A History of Leadership Development and Community Building
1987 The organization opens its doors when a group of local families and Kim DeLong, the founder and Executive Director of Family Matters, create Family Connections. The goal of Family Connections is to facilitate after-school learning opportunities for children, ages 5 through 12. Physical fitness activities, science and literacy projects, community outreach initiatives, fieldtrips, and exploration of the arts enhance the children’s leadership abilities and support them in expanding their world. The program nurtures deep family involvement and families commit to being an integral part of programming.
1989 Sisters of Strength (SOS) is founded with a group of neighborhood teen girls who want a safe, caring place in which they can learn, share and grow. SOS becomes a program in which young women are encouraged to explore the realities and possibilities of growing up a girl in their community and the world. Originally focused on an entrepreneurial jewelry business, the teens have become activists as they address self-identified issues – such as immigration, sexual harassment, and challenges within the public educational system – on multiple systemic levels. They are currently engaged in a Health and Fitness initiative, becoming Health Activists in their community.
1990 Through the assistance of volunteers, a one-day-per-week Community Tutoring program is created. Today, Community Tutoring offers five distinct school-based and after-school programs.
1992 Brothers of New Directions (BOND) is developed to provide young high school men a nurturing environment to challenge the stereotypical definitions of being a young male of color in a community struggling for economic independence and social justice. The young men focus on the artistic and entrepreneurial (finance, credit, sales, marketing, branding, product development, promotion, cost analysis, etc.) aspects of the visual arts and drumming, leaning business and life skills that apply to any setting.
1995 Family Matters moves into its own three-story building with room to expand programs. Participants work to transform the building into an extended home for youth, staff and families. Some of the amenities include a library and a reading space; a computer lab; inviting kitchens and cozy sitting areas; and beautiful murals that reflect the hearts and passions of the youth who create them.
1996 Brothers On the Move (BOM) is created for teen boys between the ages of 12 and 14. BOM engages boys at a time when they are struggling to identify acceptable definitions of self and manhood. Both BOND and BOM provide role models for the young men as well as activities that facilitate personal growth and academic and career development.
Sisters in Unity (SIU) is formed to encourage leadership among teen girls in middle school, when they are at a critical developmental stage, beginning to search for and embrace definitions of self and womanhood. The teen girls programs seek to equip young women with the resources, knowledge, and experience to make life-affirming decisions.
1997 In keeping with Family Matters’ vision of community as the mobilizing force of positive change, the Community Organizing Initiative is put in place to enrich leadership development opportunities and engage entire families in efforts to implement and strengthen systems of change for the North of Howard community.
2000 Parents, teens and community leaders join forces to raise funds, design, and build a neighborhood playground at Gale Academy (our local K-8 Chicago Public School). Over 600 neighborhood volunteers come together on the day of the Park Build. Today, the park stands as a monument to the change that occurs when the community unites on its own behalf.
2002 Family Matters staffs and expands the Parent Resource and Development Room (PRDR) at Gale Academy. The PRDR coordinates workshops and field trips, informs parents of school and community events, and encourages their participation and leadership at all levels of school activities.
2004 To deepen our relationship with Gale Academy and the North of Howard community, Family Matters staff designs and conducts a seven-week Leadership Training course. The course is attended by PRDR parents, Local School Council members, and the Gale Academy Principal. The curriculum includes training on our Principles of Leadership and effective community building and organizing skills.
2005 Working through the Parks Advisory Council of which we are a member, Family Matters leads a second community-wide effort for neighborhood park revitalization. A coalition of corporate and civic partners transforms what the Injury Free Coalition deemed the “most dangerous playground on the north side of Chicago” into a vibrant, creative space for the community. Community volunteers come together to build the new Harold Washington Memorial Playground in a festive day-long celebration.
Community Tutoring initiates the Wee Read program for toddlers and pre-kindergarteners and their parents. Wee Read seeks to enhance early childhood literacy skills and to support parental involvement in the development of these skills.
2006 Community Tutoring launches TGRO (Third Graders Reaching Objectives). TGRO works with students at Gale who are referred by teachers. Trained tutors work with small groups of students to strengthen language arts and math skills. TGRO offers students project-based learning in the school greenhouse and one-on-one homework support.
2007 Family Matters implements a 20-year vision to share the organization's unique methodology (the Principles of Leadership, called The Respectful Classroom when implemented in a classroom setting) with a larger audience. We partner with Springman Middle School in Glenview, IL to share tools for peaceful communication, effective collaboration, and responsible decision-making.
2008 Family Matters begins a partnership with Gale Academy to implement The Respectful Classroom curriculum in several classrooms.
One of the organization’s most inspired accomplishments is the result of a ten-year effort to bring a community center to the North of Howard neighborhood. In August 2008, the Willye B. White Fitness Center opens.
2009 Building on the accomplishments of, and enthusiasm for, the project-based curriculum of TGRO, Community Tutoring expands the program and names it AllGRO(All Grades Reaching Objectives) to reflect expanded participation.
Family Matters, inspired by volunteer Laura Stukel, initiates Project Sage to create a healthier, greener environment in our building and to share this experience with parents, children and the community.
2010 Family Matters holds a Strategic Visioning Retreat. The event is the culmination of a yearlong strategic planning process. The organization’s aspirations and objectives for the next three years are identified and the work to achieve them is divided among groups of stakeholders.
FEEL (Food and Exercise to Eat and Live) Fit is formed and implemented at Family Matters. The initiative assists youth and parents in adopting attitudes and behaviors that foster a lifetime of health and wellness.
Family Matters initiates the Postsecondary Readiness Initiative (PRI) to promote academic achievement and postsecondary readiness and matriculation among young people, in grades K-12 (and their parents), who attend Family Matters’ Youth Development programming. PRI seeks to foster an environment in which students understand and act out of the belief that they are capable learners who are free to imagine and achieve educational milestones—in the present, at postsecondary junctures, and beyond.
The Teen Girls Programs and Teen Boys Programs are named Artists in Residence at the Willye B. White Fitness Center, allowing the teen programs to reach more community members.
2012 Family Matters celebrates it's 25th year with a Gala at Union League Club on October 20th.