Reflections on My Brother's Kitchen, North Lawndale

By Jeff and Julie Albaugh


As part of the North Lawndale Kinship Initiative under the direction of Vincent Guider, Old St. Pat’s provides a meal to anyone in need of food through My Brother’s Kitchen in North Lawndale. It happens at the Young Men’s Education Network (YMEN) Community Center on the 3rd Saturday of each month. We and several others from our church were pleased and blessed by the opportunity to participate in this amazing event.

Patty Brick, an Old St. Pat’s member, did an outstanding job coordinating the event and creating a delicious menu. It was wonderful to meet and spend time with other volunteers from Old St. Pats and we all got right to work on setup, food prep, serving the meal and cleanup around the facility afterward. We were given a brief orientation to the amazing work being done at My Brother’s Kitchen and at the YMEN center. My Brother’s Kitchen was started years ago by two brothers, Frank and Pete Vito, who wanted to feed those who are hungry and less fortunate. It was very apparent from everyone involved in this ministry that it is infused with God’s love and compassion. The goal of kinship is to transform the lives of the people from Old St. Pats and the people from the North Lawndale community by developing relationships with them and with each other. It is not just about serving a meal or performing charitable acts; it is more importantly about relationship. Through each other, we learn more about our faith and we grow in exponential ways.


In our current political culture that promotes division and separateness, the Kinship Initiative reminds us that we are all one body of Christ regardless of any differences in ethnicity, religion, culture or financial background. Regardless of our personal history, we all struggle in our brokenness and desperately need a Savior to show us the path to true love and belonging. We can find that Savior in relationships/kinship with others. Together we are stronger and the body of Christ needs all its parts to function fully. God designed a need in each of us to be hardwired for connectedness and that connectedness can be found in human relationships.

The faith, love and compassion that we witnessed in the Lawndale community was inspiring. We signed up to serve others food, but in the end, we were the ones blessed by interacting and talking to the many people who came to eat, the staff and the other volunteers. We will definitely be back for another serving of kinship.

Jeff & Julie Albaugh are active members of Old St. Pat’s Church

Advocacy + Opportunity = Economic Justice

By: Conner Kerrigan

The Kinship Initiative is helping to remove social and economic barriers that divide many Chicago residents. A particular barrier of concern is the disparity between the national unemployment rate of 3.7% vs. the appalling high rate of unemployment in North Lawndale which is nearly three times the national average. A lack of sustainable job opportunities for many North Lawndale residents and Old St. Patrick Church’s kinship with that neighborhood was the genesis for establishing North Lawndale Works, a job networking collaboration between the two communities. The following is the story of one company that chose to address this economic justice crisis head on to make a difference for job seekers and their families in North Lawndale..

Jakacki Bag & Barrel occupies is a warehouse just east of Kilpatrick Street, between Polk and the Eisenhower Expressway. On the surface, this brick building with music coming from the loading dock matches the description of almost any other manufacturing small business in the North Lawndale neighborhood. But, once inside, you’d notice what makes this 75-year-old family-owned business truly unique.


Spend any time with the decision makers and hiring managers at this small business and you’d start to hear a familiar story. Hiring locally had always been a priority, but in the past new hires would show up for two, maybe three days, and then never be seen again. This frequent turnover ended up burning through Jakacki’s time, money, and resources back in 2001, when they handed out 142 W2 forms at the end of the year – they only ever have 35 employees at a time.

It was around this time that Brenda Palms-Barber, the Founder and Executive Director of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) came to speak to Debbie Jakacki, who handles the bulk of the barrel re-conditioner’s business. Brenda was hoping to place graduates from NLEN’s award-winning workforce development program, U-Turn Permitted, into jobs at the company.

“I remember noticing Brenda’s enthusiasm for the work she was doing. I had the utmost confidence that if we partnered with her and her organization, it was going to work.” said Jakacki. Since that conversation 17 years ago, Jakacki has almost exclusively sourced new hires from NLEN. One hire was Kurt, who became a team member about 5 years ago.

