How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes

In May, Northwestern University’s Theater Department hosted a unique performance entitled How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (with 199 people you may or may not know). The show was an experiment in dialogue, in collective decision-making, in shared responsibility and in the potential for how art could make our world a better place.

The audience’s involvement was integral to the trajectory of the performance, since they were to decide how to give away $1000 from that night’s box office to fight poverty most effectively in the Chicagoland area. In an effort to ensure that a multitude of voices were present in the audience, Northwestern invited organizations with a particular stake in the conversation to attend.  Family Matters’ Teen Programs attended the show, and were the youngest contributing members of the audience. They were deeply engaged in the process.
Using debate, audience members – including FM teens – attempted to convince and cajole other audience members to vote in one of five categories: Daily Needs:  Direct services that provide basic needs like food and shelter; System Change: Lobbying for legislation, advocating policy change, and taking action for social transformation; Education:  Promoting access and building resources toward better institutions and systems of learning; Making Opportunities:  Long-term approaches to economic and occupational stability through training, micro-loans, and personal development; or Individual Need:  Through a local organization called, individuals are able to support a specific person or family and their self-reported immediate need.


After participating in this innovative performance and lively debate, the audience decided the most effective method to end poverty was through the creation of opportunities.  Youth in the audience were joyfully surprised when the show’s facilitators revealed that Family Matters would be awarded $1000 because of the work that we do! Thank you, Northwestern University Theater Department, for offering such a unique approach to discuss solutions on a critically important and complex topic.  We are very grateful we participated and very appreciative of the monetary gift that supports our work in the north of Howard community!

Teen Boys Program partners with Ten Thousand Ripples



At the bequest of community resident Helen Carlock, and in association with the Ten Thousand Ripples project, Dan McNeil, Director of the Teen Boys Program, and the young men of Family Matters, B.O.N.D Team, met Helen at Triangle Park on May 21st for a beautification project involving a Buddha head. The Buddha head was placed in the park by Ten Thousand Ripples—a multi-platform public art project involving the installation of 100 Buddha sculptures. Serving as symbols of peace and solidarity in 10 neighborhoods around the city of Chicago, the Buddha heads strives to highlight public art and create community responses to peace and contemporary social issues.
Working together with community members, the teen boys cleared trees and weeds to beautify Triangle Park and to create a revered space for the Buddha Head. In addition to removing trees, tree roots and weeds, the team from “The Roots”—as their space is affectionately called—realigned the 300 pound Buddha Head back to its original setting—east facing on Juneway.  


Community response to the beautification project was affirmative. John Lamping, a Rogers Park resident and member of the project, offered his thanks to Helen, Dan and Family Matters Teen Boys “for your community support and great company… at Triangle Park.  Your “lumberjacks” did a great job.”

24th Annual Walk-a-thon

On Saturday, May 18th, Family Matters hosted its 24th annual Walk-a-thon.  Over 450 walkers were outfitted in periwinkle t-shirts, participated in a warm-up provided by members of the Teen Girls Program, and joined together to enjoy the 5-mile walk along the lake amid lovely spring weather.

Once they returned from the walk, they savored the picnic foods, participated in a free raffle, jumped in the bounce house, relieved sore muscles with a chair massage and listened to drumming performances from the Teen Boys Program. 

Winners of the Golden Sneaker Award:
Top Fundraising Team: St Luke’s Church, Evanston
Team with most Youth: Family Connections
Team with most Members: Community Tutoring
Team with most Spirit: Friends of Phoebe
As the philosopher Henry David Thoreau says, “Friends…cherish one another’s hopes. They are kind to one another’s dreams.” At each Family Matters gathering, we are reminded of the many friends – individuals, organizations, and businesses – that believe in us and support us as we work together to fulfill this vision.
Many thanks, and much appreciation to our friends who continue to cherish our hopes and are kind to our dreams. 
Special thanks to our sponsors:
ALBANK–Action Lead Services–Brodicol Products–Devon Bank–Financial Manager Society–Jason’s Foods–Kraff Eye Institute–Northshore Automotive–SharPrint–UPrinting
We are very grateful to the following restaurants and businesses for their generous contributions to our bounteous picnic:

Bakers Square–Caribbean American Baking Co.–Clark-Devon Hardware–Dominick’s on Howard–Dunkin Donuts- Loyola–Eddie’s Food Mart–Edgewater Produce–Family Matters Board Members–Food 4 Less, Evanston–Heartland Café–Lemoi Ace Hardware–Metropolis Coffee–Morse Street Fruit–New Leaf Grocery–Paulina Certified–Rogers Park Fruit Market-Rub BBQ–Sol Café–Strack & Van Til–Subway, N. Clark–The Common Cup–The Fish Keg–Trader Joe’s– Lincoln Park



