace vigil last May, shortly after our On the Table dinner. We have continued ever since then to hold the vigils every other week, even throughout most of the winter.”

Pictured above: Rev. Adonna Davis Reid, 2018 On the Table host.

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

We would like to hear from the community regarding the issues that were raised last year. We talked about community safety, gun violence, joblessness and underemployment, food insecurity, vagrancy and illegal activity, such as the selling of loose cigarettes and narcotics on one of the major business corridors in the area, which is along 71st Street. We also would like to know the perception of where we are now with respect to last year and where might we go from here together.”

Why are these issues important to you?

A strong economic infrastructure and (sense of) community safety are critical to the stability of the community. These concerns are important to residents, police, and businesses. The church is committed to supporting the community to help achieve and sustain vitality and stability.”

What do you hope to accomplish through your table?

We would like to explore other things we might do to build on the efforts already in place in the form of the prayer circles and peace vigils. We believe that we can achieve our collective goals by collaborating with others who share the same vision for a safer community that is characterized by strong and vital families, businesses, schools and churches.

Did you learn anything from your experience as a host last year that will affect how you host your table this year?

We kept contact information that will enable us to invite back those who attended last year. We would like to continue to develop relationships and partnerships that will lead to a sense of collaboration, with the church helping to galvanize efforts around the issues that are important to the community.

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

Strive for diversity. Our table conversation was enriched by the presence of a mix of voices — residents, both church members and others, and business owners.”

Pictured above: South Shore United Methodist Church and community residents at the church’s On the Table dinner in 2017.

Pictured above: South Shore United Methodist Church members promoting the church’s prayer circle and peace vigil in 2017.

After the Table

Meet the Host: Donna Smith-Brumfield

Edited by: Raquel Venado | April 21, 2018

In 1993, Donna Smith-Brumfield became the first African-American woman to hold the office of village clerk of Matteson,Ill., where she served until 1997. A third-time On the Table participant, she will serve as host for the first time this year and focus her discussion on health disparities in the south suburbs.

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

I know people enjoy talking and getting to know one another in social settings. I volunteer as the program director for the South Suburban Diversity Dinners, an organization that has been making space for community members to get together to talk for 21 years. I have found that On the Table is the perfect setting to continue this type of conversation.”

Pictured above: Donna Brumfield, a 2018 On the Table host.

What frustrates you about Chicago? 

I am frustrated that the downtown and northern areas of Chicago can be as attractive and built up as they are while many areas on the South and West Sides look like war zones. I believe if all one sees looks terrible, you can’t see beyond that.”

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

My biggest concern is the health disparities for the less fortunate and women of color in the south suburban communities of Chicago. There should be no reason that people in this community, nor country, should not be able to receive adequate health care, especially mental health care.”

Why are these issues important to you?

As an elected official, I was amazed at how people only came to town meetings when there was an issue on the table instead of attending regularly to ask questions, better understand what’s going and share ideas. Let’s not wait until a crisis occurs in our community to get involved. I hope people will see they can make a real difference in their community. Sometimes, people need to know resources are available to them.”

How do you plan to engage the attendees?

I will ask participants to share their positive stories about living in the south suburbs; then, I will ask them to share an experience that wasn’t so positive. I believe our experiences will lead to some stimulating conversations and questions.”

What advice can you offer other hosts who are organizing tables?

Don’t feel you have to know it all or have all the answers. We’re all at the table together listening, learning and living the experience!”
After the Table

Meet the Host: Brent Peterson

Pictured above: Screenshot of website

Edited by: David Rudd | April 21, 2018

Brent Peterson is chief development officer at Thresholds. This is Thresholds’ fourth year as an On the Table host. This year, the table will address mental health, substance use disorders and alternatives to incarceration, and the discussion will take place at Thresholds’ offices.

What drew you to host On the Table this year?

My motivation is to talk about topics for which we have programs. We want people to learn about them and get excited about them. I usually first talk to people at Thresholds about what we should talk about at the table. What are we struggling with? Who should we talk to? You then let these people know you don’t want anything from them, you just want to share ideas. The On the Table format is very disarming.”

Pictured above: Brent Peterson, 2018 On the Table host.

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

The first issues will be about arrest diversion and justice reform. We have partnerships with police and jail officials. We want to talk about growing those partnerships, identifying barriers to growth and keeping people out of jail.  Addressing mental health and substance use disorders is crucial for arrest diversion. We tried to identify people who’d be useful to talk about those barriers.”

Why are these issues important to you?

Mental health and substance use disorders go hand-in-hand. We used to treat them independently, but we have since learned, you have to treat them together. If you’re in the mental health business, you have to be in the substance use disorders business, too. We want the police department to know there’s an alternative to jail. We want the University of Chicago Health Lab and Crime Lab at the table to study the success of our program. This program is a really important pillar of our future.”

Does On the Table allow for innovation that you may not achieve otherwise?

Do new ideas spring forth? They can. Conversations are always good when you have the right people around who each want something the other can provide. There’s power in conversations and there’s power in stories. If it’s something that encourages people to talk, we like that a lot.”
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.