All children have the potential to succeed in life and contribute to society, but not all children get the things they need to thrive. There are six elements necessary to pave a pathway out of poverty: education, employment, health, housing, nutrition and basic necessities. My Joyful Heart provides the necessities to make the path smoother.
One out of three children in Chicago are living in poverty, and half of those children are in "deep poverty," which is half or less of the federal poverty line. Living in these conditions is more than an economic issue; it affects children holistically - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Deficiencies in basic necessities and daily encouragement causes a lack of self esteem, a dissolving of trust, a decline in academics and a loss of hope for a brighter future.
My Joyful Heart is an ambassador for an often overlooked group -- children in need right in our own backyard.
My Joyful Heart's influence on children's lives may well have a positive effect on their school attendance and performance. We believe if a child’s basic needs are met, he or she will be more attentive at school and will also be more focused in achieving both academically and socially. Research has shown that children who are made to feel special and who are given attention will perform to those expectations.5
Parents have reported that being involved with MJH has helped their children's health and confidence. Teachers have cited My Joyful Heart as helping improve academic performance and create better attitudes in the classroom. The children in the program have let us know that they are more encouraged, experience more joy and have more hope for a better tomorrow.
My Joyful Heart provides attention and expectations that encourage the children in our program to achieve. Please read some of the stories below to see actual examples from children enrolled in the program. All names of the children have been changed to protect their privacy.
From a Child Who Graduated from Our Program
Richard was enrolled in our program when he was in 7th grade. He had a bad attitude, was disrespectful and wasn’t showing up for school. He lived with Mom and siblings in a shelter -- he was homeless.
We gave him new clothes, hygiene items, school supplies and some fun stuff. We received notice from his social workers at school that Richard had not only graduated from 8th grade, but that he had made a complete turn around. He received two awards upon graduation: one for most improved student and one for most improved player on the basketball team.
Richard completed our program after graduating from 8th grade, but we kept in touch throughout his high school years through his brother who was enrolled in our program. We are so proud and happy to report that Richard has graduated from high school and is now working with an international company in the area.
An update from Richard in 2012:
We are so lucky to have had Richard as a honored guest speaker at our Annual Dinner & Auction in November 2012. Richard has grown into an amazing young man and is thriving as an adult. We are like proud parents watching him grow and prosper!
From a Child Currently Enrolled in Our Program
Henry writes: "This is a letter for Thank Yous. Well I want to thank the Lord for the help. I'm very pleased with the things I have received. I love my gift bag and I also would like to thank the sponsors whom started this lil program. My clothes fit good. I'm the happiest child in the world!"
Ailesha is seven years old and wrote to My Joyful Heart, “Now I feel very good every morning going to class because I have what I need to help me with my lesson. I can’t wait to get started. I would like to thank you because I feel good, because I have what my classmates have, a backpack. Thank you for being so kind to me. God bless you and me for sending you!”
12-year old Kadesha lives with her single mom and three younger siblings. “I just want to tell you how you all changed my life and how you made it better for me. Ever since I was enrolled in your program I have gotten the things I needed and more….like love, kindness and, most of all, your generosity. You made me feel good about myself. You help me grow as a person. I’m more confident and outgoing and it is all because of you, My Joyful Heart. May God bless you always.”
From One of Our Schools
I would like to express my gratitude with you and your agency. I am always touched when gift bags are delivered and students light up when receiving them. Your agency has brought so much joy and happiness to our neediest students.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to making our students happy. I look forward to working with you and your agency next school year.
I wanted to take a moment to tell you how impressed I was to find out what your organization does for the children of our community. I am amazed and touched. I also know that the children you provide for are very grateful.
Thank you for making a difference in their lives!
As you know, I have a strong support for My Joyful Heart and all that it does for the students that attend [the school where I am principal]. The look on our student's faces when they receive their wonderful gifts is priceless. Your organization really helps to change the lives of our students. We are blessed to have you working with our children. Because of the great work that My Joyful Heart does, I would like to personally donate [...] to the organization. Again, thank you and may God continue to bless My Joyful Heart.
From A Parent of A Child Enrolled in Our Program
Dear Joyful Hearts,
I want to take this time out just to say thank you for all of your help over the year. Since we had to sell all of our possessions to move back home, it has been extremely hard for me and my children.
Everything that you have done for us has really helped us a lot. Times are very hard for us right now and we just lost our grandmother.
You have relieved a tremendous amount of stress off of me and I greatly appreciate everything.
Thanking you in advance for all your help and cooperation.