Cooking Matters! Healthy Cooking Club Gathers


As part of our FEEL Fit Initiative, Rogers Park residents Barbara Moore and Jayne Hoffman, are facilitating a Healthy Cooking Club this Spring.  4 Family Connections families and 1 Teen Girls family meets monthly at Barb’s home to prepare healthy meals together in the context of community and relationship building.  Local businesses and residents are supporting this unique venture by providing ingredients for the recipes as well as kitchen supplies and staples for families to take home for their personal kitchens. 
On March 17, the Cooking Club had their first official gathering.  They focused on healthy, make-ahead breakfast items, including homemade granola bars, apple puff pancakes, and carrot muffins.  They measured, chopped, grated, folded, and whisked ingredients together, sharing lots of smiles, laughter, and joy as they baked. They have already met again in April, and are planning to meet again in May.  




The second session was “casserole week”.  Participants made a whole grain pasta bake, quinoa and broccoli casserole, a brown rice and beans vegetarian taco bake, and a breakfast egg casserole.
Thank you, Barb, for spearheading Family Matters’ first off-site Cooking Club!

Teen Boys Participate in Black History Month Celebrations

On Sunday, February 24th the ‘Roots of Rhythm’ performed in the staged production of “The Old African.” The production was part of the 14th Annual African American History Celebration featuring African and ballet dancers, gospels signers, and professional story tellers. The drum team provided ambiance and sound effects for the story, drumming for the dancers and rhythmic support for the singers.
Performing in this production was a new direction for the young men. It demanded more orchestrated rhythmic precision and on cue sound effects central to the story telling, as well as timed rhythmic support for both African and ballet dancers.
The hour long performance played to a full house of participating audience members who part took in the dancing Celebration.
The young men also exhibited their art work and Peace themed t-shirt at the event.
Roots of Rhythm perform at Gale Academy
On Friday February 22nd The Roots of Rhythm performed for Gale Academy students, who were learning about the shared history of the drum, the basic understanding and language of the drum, and drumming performance.
If you are interested in engaging the ‘Roots of Rhythm’ team for a performance, please contact Dan McNeil at or at 773-465-6011 ext. 122. The young men have performed at outdoor community events, weddings, religious services, benefits, and private parties

Let’s Move!

On February 28, 2013 Michelle Obama celebrated the launch of the “Let’s Move” Active Schools Initiative, a national effort designed to inspire children to eat well and be active, at McCormick Place in downtown Chicago. Several 5th, 6th, and 7th graders at Family Matters had the opportunity of a lifetime to attend this event with their school. Gisselle, a 7th grader at Disney Magnet School, and a Teen Girls and Community Tutoring participant, was one of these students. She shares with us her experience:

I met Michelle Obama at McCormick place in Chicago. I went with some of my school. She talked about exercising and about when she was a kid and how she was raised. She also said we can do anything we want in our life; it’s up to us. Gabby Douglas, an Olympic medalist, was also there. Michelle Obama showed us some exercises and Gabby Douglas and everyone in the McCormick place tried them. Jordan Sparks, a singer, was there and she sang “No Air” and another song at the end.

The travel, wait time and travel back to my school were super long, and it was fun to see the athletes and Michelle Obama and Jordan Sparks.

For more information on the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” Initiative and Celebratory launch in Chicago, go to:

Community Tutoring Cooking Fun

Family Matters is a flurry of activity during CPS Spring Break.   As part of our FEEL (Food and Exercise to Eat and Live) Fit Initiative, Community Tutoring students and tutors had the opportunity to participate in a healthy cooking workshop in lieu of regular tutoring during Spring Break this year.

Facilitated by Howard Area Community Center Nutritionist Kathryn S., we learned about ingredient substitutions we can use to make desserts healthier, and prepared and ate a delicious Banana and Berry Crumble.  It was a lively, educational, and fun evening, and we would like to share some pictures and the recipe with you.  Enjoy! 
Playing a matching game to learn about ingredient substitutions…

Getting our baking instructions from Kathryn

Carefully measuring whole wheat flour…

…and plain non-fat yogurt

Yum! Giving Banana Berry Crumble a big thumbs-up!!