“I’ve been up ever since. I know that when I tell my children to work hard, I’m saying to them what I’m doing,” said Kurt of his life now. He had previously been in the prison system, and afterward he worked odd jobs and continually struggled to find steady work due to his background even though he had fully paid his debt to society long ago. “Now, I have something to look forward to in the morning because this company gave me a chance.”

Kurt is just one of Jakacki’s many workers that came from NLEN. When speaking with her employees, Debbie finds the greatest joy in hearing about their children. “When one of my workers tells me that their kid just graduated, or is heading to college, I know we’re not just making a difference for the employes, we’re also having an impact on the whole family - the community.” said Debbie. “This is generational change.”

Jakacki’s partnership with NLEN isn’t just social good, though. As for W2’s, they’ve only handed out 42 last year. It’s also a win/win in terms of business and economics.

Perhaps you too or someone in your network can provide similar opportunities for job seekers and their families in North Lawndale. Engage today at

Phoenix Hall: Supporting Academic Achievement for Students in North Lawndale

By: Jenny Merritt


North Lawndale College Preparatory Charter High School (NLCP) is an award-winning charter school on Chicago’s West Side, striving to prepare young people from under-resourced communities for graduation from high school with the academic skills and personal resilience necessary for successful completion of college. NLCP, which has a rich history of supporting students and their families, recognizes that many of their students experience housing instability. Chicago Public Schools identified more than 18,000 students as homeless in 2016–17, and NLCP estimates that 8 to 10% of their student body, around 100 students, struggle with this challenge.

In an effort to better support these students, NLCP reached out to the Old St Patrick’s Church because of its relationship to North Lawndale neighborhood through the North Lawndale Kinship initiative. The Kinship Initiative is a collaboration between the people of Old St. Patrick’s Church and those who live in and work on behalf of the North Lawndale community. Old St Patrick’s eagerly began fundraising for this effort through its Journey Forward Capital Campaign, and created Empower to Succeed, a nonprofit organization, to oversee the development of housing supports for North Lawndale’s students facing housing insecurity. Through the generousity of the people of Old St. Pat's, $1.9-million was raised and allocated for the purchase, renovation and first two years of program funding for Phoenix Hall.

The Night Ministry, a nonprofit organization with a history of pioneering effective shelter and outreach programs for Chicago youth, was selected to develop and oversee programming for the student housing initiative. The result, guided by insight from NLCP’s staff, students, families, and the greater North Lawndale community, was Phoenix Hall.

blackstudents (1).jpg

Phoenix Hall is a year-round residence serving NLCP students by providing safe, stable dorm-like housing and support for the achievement of their educational goals. Residents of the eight-bedroom home, which is located within close proximity to both NLCP campuses, receive a comprehensive range of opportunities, including individualized case management, life skills development, and a focus on educational support and job and college readiness training. Students and families are also connected to community-based resources such as health care, counseling, parenting support and recreation. In addition, families of students are connected to a supportive network of community services.

Phoenix Hall is staffed around the clock with experienced adult professionals trained in positive youth development. Staff also facilitate relationship building and connections within residents’ families.

Potential residents may qualify and apply for Phoenix Hall if they attend NLCP, often recommended by their teachers or counselors. If placement is appropriate, students have the opportunity to visit the home, meet the staff, learn about the program, and agree to its expectations before making the decision to enter. Phoenix Hall staff also meet with the students to develop a plan to move through the program to achieve their educational goals and secure permanent housing. If the student is younger than 18 years of age, The Night Ministry requires permission from the parent or guardian for the student to live in the house.

Phoenix Hall’s first year-and-a-half was wonderful and exciting. Since opening in August of 2017, the residence has served eleven students and has been welcomed to the community by North Lawndale’s local neighbors, elected officials, and community partners, who continue to support the program’s students and their families. Students have also actively participated in many efforts to make North Lawndale a healthy and vibrant community.
Learn more about Phoenix Hall, ways to support its programs and view a video tour at

Jenny Merritt is Community Engagement Manager at The Night Ministry and Principal Liaison for Phoenix Hall