DeQuan's Story

Through our Summer youth employment initiative, we were able to hire 15 college and high school students to work directly in our Summer youth program. This year, 12 of the students were first generation college students from the South and West Sides of Chicago. Our youth employment model not only provides direct access to a Summer job, but life on life mentoring and guidance throughout the duration of the job. Through this model we’re able to apply the curriculum, teaching, and on-the-job training in a cohesive and complimentary way with students who are in key moments of decision making, career development, and life trajectory.

This year, one of our stand out summer staff was DeQuan (Quan) Clark. Quan’s father is incarcerated and he was raised by his grandmother. Throughout high school, Quan was encouraged and supported by his grandmother to pursue his goal of going to college and to become an engineer. Quan graduated with honors and was accepted to the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign for the fall of 2017. His grandmother was his biggest champion and support to make his dreams a reality by attending the University of Illinois. Unfortunately, three days after Quan moved to campus, his grandmother passed away.

“My grandmother was also going to pay for the books I needed in my other classes as well, so I couldn’t focus 100% on academics because I had to stress over being prepared for class and how I would pay for my tuition to remain a student. Everyone in my family was aware of the commitment my grandmother had for my education, but after her passing no one was involved or there for support. I didn’t have a positive or healthy outlet for my grief outside of my close friend group, so it became difficult to not dwell about my grandmother.” After the difficulty of not having the necessary resources to complete classwork coupled with the grief of losing his grandmother, Quan was placed on academic drop and withdrew in January of 2018.

When we began working with Quan over the Summer and got to know his story, he was investigating options to pursue going back to school through a City College. We were able to provide Quan with the support he needed to navigate the petition process at the University of Illinois and ultimately, he was able to successfully petition for his first semester’s grades to be retroactively withdrawn and to be readmitted for the 2018 school year with a clean slate. Hope Works was also able to support Quan through purchasing a laptop and his first semester’s books, and a scholarship to cover his account balance.  

We’ve been able to surround Quan with the support he needs to in order to pursue his academic goals while attending college. We’re honored to be a small part of his story and supporting him to  re-write his future opportunities. Today, Quan is back at school at the University of Illinois where he is pursuing an engineering degree.

Glen Lerner Attorneys Partnership

Hope Works is able to continue work in Woodlawn through the partnership of our community. We are so grateful for the investment from local businesses in our mission. Recently, Glen Lerner Injury Attorneys partnered with us by making a donation. The announcement from the firm is below.

The lawyers at Glen Lerner Injury Attorneys recently had the honor of contributing to the Hope Works Community Development, an organization that helps provide job seekers with necessary tools to interview successfully in the Woodlawn community. Glen Lerner’s donation directly helped Hope Works meet with 19 individuals to prepare them with interviews. The staff at Hope Works was able to help update resumes, practice interviewing, and even provide five individuals with professional clothing from Glen Lerner’s clothes drive. Three of these individuals were offered jobs throughout Chicago!

The firm was proud to support such an important cause. The life transformations that are made possible through the hardworking staff is just one of the many reasons the Chicago personal injury lawyers support Hope Works Chicago.

Taking a Break With Junior Achievement

The second week of April was spring break for Chicago Public Schools and 20 elementary and middle school students from Chicago’s South Side gathered together in Living Hope Church, where Hope Works is located, to learn basic business and financial skills.

Financial literacy, especially when developed at a young age, can give kids the ability to plan for the future, teach them the importance of making wise decisions with their money, and inspire them to share their knowledge with their community. Junior Achievement is a comprehensive curriculum that uses games and activities to communicate valuable lessons.

The kids learned how to make and spend money wisely, save carefully, how to start and run a business, and how to develop a strong work ethic. Campers were provided with breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed a variety of crafts and games. Delicious food, new friends, and the accessible Junior Achievement curriculum not only ensured a lasting knowledge, but an exciting spring break.

This summer Hope Works will host summer camp in partnership with Living Hope Church, and will again use the Junior Achievement curriculum to inspire students to make wise choices.

To enroll your child in summer camp, call 312-709-1381 and ask for more information.

Machinery, Dancing, and Sweet Sixteens

As a staff, we love it when David* comes in for his weekly appointments. He is personable and easy to like.  You can often find him telling staff about his daughters or talking about how much he loved dancing as a younger man. “I loved every style- Jazz, ballet, tap, footwork, hip hop.  I was always the life of the party.”  “When you dance now, does it embarrass your daughters?” Shalom asked him during their last meeting. “No, no of course not. I’m really good. It’s not embarrassing when I dance.”  


