Little Kids, Big Futures: HUGS Initiative
Since 2014, Women United has allocated $370,000 in grants through its Little Kids, Big Futures Philanthropy Fund to support early literacy programs across Lake County. The Fund gives members the opportunity to allocate their own money to the specific programs they believe in.
Today we are continuing our blog series that takes a deeper dive into each of the programs receiving funding this year, thanks to Little Kids, Big Futures. Next up, our HUGS Initiative in Waukegan.
Women United member, Melissa Dickstein of Buffalo Grove, helped a little boy string healthy food items at a learning station at Baby Talk in Waukegan. To support the event topic of dental health, Women United was able to recruit a dental hygienist to talk to families about the importance of a healthy teeth and each family left with a bag with a new book, fun activities and a new toothbrush and toothpaste for every family member.
HUGS stands for Heroines United for Giving and Support. It’s a special community engagement initiative of Women United where our members embrace a school, project, or community for two to three years with the caring and resources it needs to succeed. Then, we move on to “hug” another deserving program.
Already Women United has “hugged” the Green Bay Early Learning Center in North Chicago and Baby Talk in Waukegan.
As families celebrated the end of the school year and the beginning of summer, Women United members volunteered with the children and families of the Baby Talk program. In addition to facilitating gross motor stations and fun, each child was able to pack their own Summer Fun Bag with lots of toys and activities to keep them busy and learning while they are off on summer break.
“The HUGS Committee partners with Lake County organizations in order to donate our time and resources to better enhance their programs. Our members really like to dig in to find ways to further the goals of that organization and serve our Lake County community.”
– Patrice Maloney-Knauff, WU Chair and HUGS Committee Co-Chair
Now Women United’s HUGS Committee has started a new partnership with North Preschool, located within North Elementary School in Waukegan. This public program is only a year old and is aimed at the children most in need of a preschool experience to ensure they’re ready for kindergarten.
How will we hug North Preschool? Women United members will:
- Read in the classrooms,
- Buy and donate teacher-requested age-appropriate books, and
- Support value-added programming that goes beyond what the public school can provide—like an end-of-school family send-off picnic (with tips and materials to prevent the “summer slide”), parent workshops, holiday events, and teacher celebrations.
We’re in the early stages, so we’re still learning how to meet North’s needs, but we are beyond excited to begin this partnership.
Our first opportunity to connect with the students at North Preschool was on national “Read Across America” day in March. It was great fun to be with the little ones and help instill the love of reading in their hearts.
“The North Pre-K learning community strongly believes that collaborating with Women United/United Way will provide our families with diverse learning experiences,” says Ms. Maribel Carrion, a teacher at North Preschool. We can’t wait to dive in!
Women United has a deep affinity for the Waukegan community, providing resources and funding to increase the service available for Waukegan children and families.
Interested in learning more about Women United? Join members Thursday, May 9, at 6 p.m. in Lake Forest for a Wine & Learn event, an informal gathering for prospective members to learn more about what it means to be a member and what Women United does. Email Janice.Scarbalis@uwlakeco.org to RSVP and we will send you the exact address of the meeting location.