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Showing posts from 2014

Meeting Veterans at the Plate

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by Don Cooke, Senior Vice-President of Philanthropy As the World Series winds down, we at the McCormick Foundation are proud of our partnership with Major League Baseball to help veterans re-integrate into their communities. Our program, Welcome Back Veterans, was celebrated during the first game of the World Series in Kansas City, and fans at the game and watching on television saw wonderful public service announcements honoring our returning warriors. The partnership between Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation has generated programs at eight major medical universities that support veterans with post-traumatic stress and brain injuries, the signature wounds of those who recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Located in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, North Carolina, and Michigan, these programs reach out to the veteran community and provide treatment for vets and family members. They also provide training opportunities for other se…

Child Trauma and Prevention Unified Outcomes Project Update

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by Molly Baltman, Assistant Director/Grantmaking This blog is an update of "Launch of McCormick Foundation's Child Trauma and Prevention Unified Outcomes Project", posted on July 8, 2013. Due to a lack of standardization of outcomes in the field of home visiting, parenting programs, and child trauma, the Communities program launched a capacity building project in 2013 in partnership with 30 grantees funded through Chicago Tribune Charities. The goal of the project was to determine appropriate data to use in evaluating program impact, increase capacity of organizations to use data for decision-making and quality improvement and allow for benchmarking and cross-agency learning through grantee convening. Now, after more than a year, we are seeing the results of work on behalf of our grantees and staff. The short-term results of and learnings from the project are as follows:Broadened the standardized data we collect beyond client-level behavior changes (shown through evid…

A Revelation for Disabled Vets

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by Jeff Reiter, Senior Manager of Communications&nbspIn June, Cantigny Golf was pleased to receive RevelationGolf’s Humanitarian Award for its work helping veterans through their rehabilitation programs at Cantigny. Elk Grove-based nonprofit RevelationGolf is small but it does big work, especially with disabled veterans. Cantigny Golf has been a RevelationGolf partner since 2010, conducting monthly clinics for veterans with disabilities. The clinics serve veterans from Edward Hines Jr. Veteran Affairs Hospital in Maywood and Jesse Brown Veteran Affairs Medical Center in Chicago.Cantigny’s head golf professional, Patrick Lynch, works with veterans personally and considers it an honor. The partnership with RevelationGolf shows once again that golf is more than just a game – it can be transformative.Some of the veterans are just getting back to golf while others are new to the game. Some participants are blind or struggle with PTSD. Many rely on modified and adaptive equipment. But …

Preschool Attendance Matters

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by Stacy Ehrlich and Julia Gwynne Nationally, there has been a great effort to increase funding for early education programs to increase enrollment of at-risk children into high-quality programs, such as Head Start. However, recent research highlights that once children are enrolled in preschool, they must also regularly attend to reap the benefits. A study conducted by the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools, found that preschool students who are chronically absent – meaning they miss 10 percent or more of enrolled school days – have lower levels of math, letter recognition, and social-emotional skills by the time they enter kindergarten than children who attend regularly. In the 2011-12 school year, 45 percent of 3-year-olds and more than one-third of 4-year-olds were missing this much school – equivalent to three weeks. Moreover, for a portion of these students, preschool is the beginning of a pattern that con…

Six Major Civic Lessons for Illinois

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by Dr. Shawn Healy, Civic Learning & Engagement Scholar  Today, the Illinois Civic Mission Coalition (ICMC), convened by the McCormick Foundation, announces nine new Democracy Schools. Since 2006, the ICMC has recognized over 30 high schools throughout Illinois who have demonstrated deep commitments to civic learning across the curriculum, in extracurricular activities and through student voice in school governance.During this time, we have learned six major lessons about sustaining and institutionalizing high-quality, school-based civic learning in Illinois:These efforts must target cities, suburbs and rural areas to reach the ever-diverse student population. Our democracy’s health is dependent upon equitable civic learning opportunities.Civic learning is not merely the concern of civics and government teachers, but the entire school faculty.Principals should lead a vision for their schools’ civic missions and create space for their faculties to align civic learning with Common…

Students Need Mentors

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Letter originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times "Letters to the Editor" on September 12, 2014.Can a struggling student at a school in one of Chicago’s underserved neighborhoods be successful?We believe the answer is “yes” and there’s research now that shows the way. Obstacles can be addressed if students have a mentor. A mentor can model good decision-making and problem-solving skills that can have a huge impact on a young person’s life. Mentors serve as living testaments to the rewards of staying on the right track, and helping students visualize a bright future.The need is big. Some 400,000 kids began a new school year in Chicago this month. Most of them lack sufficient economic support. About 85 percent of Chicago Public Schools students receive free or reduced-price meals. These kids often face some big hurdles, such as housing, incessant hunger and one-parent-families stressed by abuse or incarceration. Then there is the neighborhood violence in Chicago.A rigorous 2…

