Bethany/El Buen Pastor UMC, Elston Avenue UMC, Englewood/Rust UMC, Faith UMC, G2G UMC, Irving Park UMC, Maple Park UMC, South Shore UMC and St. Matthew UMC were selected by Chicago Public Schools as Safe Havens for the 2014 Spring Break.
The selection of these churches follows several months of relational meetings between the Northern Illinois Conference Urban Strategy Planning Team led by Bishop Sally Dyck and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) leadership. The announcement of the Safe Haven Sites was released on Wednesday, February 26, 2014; one day following a “New Faith Leaders” meeting where CPS, Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Barbara Byrd Bennett shared opportunities and challenges facing CPS. The United Methodist Church was well represented by sixteen (16) different United Methodist Churches and some 25 clergy/lay leaders, including Northern Illinois Conference Bishop, Sally Dyck.
The Safe Haven Program provides safe places and healthy activities for CPS students during summer/spring break and after school by connecting churches with their neighborhood schools. The program is free to participants and runs the week of April 14 – 18, 2014 from 10 am to 2 pm daily. Free lunch and breakfast is also provided to participants.
When asked what it meant for the church to be a Safe Haven site, the Reverend Harriette Cross, Pastor of Englewood/Rust UMC on Chicago’s south side said, “This is an opportunity to let kids in the neighborhood know that we care about them and that they have a safe place. For us to be in partnership with Chicago Public Schools and participate in our children’s learning is great. This is just a start and we hope to do more.”
Churches selected as Safe Havens have an opportunity to connect with their neighbors and positively impact education & literacy and community safety by becoming vital, healthy alternatives for school-aged children and their families.
The Reverend Hannah Kardon, Senior Pastor from Elston Avenue UMC on Chicago’s north side, who also attended the “New Faith Leaders” meeting and whose church is a newly selected Safe Haven site remarked, “Being able to serve (the neighborhood) in a concrete way and deepening our relationship with our neighbors is what we have been praying for!”
Save the date for the Urban Summit II on May 17, 2014 focusing on community engagement and building healthy partnerships.