Click to watch the 2024 Bishop’s Appeal video

45 Years of Uniting Our Voices for Children

The members of the Board of United Voices for Children (UVC) are grateful to be chosen this year as the Bishop’s Appeal Recipient. This recognition invites the over 66,000 United Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) to support and advocate for our Methodist-affiliated child-serving agencies and our children in the NIC.

In this article, read about these three child-serving agencies and the impact they continue to make in the lives of children and youth.

 

Impact Stories

MYSI: Former youth, Fallon, who struggled with being in the Transitional Living Program (TLP), pushed through life challenges. She became a Chicago police officer and has purchased a home. She is raising children and recently opened a florist shop which was her life long dream. Fallon exemplifies MYSI’s commitment to creating hope, providing help and strengthening lives one youth at a time.

Kids Above All: Abandoned by her mother, Elizabeth struggled with mental illness throughout much of her life. At 17, she entered Kids Above All’s Group Homes Program in DuPage County after years of treatment. Early on, Elizabeth’s behavior was erratic, resulting in hospitalizations and attempts at self-harm, but as time passed, Elizabeth worked with her therapist, Briana, to develop healthier, more effective coping strategies to address her self-harming thoughts. Elizabeth’s efforts helped her gain the confidence she needed to find a job, successfully graduate from both Kids Above All’s program and high school, and secure a stable, independent, and long-term living situation as she continues toward adulthood and stability.

Rosecrance: “Nick” is a 20-year-old man who is a resident of our Lakeview facility. He is an adopted son of overprotective parents. He confessed that he had tested them in every way possible. Yet, they support him. His resistance to accepting his adoption indicates how much his parents want him to be their son and offers him an excuse for not working on his sobriety. Until now. Beginnings are hard. None harder than beginning to take the road to recovery.

Resolution 741

On the evening of Tuesday, June 4, 1979, Resolution 741 was adopted creating United Voices for Children (UVC) on the floor at the Annual Conference. For 45 years, UVC has continued advocating on behalf of children, youth, and families for its three affiliated child-serving agencies, Rosecrance, Kids Above All (formerly ChildServ), and MYSI (formerly Methodist Youth Services Inc). The 5th Sunday Appeal started in 1981 with special offerings that year totaling $34,361.00, as stated by Rev. Margaret Ann Williams in January 18, 2008, document called UVC ‘Looking Back’.

The mission of UVC stems from the leadership of Rev. Coyd Taggert, then Director of the Lake Bluff Children’s Home, and the NIC’s Board of Health and Welfare Ministries Chairperson, Rev. Robert G. Burkhart, who called on conference members to work together for vital social and legislative action for children in need. The four action areas within the covenant included advocacy, new services, a child advocate network, and resources for pastors and local churches. (Resolution 741)

Resolution 741, ‘adopted on the evening of Tuesday, June 4, 1979, is UVC’s founding document.

“The adoption of the UVC resolution was an exciting moment!  After months of meetings,
leaders from the three Conference-related child-serving agencies, with the assistance of
numerous members from various local churches presented a new plan of ministering to
children.  A new coalition was born – United Voices for Children.  This option not only brought
the agencies in closer relationship, but provided a means for local churches to engage in new
ministries and advocacy, while the three agencies would continue their specific programs.”
                                                                                                                                         Rev. Bob Burkhart

In a Historical Perspective of UVC written by Rev. Mason E. Scholl, past board president 2000-2002, Scholl describes the NIC-affiliated child-serving agencies and the importance of recognizing how these agencies are rooted and grounded within the life and culture of the United Methodist local churches, providing essential services that address the needs of poverty, violence, and mental illness affecting children and their families.

“As providers, we see resources and people come and go. From where I sat, to have consistent
relationships, unwavering between the UMC and UVC was so, so important.”                                                                                                                                                       Phil Eaton, CEO of Rosecrance,1982-2021

Since its inception, established as a 501(c)(3), not a conference committee, UVC has been serving in the capacity of being 1) a catalyst for generating support and engaging congregations in advocacy, and 2) a conduit through which information and resources are exchanged between congregations and the agencies. This history stresses that the role of UVC is different from many other organizations in that it provides no services for its own sake. It serves to generate support in making vital connections for information and resources to build bridges from the local churches to the agencies and throughout the NIC for kids and families.

Since 1979, it is not lost on any person, the many changes throughout the NIC whether in our episcopal leadership, clergy appointments, and more recently, new clergy being recruited from other conferences, church membership, and the expanding needs for kids and families. And, there was a pandemic! The Bishop’s Appeal is a wonderful opportunity to engage our congregations who do not yet know about these three long-standing, child-serving agencies and their impact throughout the NIC.

The Child-Serving Agencies

Kids Above All (formerly ChildServ), which was founded in 1894 by Lucy Rider Meyer as the Methodist Deaconess Orphanage—later, the Lake Bluff Children’s Home—to shelter and find permanent homes for orphaned children in and around Chicago. Since that time, Kids Above All’s mission to build better lives for children and families experiencing poverty, violence, and injustice has impacted more than 150,000 clients. Currently, Kids Above All provides early childhood learning, safe, supportive housing, and trauma-informed counseling services to 4,583 youth and families in under-resourced communities in Cook, DuPage, Kane and Lake counties.

