COVID-19 has disrupted lives the world over, affecting the global economy and our day-to-day existence. Those who have borne the brunt of COVID’s negative effects, however, are those who are least equipped to withstand its relentless and repeated blows — including the children and families served by Hephzibah Children’s Association.
Despite the substantial financial impact involved, Hephzibah has stepped up its support of the children and families it serves by increasing its programs and spending to meet unexpected needs. As already-struggling families cope with additional hardships such as unemployment, rising food bills, and the management of e-learning, Hephzibah’s Family-Based Services team has kicked into high gear, providing groceries, face masks, school supplies, Chromebooks, Ventra cards, and household necessities. In response to an increasing need, Hephzibah has decided to double the number of intact families it serves.
On short notice, and after running a safe summer camp program, Hephzibah launched a new all-day daycare program with Oak Park District 97 to support e-learning and ensure that working parents could place their children in a safe, enriching environment each day. This crucial program is currently running, with nearly 200 children engaging in activities from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Hephzibah has additionally ramped up its support of foster families who are shouldering added expenses and whose schools would normally be a source of classroom supplies and daily meals. These families have chosen to welcome children who need extra emotional, physical, medical, and educational assistance, and Hephzibah is increasing its support of the extraordinary people who have opened their homes and hearts to children in need.
Hephzibah also provides indispensable help and healing to the 26 children who live at its therapeutic center, Hephzibah Home. Staff members have been in overdrive and have successfully kept the children they care for on a healing path, despite the emotional strains of being confined to the Home.
Learning at the Home has also continued apace, with staff members showing an amazing ability to meet the challenges of managing virtual classes across a wide range of educational and emotional needs and grade levels.
None of the expanded services necessitated by COVID-19 have been easy to deliver and all of these interventions have increased agency expenses. Generous sponsors and donors, who understand that serving our most vulnerable population is a worthy investment, have partnered to help cover a portion of Hephzibah’s additional expenses, and the agency has been able to successfully attain a PPP loan. However, there remains a need for additional funds to continue to expand programs and support for children and families in crisis.
Hephzibah’s staff has worked tirelessly to provide extra help and raise additional funds to support the community’s vulnerable members during the pandemic, and they will continue to step up their efforts for the duration of the crisis.
Anyone interested in donating to Hephzibah Children’s Association can visit its website at: https://www.hephzibahhome.org.
Beth Cannon is vice president and communications coordinator of Hephzibah’s Oak Park Auxiliary Board.