In partnership with the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services, Family Focus has emergency assistance available for housing and utility payments, health resources, or employment and training services for those affected by COVID-19.

Assistance includes housing or utility payments of up to 3 months of rental, mortgage or utility assistance for unpaid bills due between March 1, 2020 and December 30, 2020; training to be a Health Navigator with certification from the Alivio Medical Center and the Arturo Valasquez Institute City Colleges of Chicago; and employment and training services for employment assistance and worker protection education.

If you or someone you know is in need of this assistance please visit our website for qualifying information and how to apply.

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To our participants, staff and the communities we serve,

As we face tremendous grief in response to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other black lives, many in our communities are experiencing deep despair and turmoil. We can’t even begin to express the shock and disbelief over the death of a fellow community member killed in broad daylight by the police officers who kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes. Many of us don’t know what to say right now – or are afraid of saying the wrong thing when comfort and leadership is needed most. We are sending this message to convey Family Focus’ commitment to support our community members. The injustice experienced has reignited emotions about our country’s deep history of racism that treats white people differently than black and brown people in the same community doing the same things. In the streets of Chicago and communities across this country and world, people are marching in George’s Floyd’s name and the injustice that has taken place.

Our hearts ache by the violence and destruction occurring and lives impacted by decades of injustice, inequity and racism. At a time like this, we believe that any sense of comfort can be found in the fundamental belief – and hope – that we can find the values that have brought out the best in each of us and build on these together.

The Principles of Family Support that have directed everything Family Focus does have never seemed more powerful, or more needed than they are today. Our mission to support families, in and with there communities, is based on working with understanding, compassion, respect and affirmation of the values of those we serve. Strong families make strong communities, preparing the next generation of leaders to create a world of justice, equity, embracing our individual strengths, talents and love for each other.

That begins with deliberate steps taken every day to move forward together. Everyone involved with Family Focus is working every day to become better allies and advocates for the communities we serve. We stand in solidarity with community members peacefully protesting against anti-black racism. We believe that we are each resilient, can learn from experience, and can come together to end racism and all forms of oppression.

While we strive to comfort those in pain, we can act. We can begin by listening to those most impacted by injustice and seeking to understand what they are experiencing. We can educate ourselves on how to become active allies to our community members facing racism. We can make sure our voices are heard by being counted in the census, by registering to vote and voting. Now is the time to show our staff, our participants, and our communities, that change begins with each of us.

Sincerely,

Caterina Varvaro
Interim President and CEO
Family Focus

P.S. We have added some additional educational resources about anti-racism and the history of systemic racism below.

Chase with representatives from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence

Family Focus Evanston participant, Chayse Johnson, was a Blue Ribbon Winner in the Student Voices Contest presented by the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence. Chayse’s entry was selected from hundreds of entries as the most powerful and well-executed piece in her age group. The award was presented at Catalyst Ranch in Chicago.

See below for her essay, entitled “WHY or WHY NOT?”

No, we haven’t made any progress on gun violence and to me that seems pretty unacceptable. We weren’t put in this world to take people out. We all were created for a reason and to take someone else’s life is trifling, and to take someone else’s away is even more trifling. I mean honestly it is getting out of hand. Now one year olds that haven’t even developed all the way are being shot. I mean it’s very disrespectful and it’s very sad. It’s so sad that “the line between reason and matter is getting thinner and thinner” (spoken by Rosa Parks) but it’s a serious issue and it needs to be stopped. It’s unacceptable and unfair; like have you ever thought about how that one single soul feels when they realize their life is about to end? You’re the reason they are gone and there’s no going back from that.

So I speak from the bottom of my heart. This needs to stop whether you like it or not. There is a reason for everything but is everything important? No, is anything important enough to take someone’s life despite your true feelings inside? You should give those other people a chance, not take it away. You don’t have to take someone’s life with one simple weapon that was held tight between your hands. You have a choice. You can make the right one. Those people that you take away want to believe it’s fake but have that you…

took their life away, whether or not it was a mistake.

By Chayse


Dear Friends,

It is hard to believe that nearly a decade has passed since Merri Ex became the CEO and President of Family Focus. As Merri plans a well-deserved move into retirement, we take this opportunity to say “Thank You” and reflect on Merri’s transformational impact on Family Focus.

As CEO, Merri wore many hats.  As a financial steward for the organization, Merri led the efforts to increase private funding from new donors, public and private sources by almost 30% during her tenure.

As a civic leader, she represented Family Focus and the Chicago community through her service on the Mayor of Chicago’s Early Learning Executive Council, through her appointment to the Illinois Children and Family Services’ Advisory Council and as a Vice President of the Chicago Alliance for Collaborative Effort. In each organization, she is warmly recognized as an enthusiastic collaborator and a creative problem-solver.

At Family Focus, Merri has embraced all our programs. She led us to develop the Power of Fathers initiative, helping men finding their path to being engaged and caring fathers. She has also nurtured the development and growth of the next generation of nonprofit leaders by creating the Emerging Leaders program for Family Focus staff, many of whom have risen to leadership roles serving our community.

Merri guided Family Focus through the challenge of the State of Illinois’ 2017 budget crisis. Faced with enormous potential layoffs and program cuts, Merri activated a state-wide support team to advocate for those we serve and for our staff who are so dedicated to our mission. We survived the crisis and became better, stronger and more focused in our commitment to our mission as a result.

