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Letter from YMEN, March, 2020

By April 11, 2020May 8th, 2020No Comments

COVID-19 Emergency Plan for North Lawndale Children and Families, Young Men’s Educational Network

The Mission of the Young Men’s Educational Network is to equip young people in North Lawndale and to strengthen the families of our community. During these extraordinary days, YMEN will continue our work in a safe and compassionate way. Our first priority is ensuring the welfare of the students and families that are full participants of our organization including YMEN’s staff, student leaders, volunteers, Board, community families, and the seniors & homeless who attend our Brother’s Kitchen on Saturdays. Our second priority is to remain a collaborating partner with other quality nonprofits, churches, and social service organizations that are working to respond the most urgent needs of the most vulnerable in our neighborhood.

YMEN holds both of these truths:
– Social distancing is critical to contain the spread of the virus and we can demonstrate love for our neighbor by limiting our interactions.
– YMEN’s resources are needed now more than ever and we exist to serve during “such a time as this.”

The normal community pillars: schools, restaurants, and even churches have closed their doors. The unintended consequence is the disconnection for those who are most vulnerable in our society including our children, our hourly workers, and our elderly. During this critical time, YMEN is setting up emergency response funds to meet some of the needs of these vulnerable groups. Here is our plan to bring light and hope into the lives of our community families.

    Although our organizational resources have been greatly reduced, YMEN plans on providing salary compensation for March and April to part time staff and college interns who were providing direct service to students. In addition, a fund of $5,000 will be created to support 10 of our parents who have been laid off from jobs where no further compensation is being provided and/or can no longer work because their school age children must remain home during the workday.
    The initial negative impact of a financial downturn is that our families cannot pay the costs of their utilities. Gas and electric bills tend to be the fixed cost burdens that become prohibitive when income is lost in the household. YMEN will establish a $5,000 matching utility fund that will match (dollar for dollar) what a caregiver who has lost income can pay toward their utility bills — ensuring that the lights stay on and the apartment stays heated.
    The Young Men’s Educational Network has begun visiting the homes where we have been told there are basic food needs. Utilizing YMEN vans and buses, YMEN is serving as a distributor of food that we are receiving from restaurant suppliers. While grocery food is flying off the shelves creating a retail shortage of many essentials, food normally distributed to local restaurants is piling up with no place to go. YMEN has begun receiving and distributing this food through our community partnership with Lampstand Ministries. Already, more than 70 residents have been brought key food staples. YMEN is establishing a $5,000 fund to ensure the distribution can continue as well as to purchase key retail items that families without transportation can receive. It is important to note that the CDC is recommending families do not use public Transportation, due to its potential impact as a carrier of disease. The Basic Food Needs Fund will target the elderly as the first to be served.
    Perhaps the group that will suffer the most from this season is our children. While they do not get as sick from the Coronavirus as adults, and the risks of their physical harm are low, their disengagement from school studies is going to be difficult to make up. Children in North Lawndale are on-average 3 years behind their peers in reading and math and score more than 100 points below state standards in core academic subjects. School closures are going to have a profound effect on their ability to close the learning gap. One of the greatest needs is for students with no computer or internet access. They are unable to engage in e-learning. YMEN is creating a $5,000 educational fund to ensure that each home can have internet access and (at a minimum) a tablet or tech device that can help students learn remotely for as long as schools are not in session.
    YMEN Board and Advisors have created a non-profit community innovation fund to encourage local creative solutions to alleviating suffering caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This $5,000 fund will fuel new ways that community collaborative partners and nonprofit leaders continue community development efforts under this new environment that limits human face-to-face engagement. Leaders, emerging leaders, and innovators from within or outside of the YMEN network are encouraged to apply for resources from this fund by submitting their innovative ideas and action plans. A proved track record of community impact is a plus in receiving resources from this fund.

Currently, YMEN is in the process of securing $25,000 to seed these funds and bring relief and support to the families that are most vulnerable during this emergency crisis facing our nation and world. The Young Men’s Educational Network would like to thank the following supporters for helping to begin these funds and mobilize resources to where they are most needed: KeHE Cares Lampstand Ministries, Hooten Family Fund, Storehouse of World Vision, Jon and Melissa Milonas.

While the $25,000 for the five above funds is an initial start, YMEN will ask other compassionate and generous people to help grow these funds so that we can be a source of support as long as these emergency needs exist. If you would like to contribute to these funds, please contact me at 773-852-9830 or email at

Michael Trout, Executive Director
Young Men’s Educational Network

[For more information about YMEN, visit the website Missions page.]