Employed for Life Workshop and Job Fair

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“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13

In an effort to combat poverty and restore hope, the Employment Service at the Care Center has launched two new programs—The Employed for Life Workshop and the Job Fair that collectively work to provide Chicagoland and suburban residents the opportunity to network and build the skills necessary to obtain employment.

While the recorded unemployment rate for Illinois decreased from 10.5% in 2010 to 9.8% in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in reality, these rates are significantly higher. The current numbers do not reflect part-time workers, individuals who didn’t apply for unemployment benefits and individuals who haven’t actively searched for a job in the last month. Finding a job has become a job in itself, causing not only an economic crunch, but leading to depression and anxiety, according to the Pew Research Center. In response, Willow’s Care Center created an employment services department.

The Care Center’s Employment Services started about a year ago and served 488 guests; it has grown about 25 percent in the last year. The department offers counseling and mentoring to those who are currently seeking a job and counselors provide assistance in writing cover letters and resumes. In an effort to expand its services, the team developed Employed for Life Workshops that are designed to encourage and instruct job seekers about God’s vision of work. The workshops take place quarterly and provide people with the opportunity to learn ways in which they can better navigate the job market and acquire new skill sets.

“While it is vitally important to help people find a job, it is just as important to keep them encouraged while they are in transition,” says Anne Rand, Justice and Employment Services program manager.

The first workshop (October 24, 2012) brought in 120 people and the second was scheduled for January 23, 2013. As a means of further ensuring that employment needs are met, the Care Center’s Employment Service also hosts a job fair on January 29, six days after the workshop. With employers receiving hundreds of standard resumes and cover letters, it is often difficult for employers to call back prospective employees for a call-back interview. The job fair enables employers and employees to meet one-on-one, allowing for first time interviews that might not have been possible without the fair. This one-on-one meeting allows employers to learn more about the interviewee’s work ethic and relational skills, often increasing the likelihood of a second interview.

“As much as it is our responsibility to prepare ourselves for job searching and job readiness, ultimately we turn to the Lord to throw open the doors of opportunity,” says Anne. “This is when our prayers come to fruition—giving you the words to say when interviewing, touching the heart of the interviewer to offer you a position, and preparing you for successful employment.”

Along with these two programs, the Employment Services team also has a website where community residents can post employment opportunities. It has grown to serve over 13,000 members. With the growing demand of services, the team hopes to be able to expand its hours and services once the new Care Center is built: new services would include entrepreneurship training, bi-lingual tutoring, and support groups.

For more information, email the employment services team at employmentservices@willowcreek.org

Willow Hosts a D.A.C.A Workshops

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In an recent change of immigration policy,  the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (D.A.C.A.) was signed on June 15, 2012. The reform would allow undocumented children who arrived in the US before the age of 16 to stay in this country legally and work here for a period of two years. With valid employment authorization (work permit), undocumented immigrants, who meet the criteria, will be able to obtain a valid Social Security number and driver’s license.

As a response to the new reform, organizations around the US have set up D.A.C.A. workshops that include information sessions and legal services. On November 10, the Willow Creek Care Center’s Legal Aid Ministry in partnership with World Relief and Casa De Luz, hosted a Deferred Action Workshop. “By offering the D.A.C.A. Workshop, we have the opportunity to help people really think about their status and options and then talk with a qualified immigration attorney about their case,” said Anne Rand, the Care Center’s Legal Services Program Manager. “This collaborative effort with World Relief, immigration attorneys, generalist attorneys, and volunteers will eventually serve hundreds within our community.”

More than 40 volunteers, ranging from generalist roles to legal service roles, contributed their time and expertise to the workshop. Forty-three participants had their applications compiled, scrutinized, verified, and mailed off to the federal government. A team of Casa de Luz volunteers offered tearful prayers, hope, and encouragement before the envelopes were sealed. And now the waiting process begins. World Relief estimates a two-month waiting period prior to approval.