My World at 14

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by Francisco Martinez, Communications Associate My world, at the age of 14, was very small. Before high school, I never ventured outside of Edgewater, a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. Within the two-mile radius surrounding my home, all I knew was my family, friends and school. When it came time to choosing a high school –a privilege given to a few in the CPS magnet schools process— it created an interesting outcome.In my mind, selecting a high school, it was simple. Go to the best school (academically) without going too far “south.” With that criterion in mind, I decided on Lane Tech High School. The other schools that had accepted me were either outside my comfort zone or too far “south.” Looking back, I recognize that any of these schools would have been excellent choices. I often wonder how my high school experience would have been different had I taken another path.
I was still very nervous going to Lane Tech. During one of our first half days as freshmen, my new gr…

Indelible Imprints: Remembering Soldiers of World War I

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In time for the observance of the 100th anniversary of World War I, Dr. Jeff Gusky launches a wonderful photo exhibit,The Hidden World of WWI. The exhibit reveals the folk art of World War I soldiers of all nations left in long-forgotten bunkers, fortifications and caves that Gusky has explored. Included are images from an abandoned root cellar at Cantigny, France, that once was occupied by doughboys of the US First Division.  Gusky has discovered simple graffiti by soldiers who recorded their presence and their survival thus far, as well as elaborate evocative sculptures by soldiers who surely spent weeks or months underground. His work is two layers of art – the poignancy of the soldier art itself, and the excellence of his photographic images.“[Soldiers] spent long hours recording indelible expressions of their humanity that are as fresh and powerful today as they were a century ago. The images are sometimes poignant and sometimes sad, but always deeply moving reminders that these …

Joining the White House to Promote Veteran Programs

Heart of Illinois Bounces Back After Devastation

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by Terry Bibo, Tri-County Long Term Recovery Committee More than 1,100 families lost their homes in Washington, IL alone when mammoth tornadoes struck Central Illinois on November 17.The next morning, representatives of nearly 100 different groups – corporations, nonprofits and churches – gathered to react as one.  This was by far the single largest natural disaster the area had ever seen but the communities were fortunate in that few people were home that morning. Only three lives were lost, though that is still too many. Everyone from carpenters to musicians (i.e. Styx and REO Speedwagon) to the Chicago Bears volunteered to help, laying the groundwork for a unified response. The last nine months have been challenging for the communities impacted by the storms. While Washington sustained the most damage, two other neighboring communities were impacted as well – East Peoria and Pekin. Serving the specific needs of each community proved to be the greatest hurdle.  Thanks to the Illino…

Museums as Cradles of Democracy

by Courtney Brouwer, Assistant Director of Civic Learning "Every museum, whatever its mission statement may be, is a cradle of democracy" – Eric Liu, author, civic entrepreneur and founder of Citizen UniversityJust recently, I had the privilege of organizing a luncheon at the American Alliance of Museums annual conference that was co-sponsored by the McCormick Foundation. Captivating keynote speaker Eric Liu, who once served as a speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and now spearheads the Seattle-based Citizen University, underscored the crucial role that museums play in nurturing democracy and promoting what he calls the art of powerful citizenship. He called on an audience of museum professionals to acknowledge their institutions—whether they interpret collections of history, science, art, or animals—as cradles of democracy that foster meaningful participation in public life.Eric noted that documentation status is entirely extraneous to his conception of citizenship, a …

Just What is News Literacy?

by Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications Where do you get your daily dose of news? Is it on your morning drive into work, perhaps reading the paper just minutes after it’s thrown onto your porch, or would it be on your smart phone or tablet? Many of us feel comfortable getting updated about the world around us through blogs, newsletters or social media. But depending on where you get your news, you might not be building your own news literacy strength.A growing sector of the U.S. population does not distinguish between professional journalists, information spinners and citizen voices. Technological advancements in concert with the 24/7 news cycle serve to further exacerbate this challenging situation. This is where having a personal commitment to becoming news literate is critically important.News literacy is defined as the ability to use critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of news reports and information sources. It enables people to become smarter con…

Why Are Red Poppies a Symbol for Memorial Day?

by Don Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy 

Stronger Communities Equal a Safer Illinois

by David Hiller, President & CEO This March, we helped sponsor a symposium, "The $2 Billion Question: Can Illinois Improve Public Safety and Spend Less on Incarceration?" at the Union League Club of Chicago. Elected officials, business leaders, policy makers and funders took part in a discussion that addressed the critical issue of reducing incarceration rates and improving safety in Illinois. Keeping in mind that the population of Illinois is more than 12.5 million, here are Illinois' facts:Approximately 70 percent of prisoners are jailed for non-violent crimesApproximately 48,000 adults are incarcerated annually3.6 percent of our state budget ($1.3 billion out of $35.3 billion) is spent on incarcerated adults in state and local jails, which accounts for approximately $27,000 per inmate.48 percent of inmates in state prisons don't have a high school diploma or GED These startling statistics are rooted in decades of tough-on-crime legislation, the war on drugs, a…

