Continuing to Serve

By the middle of March, the impact of COVID-19 was being felt in our community. Breakthrough began taking steps to ensure the health and safety of staff, participants, volunteers, and community residents. We began navigating this unknown territory and remained committed to one goal: staying open to serve the community.

Breakthrough's Response

During this difficult time, Breakthrough staff across programs have worked together to stay open to serve the community. Here are their experiences:

Cheron Massonburg

Senior Director, Adult Support Network

Breakthrough Women's Center

“As I prepared to screen one of the support center guests for C-19, I asked the question ‘How are you?’ and the woman replied, ‘You guys provided me with blankets–I was warm last night, you guys have allowed me to shower–I am clean, and you have given me food–I am full. So today I am grateful, and I thank God that you guys are open because all of the other places are closed’.”
“COVID-19 has diminished the resources that we had available for our participants and has put a hold on some of the things that we had in motion for them. The most challenging thing has been trying to persuade our participants from resorting to other means in order to bring in a source of income, while asking them to be patient.”

Damien Morris

Director, Violence Prevention Initiative

Violence Prevention Center

Erica Lusk

Program Assistant
Breakthrough Women's Center

“It has been challenging to be in a space with 30 women who feel overwhelmed and stressed and are dealing with their own emotions. We’re trying to engage guests in normal activities and to ensure a peaceful environment.”
“There has been an increase in mental health symptoms with a lack of accessibility to other supports, whether its hospitals or substance abuse groups. We’re providing video therapy, as well as increased sessions, coping strategies, and art therapy. I have seen a lot of resilience in the guests, all they’ve been able to do on their own to support their wellness and with the support we can give them.”

Lisa Wiese

Director of Behavioral Health
Breakthrough Women’s Center

Violence Prevention Team Takes on COVID-19

Breakthrough’s violence prevention team works around-the-clock to interrupt violence and extend the message of peace to those most vulnerable to street violence in East Garfield Park. Adapting to the needs of the outbreak, the team not only acts as outreach workers, but also as peer public health educators, assisting the community with better understanding of COVID-19 protocols.

While the community remains vulnerable to COVID-19, so too does the violence prevention team. Workers have been encouraged to maintain a safe distance and to adapt services to include necessary precautions. Nevertheless, they remain forward facing in the East Garfield Park community, taking on a critical public health mission.

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“While I still do get to see some people, it isn't the same as getting to have girls mentoring every Thursday and getting hugs and joking around with the girls during dinner. We are doing online mentoring, but it just can't compare to seeing them in person.”

Shalom Parker

Associate Director, LJATA
Breakthrough FamilyPlex

Wendy Daniels

Fresh Market Coordinator
Breakthrough Fresh Market

“Food brings people together. When there’s a funeral or a celebration, there’s food. It connects us. When the guests come in to get groceries, it gives us an opportunity to learn a little bit about their lives and pray for them. There’s always laughter. It’s been a big adjustment distributing pre-packaged groceries because we don’t have that anymore.”
“Just being unified as a team has been important. Everyone is working together with the same mission: to serve the men and provide holistic services and to treat them with respect and dignity during these challenging times. We all hold that same vision.”

Bill Anderson

Case Manager
Breakthrough Men’s Center

Lisa Gwin

Director, Early Childhood Education

Breakthrough FamilyPlex

"When our teachers deliver weekly educational resources and hands-on activities to family homes, we aren't just providing something to do, we are offering hope and encouragement in a very challenging time. Bringing the classroom to homes has strengthened relationships and enlarged our hearts.”

Breakthrough Youth Network Cares for Families

Through academic, sports, and arts programs, the Breakthrough Youth Network surrounds young people and their families with a network of caring adults. We call this the Network Model. In times of crisis, this support is crucial.

As the shelter-in-place order prompted state-wide school closures, staff, local teachers, and funders have worked together to provide support. From bringing educational supplies to students’ homes to curbside meal pickup, Breakthrough is committed to caring for students and families in East Garfield Park.

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“It's keeping me hopeful that one day, it's going to end and it's going to be better. We have to learn how to do this together and through COVID-19, we are learning how to do this together. We are going to be better as a community. I love, I love, I love community.”

Teresa McHenry

Program Assistant

Breakthrough Men's Center

Tony Daniels

Volunteer Coordinator
Breakthrough Men's Center

“It has humbled me to see how volunteers have partnered with us in providing much needed meals, masks, gloves, cleaning supplies, and encouragement. So many are praying for us, reaching out to us, providing for our every need.”
“It’s a strange feeling to not be around the kids and to see them virtually. That’s the highlight of my days now, when we do Zoom or Facetime. Our classroom does it twice a week, and if a parent asks for one-on-one, we’ll do that too. That’s the highlight of my weeks.”

Kimberly Allison

Teacher, Beginners
Breakthrough FamilyPlex

Marcie Curry

Senior Director, Breakthrough Youth Network
Breakthrough FamilyPlex

“It’s teaching me a lot about community. It’s easy to call yourself a community when things are going well. The hard part is when things are not going well, trying to continue to meet needs in the midst of a pandemic. This community is resilient.”

The Challenges of Homelessness During COVID-19

The outbreak of COVID-19 has affirmed the importance of housing and the role it plays in an individual’s health. Without a home, it’s nearly impossible to practice social distancing and proper hygiene. People experiencing homelessness lack the resources to abide by a government-mandated shelter-in-place. The CDC’s recommendation is to go home and isolate. Where should those without a home or who can’t isolate go?

Around the clock, staff is working to meet the needs of guests while following CDC guidelines and trying to ensure their own safety. As shelters limit capacities and the need for essential services continues to rise, Breakthrough is committed to doing our part to support those experiencing homelessness or crisis.

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“I find hope in 2 Timothy 1:7. ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’ We can meditate on this; we can rely on our faith when crisis hits. It seems like things are out of our control, but God is in control.”

Kyung Kim

Associate Director of Finance
Breakthrough Men's Center

Arloa Sutter

Executive Director


"These are the times that test our souls. This is our chance to rally together to be the light. I have been so gratified by the heroism of our staff and the kindness and generosity of our supporters."

Join Our Heroes

Breakthrough staff are working around the clock to provide essential needs for the residents of East Garfield Park. When you give a recurring gift, you support and sustain this crucial work, day after day.

Will you join these heroes on the frontlines by making a monthly donation to Breakthrough?

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*All new or increased recurring donations will be double matched*