Alphonso Mack of Oak Park gets assistance on how to enroll online for a state job link from volunteer Mary Ann DeBruin at the Walk-In Ministry at First United Church of Oak Park. David Pierini/staff photographer

After serving more than 4,000 clients since 2005, Walk-In Ministry is taking a big stride forward, focusing its mission and renaming the non-profit organization as Prevail, which reflects its positive influence in helping area residents facing financial hardship on a path to stability.

“We’re keeping a step ahead of the needs of neighbors in our community,” says Bob Hahn, chairman of the board since 2007. “The past two years we have grown from providing emergency services to those facing financial hardship to introducing programs that seek to resolve the underlying problems of their financial challenges. We are well prepared to continually expand our services further to help area residents achieve stability in their lives and prevail.”

Prevail is our community’s compassionate advocate for those neighbors facing financial crisis and seeking a path to stability, says Cristy Harris, executive director, and we are the frontline organization in the community to addresses these needs.

The organization has updated its mission to: Prevail provides immediate and compassionate response to individuals and families facing financial crisis and offers them supportive services leading to future stability.

“Our success the past eight years is due to our approach,” adds Harris. “Through compassionate listening we seek to understand the factors which are contributing to a client’s financial problems. Our talented volunteers then provide emergency services to address pressing financial problems and education in financial literacy and job training for long-term resolution of the underlying causes of adversity.”

For those at risk of housing loss or other vital basic necessities, Prevail provides emergency financial assistance, plus resource referrals for food, housing and transportation. To help clients achieve financial stability and plan for future financial well%u2010being, the organization offers basic budgeting and debt management classes along with one%u2010on%u2010one financial coaching with qualified volunteers. A Job Readiness Program introduced in 2012 enhances clients’ employability through one%u2010on%u2010one sessions with experienced HR professionals and computer instructors to assess job opportunities; improve presentation, communications, and interpersonal skills; create resumes and cover letters, practice interviewing and develop basic computer and internet skills required to search and apply for jobs online.

“The work we do is more important than ever as witnessed by the growing number of new clients who visit our center each week,” says Harris. “Unemployment in the surrounding area is estimated at 7.5 percent to 15 percent and more than 8 percent of the residents in the surrounding 12 zip codes live at the poverty level or below. Even here in our communities many live dangerously close to a financial breaking point.”

To meet the growing demand for its services Prevail is doubling its public services hours at its operation at First United Church at 848 W. Lake Street in Oak Park. New hours are Monday- Friday 10 a.m.- noon; Saturday 9:30-11:30 a.m.; 1st Wednesday of each month 7 – 8:30 p.m.; all other Wednesdays 3:30- 5 p.m.; and by appointment. Financial Literacy training classes are held once a month. Job Readiness Program sessions are by appointment Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m.-noon.

To accommodate this growth, Prevail is in need of additional volunteers to work with clients in emergency assistance and referrals counseling, financial literacy education, and human resources/job readiness training and technical training. Additional support opportunities are available in database and website management and administrative assistance. Interested volunteers can contact the organization at

A new website has been launched at and the public can reach the organization at Office telephone is (708) 386-1946.

The organization has bolstered its board of directors in the last year with the addition of several Oak Park residents: Jerry Lordan of Fenwick, Sarah Dolan of Maiden Street Group, Jim Heininger of Dixon|James Communications, Laura Gurski of ATKearney, Cindy Huber formally of Oak Park Township, Linda Schembari of The Onyx Group, Deborah Bluminberg of OPRF High School and Kristine St. Martin of Deloitte.

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