Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

June 21, 2012

No child left behind harder in the summer?

Think of summer and kids on school break.    We can think of Swimming pools, playgrounds, kids on bikes and lots of tv.   Rarely do we think of hunger pangs or a day of skipped meals.    But according to research, it’s a significant reality for many children.

1 in 5 children is food insecure – translation – isn’t sure where their next meal is coming from.  Even more depressing is that for kids in transition , i.e. lacking access to school meal programs, access is limited by lack of awareness. 1 in 6 children eligible for summer aid is getting assistance.   In an effort to address this gulf in awareness, the federal government and local organizations committed to eliminating hunger have stepped up efforts to increase utilization of program.

Summer Feeding Illinois is a joint effort between the USDA, Illinois State Board of Education and leading hunger  organizations, Greater Chicago Food Depository.   The cross platform launch promotes the availability of over 1800 feeding sites throughout Illinois to families.    Users can access info such as address,location and hours by calling a hotline, searching the website and by mobile app! iFindit is proud to be able to support this effort and is providing its app to help spread the word about all 1800 sites.

Don’t leave any children behind this summer.Share this information with any families, friends, community partners who might benefit.

Link to android app:

http://bit.ly/summerfeeding

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June 21, 2012

Tech Week Chicago is where it all begins

It’s been almost a year now since I attended my first Tech Week here in Chicago.   Last year, I attended and it literally changed my entire perspective on the start-up world and led me to take risks and create something outside my comfort zone.  My goal in going was to find something to inspire me to action.   I’d been reading and going to seminars where people talked about the elusive search next foursquare, groupon or facebook.       Needless to say, within the first day of being at TechWeek, something for me clicked.   I attended a session on an open government app contest and mobile apps in developing countries.  Out of those sessions, I decided to create something from scratch, ifinditchicago, an Android mobile app that helps people find vital resources like food pantries, free medical clinics and shelters.   I would have never considered building this app had it not been for TechWeek.

Fast forward, since last year, the app I created, ifinditchicago won 1st prize in the Apps for Metro Chicago community category.

 is now a featured app that help social agencies spread information about resources for low income families http://www.summerfeedingillinois.org/ and has now expanded to cover all of Illinois.   

I’ve been asked to speak this year on a panel at the Innovators in Health Tech session Monday June 25th .

It’s hard to think that I’d have enough experience to share with others considering making the leap, but that’s what you find with techweek, an accelerated learning curve.

My advice: Don’t go to TechWeek if you seek stasis and comfort, it’s designed specifically to stir things up in your world.    Image

Update:  As of June 18th , ifindit is the exclusive provider of location information for Summer Feeding Program, a new program jointly sponsored by Catholic Charities,FSP, Archdiocese of Chicago Nutrition Services,Chicago Public Schools,Chicago Department of Family and Support Services,Chicago Housing Authority,Eastern Illinois Food Bank,Greater Chicago Food Depository,Illinois Coalition for Community Services,Illinois Hunger Coalition,Jimmy Dean,WalMart created to spread information about food resources for kids in the summer. 

January 31, 2012

iFind: Springfield

We’re heading to the capital, people! iFindit has been invited by Governor Quinn to be a guest at the State of the State address on Wednesday, February 1st in Springfield.  This is perfect timing because this sweet little mobile app built to help people find resources like food, shelter and medical care faster, is expanding to cover the state of Illinois.

iFindit plans to add more resources to the app on a state-wide basis and needs community partners to check the data on the application to ensure its correct.  This goes for both Chicago and state-wide non-profits. Since winning first place in the Apps for Metro Chicago contest, the creator and founder, Elizabeth Park received an influx of interest from community members both locally and nationally.

When 40% of people making less than $30,000 a year use smart phones to find information – this platform is key to reaching a demographic once ignored.   Mobile apps are becoming a critical way for low-income residents to have access to data.  Our ask to our Illinois NPOs:

1.) Send us your data

2.) Check up on your data.

iFindit is a small shop right now and very few people are doing some very good work.  We’d like for everyone to be able to use this tool.  But for now, it starts with self-made motivations from community partners.  From the city of Big Shoulders to the Land of Lincoln, we’re starting something Illinoisans.