While D.A.C.A. does not provide a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship, it does offer undocumented immigrants a beacon of hope for the future. “Many of the young people who applied are stellar students and participants in our church and in civic arenas throughout our community,” said Anne.  “Seeing hope in young people’s eyes was such a highlight. Many of them live with the hidden burden of being ‘undocumented’ and very much want to do the right thing. The thought that they don’t need to live in constant fear of deportation, that they could pursue a job with the assistance of a work permit, obtain a legitimate Social Security card and driver’s license—all things so necessary to be a functioning contributor to our society—brings a feeling of joy to all of our hearts.”

The event went so well that the Care Center’s Legal Aid Ministry, Casa de Luz, and World Relief will collaborate once again to host another workshop on February 9, 2013. To find out if you or someone you know is eligible, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s USCIS page for official details, or stop by the Care Center on any Tuesday morning between 10 a.m. and noon or in the evening between 6:30 and 8 p.m. to meet with a Legal Aid attorney. World Relief also hosts workshops in the coming weeks at their Wheaton office. Simply call (630) 462-7566 to register. To volunteer at the next D.A.C.A. workshop at Willow, register now.

Orphan Sunday: A Night to Remember

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“And let us consider how to spur one another on towards love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

What do Moses, Esther, Babe Ruth and Steve Jobs have in common? They were all adopted, and they all changed their world.  Orphan Sunday is celebrated in every state in the US and also in twenty-two countries. Currently 143 million children are orphaned. A large gathering of men, women and children attended Willow’s Orphan Sunday event on November 18th for various reasons. Some wanted more information about adoption and fostering, while others were interested in lending a helping hand or being a Safe Family, like Denise who was inspired by a recent weekend message. “What am I doing with my five-bedroom home in Inverness that could make a difference?” she thought.  Her husband and two sons supported her decision to take the plunge and sign up to be a Safe Family. Her first assignment was taking in 1 ½ year old twin boys for three weeks. “The twins were great,” said Denise, “and I look forward to future assignments.” Many others shared their thoughts.

Evening Feedback
Eric and Kate, who have two adopted boys from China, recently moved to the northwest suburbs. They were looking for a church family.  After their visit to Willow, they were encouraged to join a Wiser Together group. They were warmly welcomed, and their group leader just happened to mention the Vulnerable Children’s Ministry and the upcoming Orphan Sunday event.  “We are so excited to be here tonight and to connect with other adoptive parents,” said Eric.

Roy, a special education teacher, came with his wife, Julie, and their three girls. They were eager to check out the various organizations represented. They want to adopt a special needs child to complete their family.  Reece’s Rainbow, an organization matching Down’s Syndrome children with adoptive parents, was one that caught their attention. “The kids are so excited about having another child in the family,” said Julie.

Kyle Donnelly came to Orphan Sunday looking for a place to serve.  “I have felt God’s heart for the plight of children. I have a heart for those so vulnerable. So I am here to see where God would have me serve now that my own children are grown and I have more time,” she said.

Closing Thoughts
“Our leadership team was really pleased with the event,” said Dina Ackermann, ministry director. “We had a record number of people attend and 14 booths set up with representatives from various organizations/agencies whose focus is on adoption, foster care, vulnerable children, etc. They all expressed that they were happy with the conversations at their booths. Each one of the speakers did a fabulous job, and really added something to the conversation. We had many people fill out “next step” forms to volunteer for various ministries.  By all accounts, it was a very fruitful evening.”

For those considering fostering  children and adoption, Willow will host DCF classes starting Tuesday, January 22ndled by Joyce Mofit.  If you desire more information about the Vulnerable Children’s Ministry or if you wish to obtain a foster parent license, contact Dina Ackermann at justiceservices@willowcreek.org.

A New Financial Service for Care Center Guests

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And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (Isaiah 58:10)

Living Below the Poverty Line
Approximately 1.9 million people in Illinois were living below the federal poverty line in 2011, compared to 1.7 people in 2010, according to the U.S Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. For a family of four, that translates into a yearly income of just $23,050. These numbers are expected to rise as economic hardships threaten to continue.

