Success Stories

Our partner agencies have touched many lives. It is important for us to share some of these stories with you. The stories below have been provided to us by our agencies and their clients. Please use them to better understand how Kishwaukee United Way’s work impacts people across our community.

4-C ~ Community Coordinated Child Care
My name is Alice. My son attends a local child care center in town. I am going for my CNA, and am able to have safe, quality care for my son because of the subsidy I applied for through 4-C. When my son was at the center, however, he was acting out and not listening to his teachers. A social worker from 4-C (Community Coordianted Child Care) came out and visited with him, and also talked with me. I also attended some partenting classes they put on to learn strategies for working with my son and to help me cope. 4-C has taught me to be a better parent, and has helped my son through a tough time.
American Red Cross
Hi! My name is Jane., Last night my house burned to the ground. Thank God our family and pets escaped harm, but we lost a life time of memories, all our possessions except the clother we were wearing. Red Cross arranged for a motel, our meals and gave us a voucher to select clothes at a store of our choice today. Tomorrow I have an appointment to the chapter office to meet with a disaster representative to receive referrals to other agencies that will help us help ourselves recover. Last night as the flame lept and acrid smokled filled my nostrils, I cried to the fireman “We have no where to sleep or stay tonight!” He said” I’ll call the Red Cross” He did and now I believe in Angels.
Ben Gordon Center
I’m Rosa. I am 30 years old, married with 4 children ages 12, 10, 6 and 4. Last weekend my husband and I got into and argument over money because he lost his job and started drinking more than he usually does. We were yelling pretty good and he started throwing things. The boys got scared and called the cops. The police threatened to put the kids in protective services unless we got help. The counselors at the Ben Gordon Center are helping us learn to communicate better between the two of us and be better parents. My husband is also going to treatment for his drinking.
CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates
I was removed from my mother when I was born because she had abused and neglected my older siblings. I was placed into a loving, caring foster home, and given a CASA advocate to investigate my situation and advocate for my best interests. Even though my mother would not cooperate or participate in the necessary services, my father was located and he cooperated with services which helped him become capable to care for me. The CASA advocate visited me many times at my father’s home, and noted that my dad was making appropriate changes to care for my needs. Therefore the CASA advocate recommended I be returned to my dad, where I was eventually placed and my case was closed.
Children's Learning Center
My name is Joey, and I am four, and I have a younger brother and a baby sister. My mom is going to school at NIU and she works at Walmart, and so we come to Children’s Learning Center to play and learn every day. I love my teacher, Lynnie. We explore at the park, make sandcastles in our sand table and sing songs. We get yummy lunches every day, and I love to play with my friends. I am learning my letters and even wrote my name for my mom yesterday! I go to CLC so my mom can go to school and go to work and we can still be safe and learn fun things.
Family Service Agency - Big Brothers Big Sisters
Two years ago I heard the words come over the telephone, “I think we have found a Big Sister for your daughter.” When I went to the meeting the next day, I went in with mixed feelings. Was I doing the right thing joining Big Brothers Big Sisters? During the meeting Cindy walked into the room, I glanced at the caseworker and said, “I think I made the right decision.” Cindy looked mid-30s, with long natural curly hair, much like my daughter Caitlin. She had this great smile on her face when we met and just speaking with her those few moments, I knew she and Caitlin would get along famously. Now two years have passed and I cannot imagine life without Cindy. She is amazingly enthusiastic, overflowing with ideas, always has a listening ear for Caitlin’s problems, however big or small, and likes most all the things Caitlin likes. Caitlin has become a very big part of her extended family. Cindy really is like a ‘big sister’ to Caitlin. They have done and accomplished many things together in the past two years. They are always trying to plan something with BBBS (like parties, etc.), always lend a hand for the car wash fund-raisers, the Cinco de Mayo in Sycamore and always attend and help with Bowl For Kids Sake, just to name a few. They have seen movies together, gone to the malls together, the Jelly Belly Factory, made candy, made candles and bead necklaces and bracelets to sell at craft shows. Last weekend for their 2nd anniversary Cindy picked Caitlin up and told her she couldn’t tell her what they were doing, it was a surprise. They had some lunch and then went to DeKalb to get manicures together. Then back to Cindy’s house for her husband’s home-cooked pasta, which Caitlin loves. Cindy is one of the best things that has happened to my daughter. Caitlin has come totally out of her shell, is extremely outgoing, has many friends at school now, her grades have improved and she just went out for the high school softball team. And I know, without a doubt, Cindy will attend all the games she can with me; we’re big fans of Caitlin’s softball teams, and cheer her and the others on. I know Cindy and Caitlin will continue to be friends for a long, long time to come. Without a doubt!!!
Hope Haven


I am writing to tell you how Hope Haven is helping me become a more productive citizen and a better mother to my two boys, while also providing my family with food and shelter. I have been struggling financially since 2005. At the present time in my life, Hope Haven is truly my home. It has given my family and me security and stability, and I am very grateful. Upon arrival at Hope Haven, I was homeless, without a job and without any means to support myself or my children. I basically was hopeless and somewhat doubtful on whether I would ever reestablish myself again. However, I quickly came to realize how helpful and heartfelt the staff at Hope Haven can really be. Their programs are very unique and effective in helping people in my situation. They also embraced my family as if we were their own.

