Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jamal Place

Although this blog was not originally started as a site of humanitarian postings, lately it's become such. Here's one more thing you probably have missed, and it's one that has a special place in my heart. Take a look at the website for Jamal Place, a home for at risk boys on the South Side of Chicago.

What's a Californian's connection to the South Side of Chicago, you ask? Good question. The short answer is that this is my Illinois cousin Ann Deuel's brain child--and in many ways, her heart child. After stints as both teacher and principal in various educational settings, she had a vision of building a place in one of the most challenged parts of the city, and making this house a home in a true sense to a small number of boys out of some of the most troubled family situations that any kid is asked to face.

It's hard for me to believe that Jamal Place opened its doors in 1995. The years do go by pretty fast. If you read her current director's letter, you will see that the organization has endured its share of challenges. But you will also see the amount of good and the difference it has made in some young lives.

One of the things I like most about Jamal Place is its philosophy of being involved with and giving back to the hard-pressed community it stands in. It has never viewed itself as something apart from the place which it stands, and the kids are often asked to do volunteer outreach themselves.

Of course for any readers who don't know me from Adam, my endorsement of this program doesn't mean much. But if you are looking for somewhere truly valuable to make those end of year donations, I will vouch for Jamal Place.

Although no one who knows Ann Deuel would question her convictions, her capacity for hard work, and her fundamental honesty and concern, one mystery does remain:

After growing up in a farmhouse with five brothers and no sisters--and suffice to say, she was neither a tomboy or agriculturely inclined--and then having four boy cousins as her closest and really only neighbors, what made her find her vocation challenging boys with few options to be their very best selves?

Hmm. "Challenging". I think I just answered my own question.

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