New Financial Service
By offering immediate relief and long-term solutions, Willow Creek’s Care Center is a refuge for those who have fallen on hard times or are living below the poverty line. In January 2013, the Care Center’s Financial Services area will launch a new tax preparation service: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). VITA is sponsored by the IRS and provides free income tax preparation—federal and state—for both individuals and families who earn a yearly income of $50,000 or less.

Volunteers are needed to support this new service. A volunteer doesn’t need to be an accountant or CPA to qualify; the IRS will train and certify them to prepare income tax returns. The addition of the VITA program is just one more expression of the Care Center’s mission statement, which is: “Fighting poverty and injustice so that lives are transformed and Jesus is known.”

If you are interested in volunteering or if you’d like to learn more about VITA, contact Thelma Talamantes, the Financial Services Program Manager, at financialservices@willowcreek.org.

Care Center Casts a Vision for a New Day

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“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter ‘til the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

One Monday morning an overwhelmed single mother of five children and two grandchildren came to Willow Creek’s Care Center seeking help for her health concerns. After a conversation with a volunteer, she left with a glimmer of hope, knowing, at the Care Center, she could obtain the medical assistance she needs to treat her high blood pressure and other health issues. This impacts, not only her life, but the lives of her children and grandchildren.

Guests coming to the center have many needs. Often they have a health issue and are unsure of what kinds of help are available.  “My hope is that each guest is made aware of medical services available in our surrounding area to meet their needs,” says Dave Cimo, program manager of the Care Center’s health services.

Current Situation
When the under-resourced cannot afford to take care of their health concerns, it can result in serious and chronic medical issues. Surveys of Care Center guests have identified dental and eye care treatment as among the most-needed services. Unfortunately, the availability of these services to the under-resourced are severely lacking in our community since more than 75 % of our guests lack dental or eye care insurance. As a result, more than 60% have not seen a dentist or eye care professional in at least the last two years.

“To address this, the leaders of the Care Center have made the decision to launch a dental and eye care clinic that will open when the Care Center relocates onto our campus.  In preparation for the opening of the new Care Center, health services will begin recruiting optometrists and dentists in October,” says Dave.

Casting a Vision
“I see dental and eye care professionals working with Willow and using their skills to provide guests with eye vision and oral health,” says Dave. “As someone who wears glasses, I can’t imagine being able to work without good eyesight or while enduring pain from an issue with my teeth. Our Care Center will provide hope to our guests while extending the hand of Christ to our community.” The goal is not to provide for a guest’s long term dental or eye care needs, but to come alongside those who are facing a difficult time in their lives.
How Can You Help
To learn more about the Care Center’s Health Services and how you can get involved, attend a brief gathering after weekend services on October 27 or 28 in room B207.  Learn more about the vision to provide these additional health services and volunteer opportunities. In addition to dental and eye care professionals, there is a need for greeters and those with business skills.
It’s an exciting venture and a “New Day” for the Care Center. Where can you serve?

Exploitation. Abuse. Intimidation. Modern Day Slavery.

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Human trafficking is the third-largest illegal industry— behind drugs and arms—bringing in about 32 billion a year, according to the International Labor Organization. An estimated 27 million people are living as modern-day slaves—70 percent of women trafficked are sexually exploited while 30 percent are forced to work, according to the U.S Department of State.

The United States is both a transit and destination country for traffickers, with all 50 states reporting at least one incidence of human trafficking.

Because of its global involvement, Willow Creek Care Center has dedicated a ministry to serving the needs of locally trafficked and sexually exploited women and children. The Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry was started after a group of volunteers from Willow Creek met with Anne’s House, an organization that houses women and children who have been affected by sex trafficking and sexual exploitation, and felt compelled to start a local organization within the church.

