Apr 10, 2015

Women Helping Women spotlights The Night Ministry at Spring Mix-and-Mingle

Tamika was a high school dropout who figured her options looked just like those of many in her neighborhood—the drug dealers, gang members and prostitutes. April was a young mom who lost custody of her children and, like Tamika, also found herself jobless and homeless.

When there’s no place to call home, many young adults are discovering there still is a place for hope. The Night Ministry, named for what was perceived to be the loneliest time for the homeless, has been serving the community for nearly 40 years with housing, healthcare and practical resources.

Through the patient encouragement of The Night Ministry staff, both Tamika and April began developing new visions of themselves and new versions of what they could do with their lives. Now Tamika is a married homeowner with a little girl, a GED and a full-time job, and she’s taking steps to become a paralegal. April has her kids back, runs her own business from her new apartment and is working on a bachelor’s degree.

With success stories like these, it’s easy to see why Women Helping Women has chosen to shine a light on The Night Ministry at its Spring Mix-and-Mingle on Thursday, April 30, at Lloyd’s Chicago.

Hosted biannually by the women attorneys at Chuhak & Tecson, Women Helping Women is an after-hours networking group partnering wine and hors d’oeuvres with business development and philanthropy. Each mixer features a different not for profit organization serving women, or women and their children, and participants are asked to select from a wish list to help support the organization’s work.

With nearly 10,000 youth and young adults homeless in Chicago each year, The Night Ministry meets an array of basic needs. A Health Outreach bus offers free medical services in six neighborhoods, a Youth Outreach van provides food, counsel and relationship, and the agency’s four shelters offer programs ranging from emergency overnights to two-year commitments.

“The Night Ministry is vital to Chicago because it provides a safety net of social services that are absolutely life-saving,” said Stacy Massey, communications and media relations coordinator. “We have to remember how important it is to have a safe place to sleep and enough food to eat, because if you don’t have those things, you can’t access education either.”

Loretto Kennedy, a principal at Chuhak & Tecson, had previously worked with The Night Ministry in projects sponsored by her church and the Girl Scout troop she leads.

“This is a top-notch organization with many different facets, and they do each of them extremely well,” Kennedy said. “The particular outreach we’re going to be supporting at our Mix-and-Mingle is an interim program for young people who have not had the benefit of a stable home life and often find themselves without resources to meet their day-to-day needs.

“The Night Ministry reaches out to them on many levels—food, hygiene and shelter—but also reaches out on moving forward in a more purposeful, positive direction,” she said.

Massey said the organization is the only one in Chicago that reserves beds for pregnant teenagers, and it tries to be pragmatic in meeting young people where they are. Most of their clients are 18 to 24 years old, though some are as young as 13.

“Not everyone who comes to our overnight shelter, for example, is big on following a lot of rules,” she said, “so we have a realistic approach to addressing that concern. We look at how we can make the situation better for everyone, because everyone wins when young people don’t become chronically homeless.”

Last year, The Night Ministry touched the lives of nearly 5,000 young people through its various programs, Massey said, and celebrated with 147 who left to move into stable housing of their own.

Now beginning its sixth year, Women Helping Women has grown so much that Lloyd’s Chicago is once again being reserved in its entirety for the evening.

“We have people who were with us at the first event who still continue to come,” Kennedy said. “I think that speaks volumes for the benefits they receive and the quality of the people they’re meeting here. Our past guests are reaching out to bring other colleagues into the Women Helping Women network, and the professions and market niches that are represented keep expanding event after event.”

Attendees to the April 30 mixer are encouraged to bring donations of men’s or women’s underwear, deodorant, twin-size sheets or blankets, bath towels, coffee or flatware to help meet a variety of ongoing needs at The Night Ministry. The agency’s Amazon Wish List also includes specific clothing items, Blu-Ray disc players, NutriBullet blender/mixers and Play Station 4 consoles and controllers.

The Spring Mix-and-Mingle will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1 S. Wacker Dr. If you would like to receive an invitation, please contact Jane LaGrassa at 312-201-3447 or