Family is of the utmost importance to lifelong East Garfield Park resident James Davis Sr. He remembers a time in his neighborhood where community and unity thrived. When it comes to raising his children, these are the ideals he hopes to instill to help equip them to impact Garfield Park’s future.

James takes great pride in being a dad to his three children, but it’s something that was almost stripped of him. With his kids living in Oklahoma under their mother’s care, James sent financial support and visited frequently. Co-parenting wasn’t always easy for him, but he sacrificed to make it work because he said was “committed” to being in his kids’ lives.

Then one day, he answered a call informing him that if he didn’t come to Oklahoma for a hearing, he would lose parental rights of his children. He had less than a day to make the court date.

Before the conversation had ended, James had already packed a travel bag and was on the road. After deliberation, the court decided James was the best person for them to be with and the kids were allowed to travel to Chicago to be with him. Once they arrived in the city, James realized that his biggest challenge was ahead of him.


He wasn’t familiar with the nuances of raising a family as a full-time, single dad like styling his daughter’s hair or what to do with the kids when they are let out of school and he’s still at work. Fortunately, James grew up on the same block as the Breakthrough Women’s Center and learned of the youth programming and services Breakthrough also had to offer. Without many options at hand, James turned to Breakthrough to help support his children through their development.

It was a decision he said that has been critical to his children’s growth.

“It helps a lot to have them here, because the things I’m trying to teach them at home get reinforced when they come to Breakthrough,” James said. “Nothing’s perfect, but this is like a safe haven to shield them from some things.”

In time, the Davis children settled in. As they started to participate in more Breakthrough programming from arts and sports to summer studies enrichment, the children built a connection with the community. The kids’ teachers, mentors, and neighbors invested into the Davises like they were their kin.

Breakthrough Senior Program Director Marcie Curry said James’ children are enthusiastic and very resilient. As youth and the future of East Garfield Park, she said Breakthrough wants to help them gain access to the resources needed to flourish.

“The Breakthrough staff cares deeply for the Davis family and makes sure that the children have access to the things they need, Curry said. “Sometimes that means staying late with them after programs because dad is working late or walking down to their house to get a permission form signed so they don’t miss out on something.  The staff takes an individualized approach to youth development, meaning we partner with families as unique needs arise.”


When tragedy struck, flooding James and his family out his basement apartment, the Breakthrough network committed themselves to supporting the Davises in their dire time of need.

“When they got flooded out, the community just really rallied behind them,” Breakthrough Associate Director Alex Cool said. “We were able to help them raise enough money to find a new apartment and there was enough for them to furnish their new home. Everyone was so happy for them, they really are good kids.”

James wants to put his children in the best situation possible and he said he’s noticed that connecting with Breakthrough has really helped them open up.

“These kids have been through a lot,” he said. “I really don’t know the full extent as to why they were going to be taken away in the first place, but when they first got here they had trust issues and emotional problems. But with support and the right care, they are starting to really blend in and they don’t have the same issues they use to have.”

It has taken a village to help support the Davises, but Curry said when that’s the case the children are put in the best position to excel and succeed.

“Breakthrough’s goal is to provide resources and programs for families so that they can reach their potential. We want to be a community where success becomes the norm and families prosper. This prosperity is not just economic prosperity, although that is one goal. But also, we want to see families prosper educationally, socially and spiritually.  When talented children, like the Davises, have access to the high quality programs and relationships that they deserve, the sky’s the limit.”

*The names of the subjects have been altered to protect their identities*