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March 2009

This Letter's News
Letter from the Acting Executive Director
Health and Wellness One on One
Carnaval Online Auction Closes Monday
A Midwinter Success for Center for Life and Learning
Story of Success:Healthy Heart Project Peer Leader Makes a Difference
Souper Results for Social Service Center
Meet the Staff
Tell Us Your Story

Chicago Lights changes lives one at a time by offering hope and opportunity to individuals and families who face the challenges of aging, poverty, and access to education and healthcare.

Tutoring Student

Our Eight
Outreach Programs


Center for Life and Learning

Elam Davies Social Service Center

Center for Whole Health

Summer Day

Literacy and Arts
at Near North Magnet Cluster Schools

Free Write Jail Arts and Literacy
at Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative School

Chicago Avenue

Leona laughing exercise

Student Singing

Mark Your Calendar!

March 24
Group Discussion
How to Strengthen Your Immune System

12:00 noon

April 1
Nia classes begin
12-week session 
10:00 a.m.

April 28
Group Discussion: Slow Medicine
12:00 noon

May 26
Group Discussion: Spend Your Supermarket Dollars Wisely
12:00 noon

Creative Expression

Paul and Claudine
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A Letter from the
Acting Executive Director

Dear Friends,

I recently inquired about the meaning of a phrase Chicago Lights uses frequently -- "changes lives one at a time"-- because many of our programs are offered to groups of people and build community. It was explained to me that "one at a time" conveys that each person we serve is treated uniquely; we honor each one's dignity, particular gifts, resources, needs and insights. 

The stories in this newsletter certainly reflect that those we serve experience such care.  They also convey that the distinction between giver and re
Chicago Lights Acting Executive Directorceiver becomes quite blurred; lives are changed in both directions! 

As you read this month's news, I hope you recognize how your own contributions through Chicago Lights bring meaningful change for you as well as for others, "one at a time."

Vicky Curtiss
Acting Executive Director
Changing Lives One at A Time
the Drop-in Health and Wellness Service at the Elam Davies Social Service Center

Merlyn Chua, a student Family Nurse Practitioner at Saint Xavier University, worked at the Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center (EDSSC) in early 2008 as she completed her
Community Health Nursing Practicum. She was then honored as a 2008-2009 Schweitzer Fellow and has since returned to the EDSSC with the intent to help those with limited or no access to the health care system. Merlyn's Fellow project is a Drop-in Health and Wellness Service for the homeless guests at the EDSSC.

"Working with these people without expecting anything in return is a very humbling and challenging task," she says. "This community service makes life full of meaning, aspirations, and accomplishment. Starting with small and simple acts, I am confident that in my own little way, I will make a difference in the community of the homeless. In the words of Dr. Schweitzer, 'Do something for somebody everyday for which you do not get paid.' This is the noble philosophy that runs deeply inside me."

Here are a few accounts from Meryln's experiences:

'I was never treated like this ever in my life!' 
At the Drop in Health and Wellness Program, I encountered Mr. A. He came in complaining of redness and swelling of both his feet, which made it difficult and excruciating for him to walk. Upon examination, I had a high suspicion that this might be cellulitis, a skin infection caused by bacteria. As the infection spreads, the patient may have a fever, chills, and swollen glands.

I called Northwestern Memorial Hospital ER triage to notify them that I was referring a patient. The ER nurse agreed to have the patient brought in. I accompanied him and helped him lift and pull out two well-packed, heavy suitcases in the cab. He told me, "I was never treated like this before in my life. I never expected that I would be coming to the emergency room today. I really appreciate your time taking care of me!"

I was touched when I heard his response. A few minutes later, the nurse admitted Mr. A and he ended up staying in the hospital for two days.     

I had also noticed that his shoes were overused and tight, so I asked Jill, program director at the EDSSC, for some assistance. Mr. A received a blessing in the form of a new pair of socks and shoes from EDSSC!      

After his initial consultation, referral, and treatment at the hospital, Mr. A returned for a follow up at the drop-in center, and I was pleased to note that his feet looked much better.

'Thanks for the encouragement and time!'
In another patient encounter, I encouraged Mr. C, who was afflicted with psoriasis, to keep his appointment at the VA. He later returned to me with three topical creams for his body and face, but complained that he did not know how to apply them. I spent some time providing him with instructions and demonstrating topical application.

