Alex’s Story

Alex Smith Hickman came to Family Matters in 2004 at the age of 12 and participated in the Teen Boys program until he graduated from high school. “My father knew about Family Matters and put me in the group – it was something for me to do after school instead of being out on the streets.

“I’ve realized how vital Family Matters was to my growing up. We learned art, electronics, business skills, and carpentry – how to work as a team and to communicate with each other. Family Matters helped me, as a young man, to see how I could contribute to the world with the talents that I developed here, in a space where I was with brothers. It brought us together as a family. Dan shaped us into the young men that we are today. I’m so grateful to have this place to come back to. Family Matters will always be like home to me.

“Family Matters showed me how important teamwork is. In this neighborhood, I don’t see a lot of teamwork between younger guys in a productive way. They need direction and guidance. I think there should be a Family Matters in every neighborhood in Chicago. More people should be able to have access to a place like this.”


Tabitha and Judi

In 1994, thirteen-year-old Tabitha Williams joined the Teen Girls Program at Family Matters after hearing about the program from friends. She says, “Through each meeting, I felt a kinship with the girls and it became apparent that this was the place I needed to be.”

Tabitha was paired with her mentor, Judi Schindler, who met with her regularly both inside and outside of Family Matters. Tabitha connected deeply with Judi and her husband Jack, and became part of their family. Twenty-three years later, they are still close. In January, Judi and Jack traveled to New Orleans to celebrate the opening of the Troubador Hotel, where Tabitha is now the Director of Food and Beverage. She shares, “Right now, I’m at the top of the world.”

“Family Matters became a family – to me and to all of the other girls in the program as well. It provided an environment where there was no judgment and where you could be who you were. We learned about choices and consequences, and we were listened to. Everything at Family Matters started me on the path to where I am now, and I am so grateful.”

Tabitha (left) with Judi (second from right) and Jack at their son’s wedding


Faces of Family Matters | Part 1


“Growing up, violence was a big thing in this community, and still is to this day. Walking home from school, in the park we saw crazy things, and we could come to Family Matters and talk about what we’d seen. One girl came to programing one day and shared that she had just seen a man pull out a belt and start beating his girlfriend in the park. That was the day we started talking about domestic violence. Every girl had something to share about something she’d seen or had heard or had happened in her family. We were so young and knew so much about rape, about domestic violence. Children shouldn’t see that at a young age. Being a young teen in this area, you see and experience so many things.


I thank God every day for Family Matters – to have had somewhere to come to be safe.”

“I love coming to Family Matters. I feel safe here. I learn about ways to solve
conflicts and I have fun. I wish I could come to Family Matters every day, even
on the weekends. I learn something new here every day. “


“Besides the smell of the house (good smells, like books) I remember feeling very safe and peaceful at the Family Matters house back on Ashland street. I remember just going in the attic and looking out through the small window and reading books. As a recent immigrant family, when we came to Family Matters, my parents were not aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them.aware of the school system, nor anything in this country, and Family Matters became a resource to them. They were not only helping me academically, but also supporting my family.

I volunteer at Family Matters because I think there’s a need in our communities for these types of organizations that support our youth, who are our future leaders. If there is no guidance or enlightenment during our formation years we will become lost adults. I want to feel and be part of a better society.”