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Posts Tagged ‘North Lawndale’

Knitting seems to be coming back in style. I thought I had forgotten everything I learned from knitting sweaters during college lectures, but the basic stitch came back to me when I started tackling scarves as an alternative to doodling in work meetings.

Now I see that knitting is serving many positive social purposes among kids in a poor Chicago neighborhood

Lisa Suhay writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Students are getting knitty in a gritty urban neighborhood on Chicago‘s west side, as they are learning to craft skeins of yarn into a blanket of calm that is making them more social – and fiscally sound.

“ ‘Three years ago, I started teaching kids here to knit and then I thought, “Let’s see if we could sell what they make at my church and give the kids some pocket money in the process,’ says Dorothea Tobin, a teacher at North Lawndale College Prep, in a phone interview from her classroom where she is surrounded by clicking needles and chatting teens.

“In the ‘BT Lives in the Stitch’ club, according to Ms. Tobin, students price their wares between $10 and $30 per item and reap the rewards of being able to socialize while earning enough profit to pay for prom tickets or sundries they might not otherwise be able to afford. …

“Of the 40 students in Tobin’s club a handful are boys. Asked if there was a difference between what boys and girls prefer to knit she says, ‘Boys prefer to knit scarves because those are good sellers. Girls tend more towards baby hats.’ … She has observed that the simple act of mastering a traditional skill and producing something has a profound effect on her students. …

“ ‘They’re always making fun of my rules, but I have club rules for a reason,’ she says. ‘I don’t want them to isolate themselves in the process.’

“The first rule of Knitting Club, Tobin says, is no headphones. … The second rule is to dance with her on Fridays. The third rule, she says is ‘Greet each other when new members come to join us in a session.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Casey Bayer

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Mark Guarino has a nice story in the Christian Science Monitor about a Chicago woman of great determination.

” ‘Pollinate’ is a word that Brenda Palms Barber likes to throw around when talking to people about her work.

She pollinates jobs for recently released inmates looking for a second chance. She pollinates faith among the people who take a chance in hiring them. She pollinates an upswing in North Lawndale, one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Chicago, about five miles west of downtown.

“She also pollinates honey. At least that’s the job of the bees she has spent five years raising.

Indeed, Ms. Barber has brought swarms of bees to the city’s West Side, using them to foster job creation among a stigmatized group of people who live on the bottom rung of the economic ladder: black males who exit the state or county prison system with little formal education or job skills….

” ‘We have to be their first employers,’ she says. ‘We have to prove to society that people who did bad things, people who need second chances, can be positive in the workplace, that they will be loyal and hard-working and honest employees.’ “

More here.

Photo: David Harold Ropinksi/Sweet Beginnings
Brenda Palms Barber’s honey-products program has hired 275 ex-offenders since 2007. After 90 days, they shift to the outside workforce.

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