He came back a week later and I was surprised to see him with clear facial skin. There was no trace of psoriasis in the previously affected areas. Upon leaving, he said, "Thank you so much for the encouragement and time you spent teaching me!"

For more information about the Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center, contact Kathleen McKenzie, Director or 312.981.3569

Post-Carnaval Online Auction is Open
Carnaval Logo

The 2009 Carnaval Mission Benefit has come and gone, but items from the silent auction are still available. Visit our post-event online auction at to view the items and place your bids. Hurry, the auction is open for only 3 more days.

Items start with affordable opening bids -- a mere 30% of their value, and a great deal for you!

Proceeds from this auction will be added to the gross total raised at the benefit -- over $300,000! Thank you to everyone who donated items, attended the event, and played a part in the planning process.

The auction closes next Monday, March 23, at 8:00 p.m. (central standard time)

For more information about Carnaval, contact
Allison Graham, Project Manager or 312.981.3596

A Very Successful Midwinter Event:
Center for Life and Learning's
Open House

     OpenHouse    Two women at Open House
The Chicago Lights Center for Life and Learning (CLL) is thrilled to report that more than 200 people attended their January open house, which was held at the Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) on Michigan Avenue.

Not only was this double the attendance number than at  recent open houses, but each attendee received a tour of LUMA's collection of Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art, as well as heard periodic testimonials from CLL members about why they enjoy being a part of the Center.

In addition to all the positive energy generated by the event, it has also provided an opportunity for the CLL and LUMA to forge a special relationship. Get ready for more collaborations in the future!
For more information about the Center for Life and Learning, contact
Patty Jenkins , Director or 312.981.3385

A Study in Success: Kimberly Embery,
Healthy Heart Circle Peer Leader

"I go around and tell the women the in building -- old and new -- about the Healthy Heart Circle, encourage them to come, let them know how it can help them," Kimberly Embery says of her work with the Healthy Heart Project at Sanctuary Place. "Some of the women are in recovery from alcohol and drugs. I help them know we have to recover our health, too."

The Chicago Lights Center for Whole Health's Healthy Heart Project has expanded beyond its initial work with women in the Cabrini-Green neighborhood to other locations around the city including Sanctuary Place, which provides housing to women in need and in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Healthy Heart Circles are the on-site support groups for the project. Part of what makes these Circles so successful is the input of participants, including paid peer leaders -- residents of the facilities who work to get other women involved. One of the best of these leaders is Kimberly Embery.

Kimberly says one of the most amazing things about the Healthy Heart Circle at Sanctuary Place is the way it has brought the residents together. "Coming from the place where we were -- some from prison, some from abusive relationships -- the women don't like being around each other. They just want to be in their apartment," she says. "But the Healthy Heart Circle has brought us together in unity as sisters."

The Healthy Heart Circle at Sanctuary Place averages 10 to 12 participants out of 66 at the facility, "but other women stop in periodically to be checked for diabetes and high blood pressure, or just to sit around. People are using the resources," Kimberly says.

"God has really blessed me," she says. "I lived at Sanctuary Place three and a half years, but now I'm just a bus ride away. I'm still a peer leader, and I'm continuing to be in touch with the ladies and helping them..." Read Full Story...

For more information about the Center for Whole Health's Healthy Heart Project, contact
Sally Lemke, Program Manager
Souper Bowl of Caring
Fourth Church Youth Collect Money and Food for the Elam Davies Social Service Center

In an economy where need is finding its way into more and more lives, the Fourth Church youth group opted to use Super Bowl Sunday to focus attention on hunger through the Souper Bowl of Caring: a national, youth-led, grassroots, faith-based crusade against hunger.
Souper Bowl of Caring Logo
As recently as 2007, groups participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring raised more than $8 million dollars for hunger relief organizations across the country.

This year, on February 1, the youth group collected money and non-perishable food items following each Fourth Church worship service and finished the day with more than $7,500. This bounty was donated to the food programs of the Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center, which annually provides more than 13,000 meals and food bags for hungry people in Chicago.

Congratulations to the youth group, and thank you to all who participated!

For more information about the Chicago Elam Davies Social Service Center, contact,
Kathleen McKenzie, Director or 312.981.3569

Meet the Staff!