“Human Trafficking is something that happens everywhere,” said Heidi Ames, a volunteer in Willow Creek’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry. “Not just in a faraway land over the ocean, but in our own backyard.”
The ministry holds monthly meetings, meeting on the third Wednesday of every month where both Willow Creek members and the community are welcome to attend. The ministry mainly focuses on raising awareness of the severity of human trafficking and educating the community. Often, the women and children who have been trafficked have no means of surviving if they escape, and the women who have been sexually exploited are excluded from the rest of society.

“Aside from raising awareness, we truly just want to serve this community [comprised of those] who are often looked at as throwaways,” said Kristen Guerrieri, a volunteer with the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry.

The ministry continues to work with Anne’s House, as well as other organizations like Love 146, and Bright Endeavors and hopes to work with 800Runaway and House of Restoration in the near future.

Recently, Heidi hosted a baby shower to collect items for the women at New Moms Inc., an organization that houses at-risk girls who have undergone some form of sexual exploitation. According to Heidi, New Moms Inc. only has enough room for 25 women, and is currently unable to help the 800 women a year who seek New Moms Inc.’s support.

“. . . the organization works diligently to teach independence as well as important life and employment skills so that these women can get a job and provide for themselves and their children,” said Heidi. “This helps break the cycle of violence and poverty—that is all these women know.”

Heidi and the other volunteers were able to gather a car full of items—diapers, toys, food—both for the babies and the mothers.

“It was amazing to see the impact there, and I hope the ripples just keep on going,” said Heidi.

Next month, the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry will begin forming book clubs which will help participants better educate themselves about human trafficking. More importantly, the ministry aspires to expand awareness by using other resources like posters, flyers, and hotline numbers.

“We want to be the hands and feet and help connect organizations in this fight,” said Cheryl Csiky, a volunteer with the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry. “It’s very overwhelming, and we strive to break it down and help volunteers figure out their place—and God’s call to be the voice for victims.”

For more information about the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Ministry a branch of the Justice Services at the Willow Creek Care Center, or to learn how to get involved, contact Program Manager Anne Rand, arand@willowcreek.org.

Pursuing Peace Together: Americans, Israelis, and Palestinians

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Learn about a growing group of American evangelicals who are partnering with Israelis and Palestinians committed to security, freedom, dignity, and peace for all the people of the Holy Land.

From 7-9 p.m. on September 21, Lynne Hybels will share her own journey into the realm of peacemaking, and interview Sami Awad, a Middle Eastern Christian who has been her mentor on this journey.

Sami is a Palestinian Christian from Bethlehem who is committed to focusing on leadership development and principles of nonviolence, thus creating the foundation for a future of peaceful coexistence for all the people in the Holy Land.

You are invited to come early and walk through a moving photo display by Andrew Shadid. Andrew is a student at Wheaton College who attends Willow Creek and who has traveled and studied in Israel and the Palestinian Territory.

Register today!

The Gleaning Ministry: A Modern Day Loaves and Fish Story

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Jesus took five loaves of bread and a couple of small fish and multiplied it to feed thousands of people. He does the same thing through Willow Creek’s Care Center—it’s called gleaning.

Ruth, from the Old Testament, gleaned in the fields of Boaz in order to provide food for her mother-in-law, Naomi and herself.  Under the law, farmers were required to leave behind something after harvest for the needy who gathered it up to feed their families. Back then it was called gleaning; today we call it food rescue.

Under the leadership of Mike Carney, who leads a dedicated team of 55 volunteers, the gleaning ministry has grown substantially to meet the ever-increasing need of guests at the Care Center.  “In 2007, we rescued 88,000 pounds of food and distributed it to 15,000 recipients. Today, we have 73,000 recipients and we rescue more than two million pounds of food,” says Mike. At Willow, food rescue is a modern-day miracle.

