Raising Our Voices – 2020 Annual Awards Ceremony

UVC was unable to hold its traditional Annual Breakfast during the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead UVC hosted dozens of friends and supporters at a gala online gathering, Raising Our Voices, on Tuesday, June 9. Our featured speaker was Toleda Hart, executive director of MYSI, Inc. and Bishop Sally Dyck presented the 2020 UVC Annual Awards to the honorees listed here. Tasha Green Cruzat, president of Voices for Illinois Children and other community leaders challenged us to “raise our voices” on behalf of children, youth and families in need. 


Annual Breakfast 2019

United Voices for Children (UVC) welcomed ninety persons to its Annual Breakfast on June 4, 2019 to highlight and honor ministries and services with at-risk children and youth in Northern Illinois.   Keynote speaker Avik Das, Chief Probation Officer and Acting Director of the Cook County Juvenile Probation Office challenged congregations to engage in juvenile justice reform.  Speaking of “Chutes and Ladders: Positive Youth Justice,” Das proposed that prison is not the place for youth to be. Positive juvenile justice is about helping youth to cross the bridge to adulthood with ladders of safety, opportunity, encouragement and love;  not chutes of systemic and individual deprivation, trauma, and violence.  The slides illustrating Avik Das’ presentation can be viewed here: Chutes and Ladders Presentation 5-27-19

Bishop Jesse DeWitt Award recipient Rev. Dr. Norval Brown

UVC honors members and ministries of Northern Illinois churches for their outstanding service  with children, youth and families each year. This year the Rev. Dr. Norval Brown was honored with the Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt Child Advocacy Award for his many years of witness and service on behalf of children and youth in a variety of ministry settings.  Ann Daniels of Christ UMC (Rockford) was recognized with the Katherine B. Greene Award for four decades of leadership in children’s programs in the congregation and in the community.  Leigh Ann Paper of Lanark UMC was a Katherine B. Greene Award co-honoree for initiating the Pitter Patter Pantry, which creatively provides needed supplies for infants and toddlers in low-income families in Carroll County.   Sharonda King of Christ the Carpenter UMC in Rockford received the Rev. Margaret Ann Williams Service Award for building a praise dance ministry with children and youth in that congregation.  Find complete information about UVC awards here. 

Awardee Sharonda King with UVC board members Robert Biekman (left) and Pamela Pirtle (right)

UVC provides regular financial support for three child-serving agencies in Northern Illinois—Child Service, MYSI and Rosecrance—by inviting members of congregations to make an extra financial gift on Fifth Sundays.   At the Breakfast UVC recognized the 59 United Methodist congregations in Northern Illinois who contributed more than $28,000 through the Fifth Sunday Appeal in 2018.   Three congregations participated in the Fifth Sunday Appeal for the first time: First UMC Palatine; First UMC Park Ridge and Sycamore UMC.   These congregations were honored for the largest increase in giving over previous years: Court Street UMC (Rockford); Kelly Woodlawn UMC (Chicago), Olympia Fields UMC, Oregon UMC; and Baker Memorial UMC (St. Charles).  The congregations recognized for largest total giving in 2018 were: Christ UMC (Rockford); Euclid Avenue UMC Oak Park; First UMC Downers Grove; First UMC Elmhurst; and Gary UMC (Wheaton).   Symbolic of the generous support provided by all of the congregations, the UVC board presented a $3,000 check to leaders of each of its three affiliated agencies.

UVC president Robert Biekman (left) and treasurer Jacki Bogolia (right) with affiliated agency leaders.

Breakfast participants were also invited to participate in UVC’s upcoming third annual Skin in the Game workshop that addresses racism prevalent in our society that has a deep impact on our children and youth.  This year’s workshop, “Delving Deeper: Race & Well-being,” will be on Saturday morning, September 14, 2019, at the First U.M. Church Downers Grove.  Leadership is provided by a team from Evanston Township High School: Dr. Marcus Campbell, Aracely Canachola, and Taya Kinzie, LCSW.  For more details and to register, go to this link.

