Partnering to meet community needs: We Go Together for Kids steps up to help with food, more
When COVID-19 made it impossible for People's Resource Center to run its community market out of Leman Middle School in Chicago, the organization had to find another way to get food to their families.
WeGo Together for Kids, a collaborative of organizations serving West Chicago families, stepped in and helped partner People's Resource Center with St. Andrew Lutheran Church. Together, the two organized a food pantry to provide food assistance throughout the pandemic.
"When you have an entity that has such strong, trusted relationships, that goes a long way, especially in a time of crisis, to quickly assess the need and align partnerships and resources to respond," said Christina LePage, vice president of programs for People's Resource Center.
While People's Resource Center eventually reopened its community market at Leman, the partnership with St. Andrew Lutheran Church continues and fills a critical need as families find themselves grappling with higher food and gas prices.
"We now have more of a longer-term response," LePage said.
WeGo Together for Kids, formed in 2006, is one of five organizations selected to receive a $10,000 grant from the Daily Herald Neighbors in Need fund.
Daily Herald readers helped raise $36,000 to support groups that address homelessness, hunger and health care access.
For each dollar donated, the McCormick Foundation donated 50 cents to the fund.
WeGo Together for Kids brings together more than 60 community agencies dedicated to serving West Chicago families.
The group meets monthly to review needs and goals and to share data on the impact of various programs.
WeGo Together for Kids also secures funding that is distributed to agencies serving West Chicago families. Their efforts provide for family liaisons in West Chicago schools, a mental health clinician and other services.
"We know if we're all working together to support families that we're going to have more impact as a collective of agencies than each individual agency would have on their own," said Sarah Norton, interim director for WeGo Together for Kids.
Some of the areas the organization focuses on include early childhood, mental health, housing assistance, emergency preparedness and academic achievement. The organization's member agencies also work together to host various events, including a backpack drive for students, cooking classes and a holiday event that provides gifts, warm clothing and food for families in need.
Since 2006, West Chicago Elementary School District 33 has served as the host sponsor for the organization. Until now, a school district employee has led the organization on a part-time basis.
But as the organization continues to grow, WeGo Together for Kids is in search of a new administrative sponsor and plans to hire a full-time director. The Daily Herald Neighbors in Need grant will help make that possible, Norton said.
LePage points to the partnership with St. Andrew Lutheran Church and said WeGo Together for Kids helps keep a "pulse on the needs" of the community, making it easier for agencies to have a coordinated response when needs arise.
"I'm very grateful for WeGo Together for Kids," LePage said. "They truly have the best interest of the community at heart."