How it Works
“Sixty percent of the food comes to the Care Center absolutely free. Gleaners make regular stops to our partners like Jewel, Dominick’s, Marianos, and Portillos,” says Mike. A conversation between a volunteer and a Holsum Bread truck driver resulted in an abundant supply of bread products for the Care Center. Most of the suppliers come via word of mouth through Willow attendees. “The food we receive from partners is often the result of either an excess or food that is reaching its sell-by date,” says Mike. “It’s rescued because otherwise it would be thrown into a dumpster, which would be a terrible waste.” And Mike, who was in the recycling business, is wired to hate waste. Twenty-five percent of the food comes through the Greater Chicago Food Depository and of that, 15 percent is purchased at an average of 10 cents per dollar.  It’s a great example of how God stretches every dollar to meet the need.

Looking into the Future
One of the goals of the Care Center is to become more sustainable. “At times we need to turn away food because we don’t have enough refrigerator/freezer space,” says Mike. But the new Care Center facility will eliminate this problem, offering more fruits and vegetables for guests. “God has been faithful to provide,” says Mike. “We’re excited to see what He will do next.”

Compassion and Justice Hosts a Volunteer Event

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The Compassion and Justice staff team is committed to providing volunteers with relevant training. On Saturday, August 25th from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., the team will host a can’t miss Volunteer Event featuring world class speakers including keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah.

The morning will kick off with worship led by Willow’s own Aaron Niequist. Then Dr. Rah, Associate Professor of Church Growth and Evangelism at North Park Theological Seminary, will deliver the keynote message on where evangelism and justice meet.

Breakout Sessions
Volunteers can choose from two breakout sessions which will be led by Rev. Dr. Alise Barrymore, Dr. Robert Lupton, Rev. Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and Willow’s own Heather Larson. These sessions will offer in depth exploration of various topics, such as intercultural intelligence, self-care, community development and the values of compassion and justice.

Soul Care:
Rev. Dr. Alise Barrymore invites us to discover a Biblical foundation for caring for ourselves no matter what season of life we are currently experiencing.

Community Development:
Dr. Robert Lupton will share insight about the complexities of compassion and the future of community development.

Intercultural Intelligence:
Rev. Dr. Soong Chan Rah will help us understand intercultural intelligence and give us practical steps for raising this value in our lives.

C&J 101:
Heather Larson and the directors of Compassion & Justice will share the many ways you can use the gifts God has imparted to you to serve others and make Jesus known in the world. (Intended for those exploring serving opportunities within C&J)

This dynamic training experience will inspire and equip current C&J volunteers, and offer those still exploring the ministries of Compassion and Justice an opportunity to learn more about where God may be calling you to serve.

Register today!

New Ministry Beginning Through the Care Center

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Imagine, as a child, being sent to school in less than adequate clothing, or wearing dirty socks because you only have a couple pairs.  Being unable to afford basic essentials is something many families never have to think about, but for those who do, it can be emotionally devastating.  Providing clean, gently used clothing to the community will “help these children know they are a cherished child of the Lord” says Jorie Johnson, program director of the Care Center’s clothing ministry.

In preparation for the new Care Center facility, the Children’s Clothing Ministry officially launches in late August. While the store will open with the new facility in 2013, the clothing ministry will begin accepting donations and volunteers during the back to school season.

The hope is that Clothing Ministrywill be prepared with enough clothing and volunteers necessary to support the same level of need as the current food ministry does. “The food pantry is a 30-year, established ministry with more than 1100 volunteers who serve on a regular basis. We have the challenge of coming out of the gate as a brand new ministry, equipped and ready to serve the same number of people with same level of excellence,” says Jorie. “We have a lot of work to do to accomplish that goal, but I have every confidence that we’ll be able to do it.”

Providing clean clothing for children offers dignity and empowerment that mutually transforms both the receiver and giver. In late August, donations of boys and girls clothing from size newborn to 14/16 will be accepted. If you have a background in wholesale, retail, distribution of clothing, knitting, or quilting, or if you simply have a heart for serving children and their families, prayerfully consider volunteering with the clothing ministry. Volunteer and serving opportunities will be available at the Care Center’s new online web pressence beginning June 9! Please send an email to clothing@willowcreek.org for more information.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.  1 John 3:16-18

Category : Local Outreach