A copy of the printed program for the Breakfast can be seen here:  2019 program booklet final.  



Annual Breakfast 2018

Tuesday, June 5, 2018   6:45 a.m.    at Pheasant Run Resort, St. Charles

The United Voices for Children (UVC) Annual Breakfast will be on Tuesday, June 5th, at 6:45 a.m. The guest speaker will be Rev. James Swarthout, Director of Clergy and Alumni Relations for the Rosecrance Health Network.  Recipients of UVC’s annual awards for outstanding ministries with children and youth will be honored: Deacon Wes Dorr; Chana UMC; Karen Klaus, and Licia Knight.  (Click here for more information on the awards.)  In addition, United Methodist congregations in Northern Illinois will be recognized for their financial support of UVC and its affiliated agencies–ChildServ, MYSI and Rosecrance–through its Fifth Sunday Appeal.

The Breakfast is being held during the Northern Illinois Annual Conference session at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles.  Make your reservation–by Friday, May 25th–for the Breakfast either as part of your registration for the annual conference session or by emailing unitedvoicesforchildren@gmail.com  Cost is $20.  


Annual Breakfast 2017

The United Voices for Children (UVC) Annual Breakfast drew 125 friends and supporters for a time of sharing, listening and celebrating on June 6, 2017.  The Rev. Dr. Reggie Blount, Assistant Professor of Formation Youth, and Culture at Garrett Theological Seminary urged those present to remember the covenant made at a child’s baptism— “to increase their faith, confirm their faith, and perfect them in love.”  In living out that covenant with children within the congregation and in the neighboring community, congregations can truly embody “compassion and justice to young people yearning to experience the love of Jesus that cares, that nurtures, that empowers, that loves, that heals.”  (See below for full text of this address.) 

Rev. Dr.Reggie Blount with UVC President Kim Coffing

UVC also honored two persons for outstanding ministries with children, youth and families in Northern Illinois with the 2017 Bishop Jesse DeWitt Child Advocacy Award.  Lorena Corey, of First UMC Arlington Heights, was recognized for founding and leading Pinwheels, a ground-breaking ministry for families with gender-creative children.  The Rev. Dr. William Lenters was honored for years of faithful service as chaplain at Rosecrance serving youth and young adults struggling with substance abuse and for his inspirational writings for church leaders responding to persons with addictions. 

“This Annual Breakfast is the opportunity for UVC to lift up before our friends and colleagues in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference the many ministries that serve and advocate for at-risk children and youth,” noted board president Kim Coffing.  “We are reminded that by working together we can truly make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable.” 

UVC also recognized the 68 United Methodist congregations that participated in the Fifth Sunday Appeal in 2016, providing over $29,000 in financial support for UVC and its affiliated agencies: ChildServ, MYSI Corporation, and Rosecrance.  Recognition was given to congregations contributing for the first time: Brookfield: Compassion, Chicago: St. Mark, Earlville, Erie, Mt. Hope, and Wilmette: Trinity. Congregations whose giving increased the most were: Chicago: First (Temple), Durand, Evanston: Sherman, Lake Bluff: Grace, Oregon and Western Springs.  Congregations honored for the largest amount given were: Chicago: First (Temple), Downers Grove: First, Elmhurst: First, Lake Bluff: Grace, Rockford: Christ, and Wheaton: Gary.

At the close of the Breakfast, several participants responded to the invitation to step up and commit to becoming a Child Advocate with UVC.  Persons were also invited to attend an August 19th workshop, “Skin in the Game: Equipping Congregations to Challenge Racism.”  More information on UVC and its programs can be found at www.unitedvoicesforchildren.org

The full text of the Rev. Dr. Reggie Blount’s address, “”Keeping Covenant,” can be found here:  2017 Blount Address–Keeping Covenant