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Local organization celebrates 25 years helping families

Madhu Mayer | 1/19/2017, 6 a.m.
Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 's dream, a local organization is turning that powerful vision of uniting everyone ...
The National HookUp of Black Women (NHBW), at their annual Book Giveaway in December to support students' building home libraries at Laraway Elementary School by adopting their 3rd Grade Class.

Just like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 's dream, a local organization is turning that powerful vision of uniting everyone for a common cause into a reality. The Joliet Chapter of the National Hook-Up of Black Women, (NHBW) is celebrating 25 years. The local chapter Charter members included Gretta Whitted, first president, Dr. Mattie Barnes, Helen McKenzie, Deborah Summers, Robin Whitted, Nancina Grays, Sandra Betts, Ora Jones, Ruby Williams and Gwen Barlow.

Seeing a need for an active and collective voice on women's issues in the Joliet community, the local chapter carries out the national mission locally by creating an atmosphere, which enables women to effect meaningful changes, according to Summers, who is the National President of the

organization. NHBW works to improve the quality of life, facilitate family preservation, achieve self-empowerment, and promote economic development. Summers said the Joliet group has about 135 members, making it the largest chapter in the country. Debra Upshaw is the Joliet chapter president of NHBW.

In fact, Summers spoke during "Focusing on Community" at Dr. King's celebration Jan. 15 at Mount Zion Baptist Church, in Joliet. NHBW partnered with Mount Zion, Pastor David Latimore, and NAACP President Mike Clark for the celebration.

Summers explains that NHBW is a non-profit charitable community service organization dedicated to improving the lives of families through support of the arts, culture, health, education and human service programs. The volunteers come from all walks of life, including retired professionals like Summers, a retired English and reading teacher at Laraway Elementary School in Joliet. Summers said she and other volunteers in the Joliet chapter provide services to the youth of Will County, which are all free."We are celebrating 25 years in the Joliet community," said Summers. "Our initiative has always been the same since we are dealing with many of the same issues."

A particular problem of concern to Summers and NHBW is the high school drop out rate.

"One of our big programs is literacy," she said. Statistics show that only one in 300 children have their own books at home."

Because many of these youths only have access to books at schools and libraries, Summers said children are welcome to come to one of the community centers in Joliet. There, the children can read a book in the reading room or take one home for their home library. Reading room locations include Forest Park Community Center, 1017 Woodruff Road; Unity CDC, 1 Doris Ave.; and Broadway Center Head Start, 110 Willow St. "Literacy is intergenerational," she continues. "We work

with our primary targets, but it is important for them to see their older brothers, sisters and parents read as well at home."

Another program aimed at local teens ages 13 to 17 is on literacy, overcoming teen pressure, bullying, building healthy relationships with parents and dressing for success. Summers said NHBW is also hosting a 1970s throwback Valentine dance fundraiser at 7 p.m. Feb. 10 in VFW Cantigny Post 367, 826 Horseshoe Drive in Joliet. Information about the Feb. 10 fundraiser are available on the group's Web site a http://www.nhbwjoliet.com.