Hope Haven helped me focus on the future, and not just the present and I regained much needed hope. During my stay at Hope Haven, I have accomplished many things, for example I am currently attending Kishwaukee College to obtain a degree in Office Systems. I am working, my children are doing well in school, and I have learned to use the resources that are available within the community.

Most importantly, Hope Haven has given me and my children the structure, stability and security we needed while we wait to move into a new home. My children have had the opportunity to participate in their own programs; they’ve attended summer activities and received tutoring after school. My children have come to love and accept the staff at Hope Haven as part of our family. My boys mean the world to me and I appreciate the role the staff has played in their lives.

Hope Haven has exceeded my thoughts and expectations of what a homeless shelter would provide for someone like me. I was very skeptical, never living in a shelter before, but this experience has helped me regain trust and confidence in other people. Most of all, I have regained my self-esteem and feel hopeful about my future.


December 22nd was the first day I came to Hope Haven. It was a cold day and I had nowhere to go, no one to call, and no one to guide me—I was truly alone. I was hopeless, nothing but pain in my heart. With Christmas approaching, the only thing I wanted was a place to lay my head and feel some ease from my troubles. Hope Haven was a God send. They took me in with so much understanding and respect for my problems. They gave me shelter and food, but most of all they gave me a chance at life again. They gave me all the information I needed to get myself back on track so I could live a more successful life. Hope Haven restored the hope that I lost that day on December 22nd and gave me a better understanding about life. I thank Hope Haven each day for giving me a second chance at life and helping me realize that I too could have dreams and goals. That’s why it so crucial that society has organizations like Hope Haven, they give people hope and motivation to get back what they might of lost. Hope Haven provides people with resources and that extra push they need to get things done. When you are down, they have case workers there to talk to you and ease your troubles. I believe some families might lose interest for life or even their self determination when they become homeless, but Hope Haven restores that. Hope Haven can give people the tools to become more independent and able to prosper in their community, just like they did for me.

Kish Health System Hospice
I am a 72 year old man who is slowly losing my wife. She has an aggressive form of cancer, and does not want to have chemotherapy anymore. She just wants to live at home and spend time with our daughter and her family. I help prepare meals, and help with her medications. When things started to get worse with her health, we asked Hospice volunteers for help. I am so grateful to them. They have helped my wife stay at home. They help me care for her, and even bring a music therapist to our house, because my wife loves music. They are helping to make her last days peaceful and meaningful.
Opportunity House
My name is Pat. I grew up in Sycamore. After leaving high school, I moved into one of Opportunity House’s group homes where I learned to do my laundry, cook meals, and pay my bills. I also learned job skills in the O.H. work center, and their staff helped me get a job in the community. They also helped me to move into my own apartment, where their staff continue to teach me what I need to know to live by myself. With help from Opportunity House, I live in my own apartment and have a job that I love.
I am the parent of a 5 year old son. My son has autism. He was attending preschool, but due to this disability, he had behavior issues and was asked to leave the program. When RAMP became involved, we were able to meet with the school and put in place a behavioral intervention plan to meet the needs of both my son and the school. I also met with RAMP and the special education coordinator of the local school district. A full assessment of my son was completed and an individualized education plan (IEP) was implemented. My son now attends a preschool that is better equipped to meet his specific needs.
The Pay-It-Forward House
Hi! My name is Robert and I live 3 hours outside of DeKalb County. My wife was in an accident, and has been in the hospital a long time. She is slowly getting better, but is still on a ventilator at Kindred Hosptial in Sycamore. I can’t afford the gas to drive 3 hours each day to be near her and visit her. The folks at the Pay-It-Forward House have been so good to me, giving me a place to stay when I am in town visiting her. I can walk to see her each day, and I can talk with other families in the House that are going through the same struggles as I am. I hope, when my wife gets better, that I can “Pay It Forward’ and help someone else like they have helped me.
VAC ~ Voluntary Action Center
My name is Vern and I live in DeKalb County, I am a retired farmer, and I live on a very small amount of money each month. I used to get out of my house more, but I have an injury that keeps me at home most of the time. I am lucky to get hot meals from VAC’s Meals on Wheels program. I have diabetes, too, so they make sure the food I get is good for my condition and won’t make me ill. I’m not sure I would have a hot, healthy meal everyday if I didn’t get a VAC meal. I also take time and talk with Colleen who delivers my meals. She checks in on me and makes sure I am OK each day. VAC has been great to me, and I am thankful for them.
I just wanted to let you know how much we appreciate the financial assistance provided for my family and myself. We use the Y 2-3 times a week to work out, swim, play basketball and some of the classes you offer. Without your assistance we couldn’t have afforded the use of your facilities and programs. The YMCA is a strong positive influence for my kids and we enjoy coming to the YMCA.

** The Y has impacted my life because I have been able to put y son in swim classes and play group. It gives me great pleasure to see him so excited and happy before and after swim class. He loves being around other children and I have some peace of mind when he goes on the boat with hi dad, knowing he learned water safety and swim lessons. I am so grateful for the financial aid that is provided because my son, who’s mother is trying to get though school without money, can enjoy what other children do.

** I and my family thank you so much for accepting us for the financial assistance membership. I have lost weight due to exercising at the Y. For the first time in two years I am able to put on my wedding ring! We as a family have also benefited greatly by having quality time with each other. We have gone swimming and just enjoy each other’s company. Thank you for helping to make my family feel healthy and important.

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