Rosecrance was founded in 1916 when Dr. James and Fannie Rosecrance left provision for their homestead to become a Methodist orphanage near Rockford. Years later, a residential campus was built in Rockford to house youth experiencing trauma. Today, the Rosecrance Health Network is a premier residential and community-based organization serving youth and families with alcohol and substance abuse addictions and providing mental health services to over 13,000 families in the region. (note: Rosecrance has expanded its locations and services).

MYSI (formerly, Methodist Youth Services and MYS), established in 1969 by United Methodist Men, was initially known for its work with older youth, many of whom were considered delinquent. These youth were helped through shelters and supervised independent living programs. MYSI is serving at-risk youth in collaboration with community and school programs. Today, approximately 4,200 youth have received services since 2006.

 

As some may remember, the Marcy-Newberry Association was affiliated with UVC in the past. It was organized in 1883 by Elizabeth Smith Marcy who was active in her Methodist Church’s Women’s Home Missionary Society. The Marcy-Newberry earned status as a National Mission Institution under the United Methodist Women (now United Women in Faith). They served Eastern European immigrants, and over time, primarily an African American population on the near south and west sides of Chicago. It, too, was a child-serving agency, yet was not included in the original resolution. Sadly, it closed its doors in 2013 after 130 years of service, due mostly to lack of funding.

“We should take inspiration from the Sankofa bird, which flies forward while looking backward. It
expresses the importance of examining past lessons to create a positive future. In the words of
the late Coyd Taggart, service builds community” …draws binds, heals and builds.
                                                                                                Lois Moreland-Dean, former UVC President

Annual Child Advocate Awards

UVC recognizes advocates with annual awards. These individuals or groups are nominated for their extraordinary work or ministry in advocating for children and families in Illinois. The awards are named for three individuals who raised their voices for children and youth in the NIC. The Katherine B. Greene Child Advocate Award, the Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt Child Advocacy Award, and the Rev. Margaret Ann Williams Service Award highlight the impact of these three individuals who inspired and were passionate about children.

“How seriously do we take the commitment we make in our baptismal vows to be good stewards
and help raise [our] kids?”                                                                                                                                               Gaye Lynn Loufek, board member, Director of Youth Ministry and Missions, Grace UMC, Naperville

For 2024 award information and how to make a nomination, click here

Partnership with Children’s Advocates for Change

United Methodists believe in bearing witness to justice for God’s children which requires understanding the justice system and the legislative policies behind it. In 2019, under the leadership of former UVC president Rev. Robert Biekman, UVC began a partnership with Children’s Advocates for Change. CAFC is a fact-driven advocacy organization whose mission is to see that all Illinois children regardless of their race, ethnicity, or zip code have the resources they need to be healthy, educated, and thriving. Dr. Tasha Green Cruzat, president and a 2022 Recipient of the Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt award, and Mitch Lifson, Vice-President for Public Policy, regularly update the Board on the latest data regarding Illinois children and proposed legislation impacting them. Together, UVC with this consultation is better equipped to mobilize for advocacy.

“Kids are in trouble. Like John Lewis said, we need to make some ‘good trouble’ to get them the
help they need.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Rev. Bill Lenters, Chaplain for Rosecrance and UVC liaison

Thank you to all the local churches who have been giving generously on 5th Sundays over the years. Moving forward, let us recommit to a partnership with UVC by using its website for resources and information, joining the board, nominating persons for annual awards, liking UVC on social media, and giving to 5th Sunday Appeals. UVC is changing lives and offering hope during challenging times.

United Voices for Children is honored to receive this year’s Bishop’s Appeal being recognized as a viable organization with the NIC as it reaffirms its commitment to advocating for our children in need. UVC is grateful to Bishop Dan Schwerin who says, “Kids are in my heart.”

Kids are at the heart of UVC! Join United Voices for Children in raising our voices for our child-serving agencies and our children in the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church. Thank you.

For more information about these awards and how to nominate someone, please see unitedvoicesforchildren.org

Collaboration by UVC Board current and past
UVC Board: Rev. Timothy, Biel, Jr., Lois Voss, Lillye Hart, LaTonia Booth Johnson, Gaye Lynn Loufek, Dr. Rosemary Taylor, Rev. Bill Lenters, Deaconess Catherine Inserra, Rev. Esther Lee, Mitch Lifson, Communications Coordinator Nik Rana

Rev. Bob Burkhart, Rev. Robert Biekman, Lois Moreland Dean, Phil Eaton, Kim Coffing, and Rev. Rick Carlson

Stay tuned for Raising Our Voices for Resources: A Bridge for the Gap (part 3)

 

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UVC Article for May/June REPORTER re Bishop’s Appeal