To meet David is to become his friend. When asked to describe himself, he paused a moment and replied simply “I try. That’s all I can say. I try my hardest. I try to always tell the truth.  I always say that I never lie because if I’m ever abducted by aliens, I need my friends to believe me.”  His last comment results in friendly chuckles from the staff in the conference room.  

He is open and eager to learn and to work hard.  He has held a variety of jobs over the last twenty years, most recently working with machinery in a local factory.  He lost his job due to downsizing and came to Hope Works to create a new resume and to get help looking for and applying to jobs.  If you were to sit in on a meeting between him and a community advocate, it would quickly become clear that he is committed to being a good employee.  For him, not only does he want to have a good work ethic, but a paycheck allows him to care for his seven children.  He beams with pride as he talks about his daughter’s math skills. “She’s really good with numbers, I don’t know how she does it. I never liked math.” He shakes his head and laughs. David continues “My daughter’s sweet sixteen birthday party is next week. It’s going to be perfect but it has been a lot of work. We’ve spent weeks planning.” Shalom has him promise that he’ll tell her about the party next time as they schedule another appointment.  

At Hope Works, Shalom and her team get to do more than just help people to prepare for interviews or fill out forms. They learn their stories and bond over the things they have in common. Hope Works is a community inside of a community where people talk about their families and their hobbies.  Everyone who comes through our door brings their story with them and at Hope Works we get to be part of those stories as our clients turn over a new page and start a new chapter.  If you would like to be part of the narrative of hope in Woodlawn, click the button to go to our website and see how you can be involved.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of our client

Walking in Someone Else's Shoes

During one of Ryan’s* appointments, another program participant named Greg was completing his intake assessment. Greg was asking his advocate for help preparing for an upcoming interview at a local grocery store for which he had neither professional clothes nor transportation.

Ryan overheard and offered to walk with Greg to his apartment to see if they could find something that worked. Ryan did not have interview clothes either, but thought he might be able to help. The two headed down the street after their appointments and Ryan was able to give Greg a shirt and pair of shoes for the interview.

With a new interview outfit and interview skills, Greg was offered the job and within a few weeks SCR Medical Transportation hired Ryan to work as a bus aide. Now, with a job in transportation to help him move forward, Ryan continues to visit Hope Works to apply for internships and training programs in youth corrections and parole.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of our clients

Moving Forward

When Vanessa* came to Hope Works, she knew she needed to return to work but did not know where to begin. Vanessa had undergone several major surgeries which required her to stop working for 7 years. She made an appointment and quickly developed a relationship with her community advocate. Together they applied for jobs that would allow her to support herself and save for her daughter's college tuition. However, after working enthusiastically to apply for several jobs, she was told by her doctor that she was not cleared to work due to health concerns.

This was disappointing news both for Vanessa and for Hope Works. Vanessa had a couple thousand dollars of credit card debt and without a source of income, it would be impossible for her to assist her daughter in paying for college. Although Vanessa was no longer able to look for a job, Hope Works continued to help her find stability. First, Hope Works put Vanessa in touch with the Center for Economic Progress to help her work through her debt. As a result of meeting with CEP, Vanessa became much more confident about her financial situation and was able to start planning for the future.

As they worked together, Vanessa began to share more with her community advocate about her past. After opening up about some of the hardship she had endured, Vanessa and her community advocate decided that it would be good for her to attend therapy. Hope Works was able to refer Vanessa to a counselor, who is continuing to help her deal with her past in a way that's healthy and empowering.

Hope Works was also able to help Vanessa find college fairs and resources for her daughter. Vanessa continues to come in to Hope Works to register for college fairs and seek information about scholarships and test prep programs. Hope Works strives to promote the growth of our clients by offering diverse resources that will contribute to long term stability. We are optimistic that Vanessa will be cleared to work soon and that she will have all of the tools she needs to thrive in her work environment when that day comes.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of our client

Fighting Back

On April 7th of this year, Rachel* finished chemo and was finally declared cancer-free.  But while she had finished the fight against cancer, she could not have known that she would have another battle to fight so soon.


Due to the state budget impasse, she had not been paid in months for her work as a caregiver with a home health care agency. Despite working full time, she was not receiving compensation and needed a new source of income.Rachel also found herself in a poor living situation and was eager to find a better option.  She applied for subsidized housing so that she could move into a space of her own, but her request was denied. With unstable housing and a lack of job opportunities, Rachel needed more options to change her situation.


Then Rachel came to Hope Works. With a deep desire to help people around her, Rachel shared her dream of one day becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) with one of our Community Advocates who listened to her story and helped her to develop an action plan in order to reach her goal.

Together with Hope Works, Rachel has created a plan to overcome the barriers that have limited her for years.  She is now enrolled in our GED tutoring so that she can further her education and is meeting weekly with her Community Advocate to receive job coaching and training.