Merri has always had her eye on the next step, the next opportunity for growth. This past year she guided our enrollment into Bridgespan’s nationally-acclaimed two-year consulting program, providing senior staff with team leadership skills that will take us through the transition to our next President and CEO.  There is no greater gift to an organization than leaving its board, staff and volunteers enthusiastic and hopeful about the future. Family Focus has appointed a board-led search committee. They have selected Koya Leadership Search to help identify our next leader who we hope will begin on July 1, 2019.

On a personal note, we will miss Merri’s enthusiasm, warmth and commitment to Family Focus and the Human Services field. Managing a nonprofit organization is a challenge. Its existence is defined by carrying forth the vision of those who have come before and by an ever-evolving vision and commitment from those who will guide the future. We are most grateful to Merri’s leadership.  Please join us in wishing Merri health and happiness in her retirement.  We are grateful to have had her as a champion, colleague, mentor and friend for so long.

Sincerely,


Bernice Weissbourd
Founder and Chairman Emerita

 


Vaughn Gordy
Board of Directors, Chair

 


Dear Friends,

This letter informs you about my impending retirement on June 30, 2019 after almost nine years as president and CEO of Family Focus. I have been privileged to work in Chicago’s nonprofit community for 45 years starting as a community organizer and executive director at Erie Neighborhood House through being the CEO of Family Focus, where I was once a participant with my daughter in 1980.

Over the years, I have worked with some of the giants in the human service and philanthropic fields at Erie Neighborhood House, the Sara Lee Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, and Chicago Foundation for Women. I have learned from participants in the many programs I administered, and my life has been enriched by knowing people throughout the Chicagoland region. Thank you to the many staff teams I have worked with, the unrecognized heroes who are the backbone of our civil society.

I have learned so much from Bernice Weissbourd, Family Focus’ 96-year old founder, not only about early childhood but about how to grow old gracefully. I believe deeply in our mission to nurture children and strengthen families in and with the community. That mission has been at the core of my personal and professional life.

Our Family Focus board has already begun the search process for our next CEO. Please click here to read a statement from our board chair, Vaughn Gordy and founder, Bernice Weissbourd. Whoever is selected as the next leader will be fortunate to work with an outstanding board, generous funders and a committed and dynamic staff.

 

With deep gratitude and optimism for Family Focus’ future,

Merri Ex
President and CEO

 

JOB TITLE: Program Assistant (Part-Time)
CENTER: Highland Park
REPORTS TO: Program Manager

OVERVIEW: The Right From The Start (RFTS) program, serving at-risk, primarily Spanish-speaking families, aims to promote healthy family functioning, positive prenatal outcomes for pregnant women and enhance the development of very young children. This part-time position is to assist with administrative tasks in the RFTS program.

Click here for full job description

JOB TITLE: Community School S.T.E.M. Program Instructor (Part-Time)
CENTER: Lawndale
REPORTS TO: Community Schools Resource Coordinator

Overview: To support and enhance the quality of the Community School program through planning and implementation of S.T.E.M. based, student-centered program activities. The S.T.E.M. Instructor will prepare and present materials for Scientists for Tomorrow modules and robotics activities according to curriculum alignment. The instructor will receive training and professional development to support the instruction and implementation of this curriculum at multiple Community School sites. This is a part-time, hourly position (16-20 hours a week).

Click here for full job description

JOB TITLE: Community School S.T.E.M. Program Instructor (Part-Time)
CENTER: Englewood
REPORTS TO: Community Schools Resource Coordinator

Overview: To support and enhance the quality of the Community School program through planning and implementation of S.T.E.M. based, student-centered program activities. The S.T.E.M. Instructor will prepare and present materials for Scientists for Tomorrow modules and robotics activities according to curriculum alignment. The instructor will receive training and professional development to support the instruction and implementation of this curriculum at multiple Community School sites. This is a part-time, hourly position (16-20 hours a week).

Click here for full job description

Job Title: Community Schools Performing Arts Instructor (Part-Time)
Center: Englewood
Reports To: Community Schools Resource Coordinator

Overview: To support and enhance the quality of the Community School program through the planning and implementation of
student-centered program activities. The Lead Instructor will prepare and present lessons and materials such as Dr.
Radner’s Common Core Extended Learning activities and the You for Youth project-based learning resources in
accordance with the curriculum alignment document. Professional development opportunities will be available to
support the instruction and implementation for multiple grade levels. Supervised by the Resource Coordinator, the
program promotes academic achievement and supports the social/emotional development of participants.

Click here for full job description

Job Title: Community Schools Lead Instructor Pre-K-3rd (Part-Time)
Center: Englewood
Reports To: Community Schools Resource Coordinator

Overview:
To support and enhance the quality of the Community School program through the planning and implementation of student centered program activities. The Lead Instructor will prepare and present lessons and materials such as Dr. Radner’s Common Core Extended Learning activities and the You for Youth project-based learning resources in accordance with the curriculum alignment document. Professional development opportunities will be available to support the instruction and
implementation for multiple grade levels. Supervised by the Resource Coordinator, the program promotes academic
achievement and supports the social/emotional development of participants.

Click here for full job description