Our team of nearly 50 full-time, part-time, and contracted employees works to help Chicago Lights change lives. Each brings unique talents and experiences, but they all work for one goal: to help make Chicago's urban landscape a more humane, just, and equitable place to live. Enjoy their stories!
Chicago Lights Staff MemberSince August 2007, Anne Spiegel, the Education Resources Manager for Chicago Lights Tutoring, has been applying her creativity and teaching background to engage Tutoring and Summer Day students and help them maximize their learning potential.

"The job is both incredibly enjoyable for me and intellectually challenging," Anne says. She enjoys the creative process of designing academic materials and curriculum. "Also, I love the interaction with the students on a regular basis. They teach me more than I teach them, and inspire me in numerous ways," she says.

Anne grew up in Evanston, IL, which she says "gave me an appreciation for diversity, as well as instilling in me a sense of duty to give back and be active in making changes in our society." This perspective drew her to a career in teaching, and after receiving her masters degree in elementary education from National Louis University, she taught a variety of grades in several schools in the Chicago suburbs for about five years.

When not working, Anne spends time with her family and likes to "laugh, read, see movies, play soccer, be athletic, practice using my Spanish (I'm fluent), eat at good restaurants, and travel." She also just started a swimming class, with a possible triathlon on the horizon for spring.

As she looks ahead to the next year with Chicago Lights, first on her agenda is Summer Day. As for Tutoring, "we hope to continue to grow our library of resources in literacy and math, while also adding other subjects...." Read Full Story...

Chicago Lights Staff MemberA lifelong Chicagoan, David Davis has been Manager of Programs and Partnerships for the Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center since September 2004.

David has 18 years of experience in social service, including working as assistant program director at a halfway house and as property manager for an agency that provided housing to homeless and very-low-income individuals. "I knew that I could make a positive contribution to this growing program," he explains.

He and his wife, Paula, have been married since 1996, and his family also includes two young-adult stepdaughters. "I like to watch CNN, the Food Network, and sports," he says. "I enjoy collecting music and cooking on my days off work."

However, these days, work is often on his mind. "Due to the current economic crisis in the United States, I am looking to do more networking to assist families who have been impacted by layoffs and failing businesses," he says.

Chicago Lights Staff MemberAfter working in a temporary staff role for Fourth Church last fall, Sergio Soltero says he "found the community at Fourth Presbyterian Church both warm and inviting." So, as of 2009 he is back as the newadministrative assistant for the Chicago Lights Center for Life and Learning.

Born to a Mexican mother and a father who was born in Puerto Rico to a German father and a Dominican mother, Sergio is the oldest of four boys. His family remains close, despite now being spread out from Israel to South Florida, where Sergio grew up. "Keeping up with them takes up all of my free time," he says.

Sergio says his true love is theatre, and he's helped start several improv comedy troupes. After earning a theatre degree at Florida State University in 2007, he lived and worked in Tallahassee "until I heard there was an apartment that had my name on it in Chicago," he explains. "I've been doing community theatre here in the city. I like it. I'll do it 'till I'm an old man. Then I'll teach it."

While he's still a young man, he has some plans for the Center for Life and Learning as well. "I am really excited by the opportunities my new job presents me each and every day," he says. "The first thing I'm focusing on is to get better acquainted with all the members at the CLL. I am also excited about taking over the Center for Life and Learning website -- a chance to stretch my technological muscles."
Chicago Lights Wants to Hear from You:
Tell Us Your Story

The donors and volunteers who participate in the programs of Chicago Lights enable us to change the lives of those we seek to serve. But we often hear from those involved that they receive at least as much as they give -- and often much, much more.

To honor your hard work and generosity and rejoice in these life-enhancing experiences, we'd like to hear your stories. Use the questions below to get started, then send your insights our way. Your Chicago Lights story might be in an upcoming issue of the newsletter.
  • What's your favorite Chicago Lights volunteer memory?
  • What experience with Chicago Lights prompted you to make a gift?
  • What do you like best about Chicago Lights and its eight outreach programs?
  • How has being involved with Chicago Lights changed your life?
Send your story to Allison Graham, Project Manager ( by April 24, 2009.
Mark Bereyso, President, Board of Directors
Jessica Royer Ocken, Newsletter Editor

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