Friday, December 09, 2005

Lawyers in Chicago Lending a Hand to Inner-City Kids

Last night, December 8th, a special program was held in the Chambers of the Chicago City Council. Mayor Richard M. Daley joined members of the Abraham Lincoln Marovitz Lend-A-Hand Program of the Chicago Bar Association to present $45,000 in grants to 17 volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs serving at-risk youth in areas across the city including Cabrini Green, Humboldt Park, Uptown, and South Chicago.

One of the programs was Cabrini Connections, which I helped create in 1993.

The 2005 LAH Grant Recipients include: BUILD, Inc. ; The Bridges Program; Cabrini Connections; Centro Comunitario Juan Diego; Chicago Youth Programs, Inc.; Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church; Christopher House; East Village Youth Program; Family Matters; Hermosa Community Organization; Horizons for Youth; Inspired Youth, Inc.; Life Directions; Maywood Youth Mentoring Program; McGaw YMCA Project SOAR; Midtown Education Foundation; and, Sunlight African Community Center.

Included in the $45,000 were two special awards. The inaugural Much Shelist Founders Award ($7,000 for an emerging program) was given to Inspired Youth, a program started last year by Beth Palmer. Other nominees were Hermosa Community and Sunlight African Community Center. The partners at Much Shelist have made a total commitment of $35,000 to provide grants to different emerging programs for the next five years!

The Thomas A. Demetrio Awards of Excellence ($8,000 award), which recognizes an outstanding example of volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring each year, went to Midtown Educational Foundation. Other nominees were East Village Youth Program and Chicago Youth Programs. The law firm of Corboy & Demetrio has been providing funds for the Demetrio Award since 1994.

The initial Demetrio Award was the idea that launched the Lend A Hand Program. The Tutor/Mentor Connection (T/MC), which was formed by the same volunteers who formed Cabrini Connections in 1993, was one of the first applicants in 1994, and used the May 1994 Tutor/Mentor Leadership Conference to help spread application forms to tutor/mentor programs who attended the conference.

In June 1994 the T/MC and the Executive Director of the Chicago Bar Foundation created a partnership and vision of expanding from making one $2000 award each year, to becoming the first foundation to fund the general operations of constantly improving volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the Chicago region. This launched the grant making program of the Lend A Hand and the T/MC has helped it grow every year since then.

This is part of a leadership strategy intended to draw more consistent funding from all sectors of the business community to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs throughout the city.

I’m proud that my small voice and persistent efforts have contributed to the growth of the LAH. But, imagine how many more industries might duplicate this program if more visible voices, like the Mayor, or the leaders of Chicago's largest Law Firms, or Accounting firms, or Financial institutions, were advocating for support of volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs regularly, like I do on this blog and through the T/MC web sites and email newsletter.

I’m sure the volunteers, youth and the leaders of every program that received a grant last night can tell you how important their work is to helping young people succeed in school and in life. Yet, consistent funding for non-school programs is hardly mentioned in the focus on fixing the school system in Chicago. This can change if more lawyers and law firms begin to support the Lend A Hand, or become directly involved in supporting the growth of tutor/mentor programs in their communities.

I hope that people who read this blog will forward it to journalist and that they’ll write about volunteer involvement in tutor/mentor programs like Family Matters, Midtown, Inspired Youth and the others on this list. I hope they'll also write about the Lend A Hand Program, too.

If they put such a story in a December column and they encourage other business and professional people to duplicate the LAH, or to seek out a tutor/mentor program for a holiday contribution, programs throughout the city can get the extra dollars they need to operate in 2006. That's the best gift we can give to many inner-city kids.

If you want to make a donation to a tutor/mentor program, you can visit the Program LOCATOR section of to find web sites and contact information the tutor/mentor programs who received Lend A Hand Grants, and for other programs in different parts of the Chicago region, who did not participate in this year's grants competition. They all need many donations throughout they year to maintain volunteer mentoring contacts with kids.

If you want to learn more about the Lend A Hand Program, visit or call Karina Ayala-Bermejo, Esq., Executive Director, 312-554-2041. If you want to learn more about approaching a business or professional group with the idea of duplicating the Lend a Hand, email me at

Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this far on today's blog!! With your help we can make the holidays a bit happier for volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs and the youth, volunteers and communities they support.

Dan Bassill
Tutor/Mentor Connection

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