Support For Vets & Military Families

by Don Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy  On April 30, 2014, thirty (30) philanthropic organizations and corporations, First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation announced pledges totaling more than $170 million, over the next five years, to support veterans and military families. The Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact Pledge creates a community of funders and builds momentum for programs that will support service members, veterans and their families, in local communities as the country draws down from twelve years of war. Read about the pledge.Related StoriesVIDEO: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden talk about the new Philanthropy-Joining Forces Impact PledgeVIDEO: Don Cooke talks about The Great Transition HomeBLOG: Don's perspective on The New Greatest Generation: Helping Veterans Return Home

The Great Transition: Veterans Coming Home

by Don Cooke, Senior Vice President of Philanthropy

The New Greatest Generation: Helping Veterans Return Home

by Don Cooke, Senior VP of Philanthropy Our nation is at a critical crossroads with our veterans. We can follow the post-Vietnam approach and turn our backs on those who fought an unpopular war, yet who were forever affected by that conflict and by their homecoming. The Vietnam approach led to soldiers’ shame, disaffection with society, and to the startling and unacceptable fact that some 25% of those homeless in America today are Vietnam veterans. Or we can take a different road – we can welcome our military people back to our communities with gratitude and with essential help re-integrating into their communities where they can be invaluable assets. I have been asked many times where the responsibility of the government (which sent young men and women into harm’s way) ends and our collective community responsibility begins. This is a very good question, but veterans are not different from others in our communities we help with jobs, education, healthcare, and housing. Communities al…

In Memoriam: Staff Sergeant Walter D. Ehlers

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On Saturday, March 8, 2014, Staff Sergeant Walter D. Ehlers, an honorable man, soldier, mentor and Medal of Honor recipient, was laid to rest at Riverside National Cemetery near Los Angeles, CA. Among the many dignitaries who came to pay their respects were about a dozen Medal of Honor recipients. Staff Sergeant Ehlers received his Medal of Honor for conspicuous service above and beyond the call of duty on June 9 and 10, 1944, in Normandy, France, just past deadly Omaha beach, which he had crossed on D-Day, June 6. Walt was a devoted veteran of the 1st Infantry Division and a friend of our First Division Museum at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. We owed him this final farewell. The weather was beautiful, the setting sublime, the eulogies touching, the 1st Division honor guard perfect.
The day was not about the Medal but the man. Walt fought in many campaigns besides Normandy, and was wounded and decorated many times. Walt was proudest of getting his squad over Omaha beach witho…

Giving at Home: Local Philanthropy is Key to Recovery

by Don Cooke, Vice President of Philanthropy Over the past few years, we have witnessed some of the darkest times in our nation’s history. We have heard a relentless stream of stories about layoffs, fraudulent investment schemes, broke and broken governments, and corporate bailouts and unfathomable excess.Yet one important sector that is in dire straits and is too often overlooked is the nonprofit sector—the one part of our community with the principal purpose of helping transform communities by providing access to programs and resources that improve lives. The sector is struggling, not because of greed or mismanagement, but because each nonprofit organization depends upon a uniquely American culture of generosity and of helping others. Unfortunately, charitable giving is often the first thing to be scaled back in households, foundations, and corporations that must tighten their belts in tough times, and it is often the last thing to rebound as the economy improves. As our economy str…

Teenage Voting: Democracy Week's Primary Objective

by Shawn Healy, Civic Learning Scholar Chicago elections are famous for the slogan, "Vote early and vote often." However, Illinois voters rarely live up to this adage. Turnout for national and state elections fall below national averages, and youth voting in local elections is abysmal, ranking 47 among 50 states and the District of Columbia. Next month, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in partnership with the Board of Elections, the McCormick Foundation, and a coalition of other civic organizations, is seeking to reverse this disturbing statistic. During "Democracy Week," scheduled for February 3-7, CPS and its partners plan to orchestrate a massive voter registration drive among high school students in an effort to capitalize on "Suffrage at 17" legislation passed last year. The new law enables 17-year olds to vote in the March 18 Primary so long as they will be age 18 by Election Day in November.CPS has approximately 35,000 students in its nearly 150 high …

Getting Up to Speed: McCormick 101

by Phil Zepeda, Director of Communications Growing up and spending most of my adult life in Chicago, I was very familiar with the McCormick Foundation, probably due to my interest in local philanthropy at a young age.But now that I have the great fortune of working for this legendary organization, I’ve been able to hear about the rich life of our benefactor, Robert R. McCormick, and gain a better understanding of his contributions to our area – some monumental and others cultural.For instance, it was McCormick who coined the term “Chicagoland,” with historians tracing its first use back to 1926. McCormick led the effort to expand Chicago north of the Chicago River along Michigan Avenue. In 1918, the Chicago Tribune created an editorial platform raising attention about important civic improvement issues. His “Extend the Chicago Plan” was built off of Daniel Burnham’s city plan and promoted completing Michigan Avenue and building the Michigan Avenue Bridge.Naming Chicago’s airport “O’Ha…