El Grito 5K is Back after 2 Years of Canceling Due to COVID-19

After canceling for 2 years due to COVID-19 restrictions and surges, our annual El Grito 5K Family Run/Walk is finally happening this year! The race is taking place in Little Village on Sunday, September 11 preceding the Mexican Independence Day Parade.

Registration is open! You can sign up individually or with your family at newlifecenters.org/elgrito5k . There is a special Early Bird registration fee of $25 for the month of May only.

About the race: El Grito 5K runs along 26th Street, Chicago’s second magnificent mile, in the culturally rich Mexican neighborhood of Little Village. The race will precede the annual Mexican Independence Day Parade. We invite runners of all fitness levels to participate in the event!


New Life Centers is Awarded Mayor's Medal of Honor

 

New Life Centers was awarded the Mayor's Medal of Honor last Tuesday, for our “heroic work during the pandemic". During this season, we were able to expand mentoring to 400 additional youth through C2C, sports, after-school and mentoring programs. Our Juvenile Justice Project Coordinator, Amy Williams, was able to expand programming to incarcerated youth in IYC Warrenville. Our Street Outreach and Resiliency Services teams grew and continue to walk life, love and mourn with youth and their families. Our youth-led Pan de Vida food pantry distributed fresh produce to over 2 million people. Most importantly, our staff love people deeply in the name of Jesus.

"So thankful for our amazing staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to love on the young people of Chicago. We did this together. Love you guys!," said Matt DeMateo, Executive Director.

We are also thankful for everyone who supports the work, prays, volunteers and gives. We are excited to see all that is going to happen in 2022!


Learning How to Make Clay Earrings

The young women in our Arise Creations program experimented with new materials for jewelry making. We had a guest come in and show them how to create out of polymer clay! They got a chance to feel it out, cook it and make their own unique designs to take home. Although not part of the collection, Arise Creations always strives to challenge and expose young women to new material. However, they did introduce their new Rose Gold Urban Hope Necklace! You can get yours at arisecreations.org/shop


Restarting Open Gym in Humboldt Park

Open Gym was re-started at our Humboldt Park location about 6 months ago! After hearing young men ask for a safe space to play, the staff opened up the gym for hooping. This has been a great way to build community.

An average of 13 youth come out every Monday evening. From the open gym came the basketball team "New Life Boyz" which locally competes in a youth league.


Expanding Programming to IYC-Warrenville

We recently expanded programming to the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville. Amy Williams, IYC Program Coordinator, tells us they have started art and afro-Cuban drum classes. They will begin practicing peace circles, writing classes and many other monthly activities. She says the young people are very excited to have these activities there. Click play to watch the full update!


Introducing Therapy Through Adventure

Youth in our Street Outreach program got a chance to explore Big Marsh Bike Park on snowshoes with Chicago Adventure Therapy and even got to play snow baseball! During this adventure, they learned adaptation and how the plants and animals adapt to survive and braze the seasonal changes.

Jose Barragan, Street Outreach Mentor, says it amazes him how we are forced at a young age to adapt to our surroundings in order to survive every season.

"These young men have braved so much and continue to show how resilient they are no matter what obstacles are thrown their way," said Jose.


Teaching Intentionally Through Black History Month

Some of our programs have been intentionally learning during this Black History Month and have spent time learning more about trailblazers in the Black community. Our Sluggers program reflected and dialogued after watching the movie "42: The True Story Of A Sports Legend", a biographical sports film about baseball player Jackie Robinson, the first black athlete to play in MLB.

 

The Vine after school program intentionally took time to learn about black artists, inventors, and creators during #BlackHistoryMonth like George Crum, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Mae Jemison. Middle school youth spent time finding their favorite songs by black artists and explaining why they appreciated each of the song lyrics. Elementary school students watched videos and read books.

The students then applied their knowledge through art and science by making their own potato chip bags and flavors, creating their own color field picture, and built their own rocket ship. We are looking forward to learning more in the next few months.

La Semilla after-school participants have been learning and reading about Ruby Bridges. In 1960, she became the first Black student to integrate an elementary school in the South. Despite U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka Kansas ending racial segregation in public schools, some in the South resisted integration.

Ruby and her mother were escorted by four federal marshals to the school every day her first year. This is a great example of how young people can be history-makers.


First and only indoor batting cage in Little Village opens at New Life Centers 

We recently inaugurated the first and only indoor batting cage in Little Village! This asset will help better prepare our Sluggers program as Coach Tony helps them work on their pitching, catching, critical thinking and game strategy. The young players were very excited to hear they would have an indoor batting cage in our building.

“This gives kids in the neighborhood a safe space to develop athletic skills for free,” said Coach Tony, “They were super excited, their jaws dropped, they said they can get better now”.

Previously, the team would pay over $100 at an indoor batting cage, which made it difficult for some parents who could not afford it. This was made possible thanks to Cub's Charities' Diamond Project.

The goal of the Diamond Project is to expand opportunities for children to play baseball and softball, create or preserve green space in under-resourced neighborhoods and foster a love for the game.Through the Diamond Project, Cubs Charities provides funds and equipment to nonprofit, neighborhood-based organizations that support baseball and softball leagues and capital improvement projects that improve the quality, safety and accessibility of local baseball fields or indoor training facilities.

At this moment, the batting cage is not open to the public but will potentially have free lessons in the future.


Maria Joins New Life Centers after Waiting 22 Years for U.S. Residency

22 years. That's how long our 10-year food pantry volunteer, Maria Delgado, waited to finally be granted U.S. Residency status this year. Maria has gifted her time to our Pan de Vida food pantry for many years, from the early days as a ministry of New Life Community Church-Little Village until now, as it became a larger operation under New Life Centers at the beginning of the pandemic.

As soon as Abelardo Colin, Director of Food Distribution, found out the great news, he encouraged Maria to apply for a job at New Life Centers. Maria Delgado is officially joining our team as paid staff!

"I am so happy! This is home for me. They loved and cared for me. I am very excited to have this opportunity," said Maria.

New Life Centers is so happy to have Maria on our team as she offers our community her beautiful smile and contagious positivity every week.

Maria Delgado first arrived at New Life Community Church in Little Village, which shares building space with New Life Centers, as an Aerobics instructor for community members. She quickly became popular among mothers in the Little Village community. Her love for neighbors motivated her to use her free time to serve them and share the love of Jesus.


Providing a Safe Space for CPS Students amid COVID surge

We are so happy to be back in our buildings as most of our staff took a two-week break over the holidays. However, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, we have asked office personnel to work from home as much as possible to prevent the spread. We have also asked mentors who work closely with youth, to find creative ways to cultivate relationships while hanging out in smaller groups. Please pray for our team as we navigate serving during this new COVID-19 surge.

Our Humboldt Park location opened its doors from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM to CPS students and parents while classes have been canceled since last week. Some students spent time playing sports, socializing with other peers and even practicing their musical talents! The proper sanitary protocols were taken to keep them safe from the virus and provide a safe space.

On Monday morning, New Life Centers along with other community stakeholders, held a press conference to call on CTU and CPS to come to an agreement about student learning.

Students have been the most affected during this time as they have been left with no option of going to class remotely or in person. Later that evening, we learned that CPS students will be returning to in-person instruction as soon as Wednesday. Please join us as we pray for continued resources in schools to help keep them safe from this virus. We also pray they are able to focus on their learning in the midst of loss and constant changes.