It is with great joy and appreciation that I write this letter. It was during an unexpected time that our lives took a financial change and it's been hard to move forward. In one year we were forced out of our home due to multiple break ins, mold and a bad roof. Our car had been vandalized, the bills continued to grow and the kids were getting sick. We lost our furniture, clothes, beds, even the kids' toys which made us appreciate the things we were able to save.
Even though my husband and I work, we have been trying to play catch up and find a new place to live. We couldn't get help from anyone. Organizations didn't have their hearts out to help, and our family didn't have the time. During a point when my kids' shoes were falling apart, clothes were damaged and we were low on the simple things like soap, toothpaste etc. you came and blessed them with big bags filled with what they needed.
It brought me to a positive state of having faith and knowing help is out there. Knowing that even when times get hard, there are angels out there willing to give our children a helping hand. You have helped us feel comfortable that our kids are going to school with a warm coat, comfortable shoes, and clean uniforms. A few less things we have to worry about. We are humbled and appreciative and want to say thank you! Thank you!
I'm so thankful for all you do and have done for my children. You've made my family really thank God for bringing you into our lives. You have made my children smile. Keep doing the work of the Lord and I pray He continues to bless you with the heart to continue to give to others. I thank you for all of our smiles.
Dear My Joyful Heart,
We would like to thank you so much for all the wonderful work you are doing. Your gifts have been very thoughtful and much needed and my family and I are extremely grateful to be the recipients of this blessing.
My son, Jason, always looks forward to receiving the gift bags with much excitement and he is never disappointed.
I think the work you are doing is truly exceptional and I pray that you stay blessed so that you may continue to touch those families in need the way you have touched mine.
It really does mean a lot to us and I hope my words can express the full measure of our gratitude.
I am writing to thank you for all of the things that you have given my family. You will never know how much of a blessing that you have been to my family these past several years. I want to say that even if you never get another thank you, or God bless you for your ministry, I want you to know that you are being a blessing to not only my family but to all of the children at [my children's school] who participate in your program. You are not just being a blessing to the school but to our whole community.
My family and I want to take this time to say thank you for being our angel, our blessing, our breath of fresh air. Thank you for being there for us when we had no one to lean on. Thank you for putting a smile on my children's face during the holidays.
This holiday was a blessing for my children. They were able to wish upon a star and watch it come true. How many kids can say that they had every wish granted? I watched them smile, eat and play. They have never been so happy. We have gone through so much and work so hard to get on our feet. You were the first to respond to us for help without judgement, hesitation or negativity.
We are no longer homeless and have found a nice place to call home after almost two years of being homeless. Even though my husband is struggling to find work, we know God has a plan and things will come through for us.
We continue to ask for nothing more than your prayers. My goal is to be able to one day be the type of angel to help others as you have helped me.
My promise to you, I will never forget how you have helped our family. We will give back, we pray, soon. Thank you.
Thank you very much once again for the wonderful things that you have given Zackery.
Every time he gets a package his little face lights. It lets him know that someone is thinking of him. He always enjoys the toys that are included in the packages.
The last package that he received was on his sister's birthday. From your generosity he let his sister pick out whatever she wanted from the bag. That made me feel good knowing that someone else is teaching him how to share.
Once again, thank you so much for your generosity.
Dear My Joyful Heart,
I am deeply grateful and appreciative for all the wonderful gifts and thoughtful personal products you have given to our son. He looks forward to receiving your gifts and we look forward to seeing the excitement in his face as he is going through his bag.
My husband and I think it is absolutely wonderful the way your organization helps families in need and the items you provide like toothpaste, shampoo, soaps and clothing items really does make a difference when money gets tight and those items have run out.
We just wanted to let you know that we really do appreciate all the great toys (Monopoly makes for a very active family game night), clothing and personal care items.
The work that your organization is doing really does add smiles to the faces of everyone it touches and I pray you are blessed to continue your work.
Thank you again.
From A Group of Volunteers
You are doing a wonderful work for the Lord! I pray that the Lord blesses you all. I pray that He will strengthen you daily. We pray for you guys in class and believe that God is doing amazing things through you.
His word is true and stands the test of time. Be encouraged!
From An Organization with Children Enrolled in Our Program
Thanks so much! You are the greatest gift!!
Words cannot express the heartfelt thanks for all you have done for our homeless babies. The [Gift Packages] were amazing, but the compassion, spirit and generosity that My Joyful Heart put into them speaks volumes of who you are. You will never know how grateful we are, and how you made a difference in the lives of our families. Your kindness has added hope and strength to our moms.
5 Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson, Pygmalion in the Classroom, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1968