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An Opportunity for Practical Faith

Posted: August 25 2015 at 12:00 AM
Author: By Reverend Robert E. Biekman, NIC Urban Ministry Coordinator


This summer nearly 500 children are enrolled at United Methodist Church Safe Havens across the city of Chicago. Safe Haven is a partnership with Chicago Public Schools and the faith-based community, primarily churches to provide safe spaces, healthy food and learning opportunities for school-aged children.

This year Elston Avenue, Maple Park, South Shore, Faith and G2G United Methodist churches served as summer Safe Haven sites. Each site reported that attendance was up as compared to last year. The typical Safe Haven day includes breakfast, “teaching time”, activity time which varies from site to site and lunch. Last year the curriculum focused on anti-bullying. This year’s was developed by Junior Achievement and focused on entrepreneurship.

On Monday, August 3, Bishop Sally Dyck made a tour of all the United Methodist Safe Haven sites. Though common threads existed from site to site, each site visit was indeed unique in the ways in which staff was recruited, offerings provided and the atmosphere in which the children were received.

As an example, Maple Park and Faith United Methodist Churches were able to provide dental examinations and treatment through their partnership with the Mobile Dental Health Care Van program.  Some of the sites provided field trips for the children. At the South Shore site, the dedicated teaching staff worked with the children to grow green pepper plants as produce as they taught entrepreneurship principles, taught songs and even taught the children a little Spanish.

safehavenelsonSeveral sites used youth and young adult counselors to supplement adult volunteers. One Summer Chicago provided over 20 youth to staff the Maple Park United Methodist Church site. Due to unforeseen circumstances beyond their control, Elston Avenue was unable to meet the 25 children minimum required by Chicago Public Schools to receive Safe Haven funds. In spite of this setback, with the assistance of donations and a committed volunteer staff, they kept operating their site and continued to serve the children of their neighborhood.

This is just one of many stories that can be told of passionate people like retired teachers and nurses, former child care operator and counselors who are channeling their passion to serve children living their faith in practical ways.

Pictures of Bishop Dyck’s 2015 Summer Safe Haven Tour may be found here.

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