Banana and Berry Crumble (Serves 10)
4 large bananas
2 cups fresh mixed berries
non-stick cooking spray 
5 Tbsp whole-wheat flour, divided 
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4  c. light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter
2/3 c. plain nonfat yogurt
1 Tbsp. honey 
*We doubled the recipe to fit a 9 x 13 pan /serve 20.
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 
2. Peel and slice bananas in half lengthwise.
3.Rinse berries and pat dry.
4. Spray baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place banana halves flat side down in baking dish. 
5. Toss berries with 1 Tbsp whole-wheat flour.
6. In medium bowl, add 4 Tbsp flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to blend. 
7. Cut cold butter into little pieces. Add to bowl.  Using your fingers, quickly blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly. 
8. Spread the crumbly mixture over the fruit in an even layer.  Press down slightly. 
9. Bake about 10-15 minutes, or until the crumble is firm and golden in color. 
10. While crumble bakes, stir together yogurt and honey in a small bowl to create a lighter version of whipped cream. 
11. When crumble is done, spoon 1 Tbsp of yogurt and honey topping over each serving. 

Mary Jo’s Retirement

Over 17 years ago, Mary Jo Deysach joined the Family Matters family as Director of Administration and Human Resources. In that capacity, she has worked with countless staff members, volunteers and program participants. Mary Jo has participated in, and assisted with, 16 of the the last 17 Walk-A-Thons, missing one due to surgery. Ever dedicated to Family Matters events, she “walked” in the 1997 Walk-a-thon using a wheelchair, since she was recovering from a broken leg. She remembers that, despite the rain that day, many dedicated friends took turns pushing her along the 5-mile route.

When asked about other favorite memories, she says that she particularly enjoyed each December as the programs prepared for the holidays and staff members turned intoHoliday Angels. “Two of my favorite ‘warm fuzzy’ memories are sitting in my office listening to Sophie and the Family Connections children practice holiday carols; and the staff parties at which our Holiday Angels were revealed.” (Kim DeLong declares: “Mary Jo is an angel to all of us, every month of the year!”)
“The Principles of Leadership (utilizing peaceful conflict resolution; embracing positive thinking and language; and illuminating the power of responsible decision-making)permeate every aspect of life at Family Matters. They are the foundation of all of our work. I participated in Principles of Leadership workshops, led by Kim, two separate times. The trainings are attended by staff, volunteers, board members, and community residents and leaders. There is a lot of personal sharing so one becomes very close to a very diverse group of people. The Principles are life changing and life enhancing; they are a great gift that I take with me into retirement.”
Among other recollections of her time at Family Matters, Mary Jo talks about working with many fabulous and interesting people. “Family Matters seems to attract kind, thoughtful, supportive, generous individuals…I have learned so much from them,” she says. She is always delighted to run into Family Matters “graduates” out in the community. She is struck by how friendly they always are and how fondly they recall their time at Family Matters.

We will miss Mary Jo’s smiling hellos and her warm, generous nature. Please join us in wishing her much joy and peace in her upcoming adventures!

Musical Matters

One of the highlights of Learning Matters Summer School 2012 was Musical Matters– a daily music class facilitated by Valerie Guerra, musician and Schweitzer Fellow through the University of Chicago School of Social Work Administration.

On December 5, 2012, Valerie, Teen Boys program participant Chijoke McClain, and nine Musical Matters participants reunited at Family Matters for a special afternoon: a trip downtown to See Music Recording Studio to record the two songs they chose to learn this summer — Wavin’ Flag by K’Naan and Waka Waka by Shakira.

While the majority of Musical Matters participants are also part of Family Matters school-year initiatives, it was the first time they had been together as a cohesive group since August.  As students walked in the door to Family Matters, arriving after lunch due to an early dismissal day on the CPS calendar, they bent down to untie shoes and boots and hang up heavy winter jackets instead of slipping off sandals and wiping off beads of perspiration, as they did every day this summer.  As each new arrival opened the door, the entryway filled with squeals of delight as participants hugged and high-fived friends they made this summer.

When everyone had arrived, we walked to the Red Line and set off for the studio. At See Music, composer and musician Jon Guerra gave a tour of the studio, while discussing how music is recorded, both for albums and commercials.  Then everyone filed into the recording room and practiced keeping hands and feet completely still so the recording would not pick up extra noises. Rehearsal began!

The energy level rose higher and higher as Chijoke beat the drum and participants started singing. Everyone was transported back to the summer as they sang out with all their hearts.  When the recording was finished, shouts and cheers rang through the room, expressing pride and joy in their accomplishment. Enjoy listening to the final product!

Musical Matters cover of Waka Waka, by Shakira
Musical Matters cover of Wavin’ Flag, by K’Naan