Rachel is getting closer to her goals but she recognizes that she cannot do it alone.  The financial support of our donors allow us to keep working for Rachel and providing her with the resources she needs to take her career to the next level. By donating, you are ensuring that Rachel continues to receive the training she needs to get hired.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of our client

David's Story

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David’s Story

Over 8 months ago, David had his first appointment at Hope Works. He had been laid off and needed to find new work as soon as possible. He had been to a few interviews, but wasn’t getting called back.

David was qualified for the positions he applied for, but needed practice communicating his potential to employers. Our program manager, Shalom, worked with him to practice interviews and to polish his resume.  

Meanwhile, the team at Glen Lerner Gives Back, the charitable arm of Glen Lerner Injury Attorneys, hosted a clothing drive to collect professional clothes for our clients to wear to interviews. While our staff was helping David prepare, Glen Lerner Gives Back was making sure he would look prepared as well.

David also began attending services at Living Hope Church, with whom we share our building. This presented David the chance to be supported by a community that would care for him as he worked towards employment.

The day before David’s most recent interview, Shalom helped him pick out an outfit to wear from our professional closet.

“Does it look good?” He asked as he tried on a button down and slacks. “And I get to keep these? Just like that?” he looked at Shalom. “You look great and you sure do” she replied encouragingly.

One of the first things Shalom noticed about David was how committed and focused he was as he searched for a job. He had been dedicated to finding employment and was always genuine and kind with our staff throughout the process. It’s always exciting to know that a client is prepared for an interview and David could not have been more ready. 

David called this week to tell us that he landed the job and will start next week. Unemployment is a big hurdle, but when our partners like Glen Lerner Gives Back come alongside Hope Works, our clients are able to get to the next step. We are thrilled to see David take on this new role and can’t wait to see where his determination takes him next.


To learn more about Glen Lerner Injury Attorneys, visit here.

Want to Learn More?

One of the things we often hear is "How can I learn more?" So we compiled a list of resources that our staff has found helpful for better understanding our community. 

While the readings listed below reflect multiple theological traditions and approaches, we encourage the practice of reading widely to encourage discussion and thoughtful learning.

photo courtesy of Ginny (ginnerobot) on flickr

photo courtesy of Ginny (ginnerobot) on flickr

On Race, Reconciliation, Justice, Equality, and Biblical Perspective

  1. The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois

  2. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

  3. The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

  4. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

  5. Family Properties by Beryl Satter

  6. Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam

  7. The Heart of Racial Reconciliation by Brenda Salter McNeil and Rick Richardson

  8. There’s is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton

  9. Race Matters by Dr. Cornel West

  10. The Urban Christian by Ray Bakke and Jim Hart

  11. The Cross and the Lynching Tree by James Cone

  12. Just Generosity: A New Vision for Overcoming Poverty in America by Ronald Sider

  13. Generous Justice by Tim Keller

  14. Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith

  15. United by Faith: The Multiracial Congregation As an Answer to the Problem of Race by Karen Chai Kim, Curtiss Paul DeYoung, Michael O. Emerson, and George Yancey

  16. Reconciliation Blues: A Black Evangelical’s Inside View of White Christianity by Ed Gilbreath

  17. Free at Last? The Gospel in the African-American Experience by Carl Ellis Jr.

Charmanda's Story

Charmanda wanted to work as a real estate agent since she was 19 years old. When she came to Hope Works, she had done exactly that for nearly a decade. She enjoyed it because the hours were flexible, and that their was never a dull moment on the job. Whether she was getting to show new properties, or getting to meet exciting clientele, no two days were the same.

Unfortunately, Charmanda was not getting many calls at her real estate brokerage. Since she was paid by commission, she was not making enough to support herself and her children. She quickly started seeking new opportunities, but was having trouble getting interviews. She began to worry that her resume was not as good as it could be. When her neighbor across the street recommended Hope Works for our resume services, she decided to set up an appointment with one of our case managers.

Though she wanted to find another job in real estate, Charmanda decided to expand her options and worked with one of our community advocates, Kimi, to make two resumes: one for real estate, and one for everything else. Before too long, Charmanda began to notice that people were viewing the applications she submitted. After being contacted for more and more interviews, Charmanda was offered a job with a real estate brokerage.

The new position gives Charmanda not only a job, but a career - the career she has wanted since she was 19! She is able to support herself, and is excited to become an even better realtor. Because of the flexible hours, she is able to drive her kids to and from school! Charmanda was also offered a seasonal position working in a warehouse, which she plans to accept for a consistent source of supplementary income.

Like most Hope Works clients, Charmanda already brought a great deal of experience to the table. All it took for Charmanda to get her dream job was to help her advertise the experience she already had.