Contact elizabeth@ifinditchicago.com

January 11, 2012

Increase in Tax Credit Officially Passed!

Governor Pat Quinn signing the bill that would increase the EITC to 7.5% next year, then to 10% the following year.

Photo by Elizabeth Park

Image

January 10, 2012

The holiday that doesn’t cost you anything

With Christmas and New Years leaving our wallets drained and our bank accounts dwindling, the encroaching tax season becomes a stressful time for working class families across the country. But on January 27, a national “holiday” sponsored by the IRS will look to educate the public of a tax credit that can put thousands of dollars back in your pocket, becoming a real day of giving.

EITC Awareness Day is an annual grassroots anti-poverty effort to help raise awareness for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax benefit most low-income individuals and families are eligible for. On January 27, charity organizations, elected officials, state and government employers and other interested parties will band together to generate as much mainstream coverage on the EITC as possible.

This year especially is a momentous year for EITC Awareness Day. The House recently passed a bill that would increase the tax credit from 5%to 7.5% next year, then ultimately to 10% the following year, doubling the size of credit. Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign this bill.

Although having been around for more than 37 years, according to the EITC website, one out of every five eligible resident is still unaware of the EITC and their eligibility. Only four out of five people actually file and claim their tax credit. “We want to raise that number to five out of five,” the website states. “They earned it, but must file and claim it to get it….meaning awareness is critical.”

With the good news of an increased tax credit, it is absolutely crucial that everyone is made well aware of the EITC benefits.

You never know if you or a friend could be eligible, as it could mean up to $5,751 in pocketed credit.

Our family at iFindit Chicago believe in empowering people with impacting resources, so IF YOU would like to help increase EITC awareness, please contact your IRS relationship manager, email partner@irs.gov, or follow @IRSEITCDay on Twitter. Or, simply, spread the word.

FOR MORE INFORMATION on the EITC and whether you are eligible, visit http://www.eitc.irs.gov/ptoolkit/basicmaterials/ff/

TO LEARN MORE about the bill recently passed in Illinois to expand credit, visit http://www.taxcreditsforworkingfamilies.org/2011/12/illinois-doubles-state-eitc

January 6, 2012

Homeless teens in Chicago at an all-time high

With the current economic state—high housing and low employment rates—it’s proving to be more and more difficult for those in troubled times to seek help and get back on their feet. The hardest hitting demographic of the dismal economy appears to be young adults—especially those without the financial or emotional support of a family. According to a story published on Chicagonewscoop.org , it is reported more than 10,000 teenagers were enrolled as homeless students in Chicago public schools this fall—a record high. 

As demand escalates, the state is facing its own economic hardships. Illinois is currently swimming in a $500 million budget deficit alongside billions of dollars in unpaid bills. In a recent story by the Huffington Post, it suggests governor Pat Quinn plans to cut the budgets of “nearly all state operations” including “human service programs” like homeless shelters and facilities (most of which are already struggling to stay financially afloat). 

 Although the realities may be discouraging, we believe 2012 could be a pivotal year. If this story resonates with you, we encourage you to take action.

**WE WANT YOU to share your support- spread the news, voice your opinion, and let our state officials realize that we need to preserve these vital programs!** 

SOURCES: 

http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/youth-homelessness-on-the-rise-in-chicago/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/04/illinois-budget-problems-_n_1183300.html?ref=chicago

January 4, 2012

2012–The year of the humanitarian

As we drift into the new year, we are confronted with a shopping list for self-improvement projects we like to call “new years resolutions.” Sitting at the top of most of these lists are commitments to go to the gym, to budget your money, and to spend more time with family—efforts aimed at ultimately becoming a much healthier, wealthier, happier person. And while these ideas sound great on paper, let’s get real: most resolutions are broken well before the year has ended.

So before you contract yourself to that yearlong gym membership, perhaps you should consider a resolution that can reap more, well, lasting results.

Our team at iFindit Chicago is passionate about volunteering and the value of giving, as most services we list depend on the generous contributions from everyday folk like you and me. Whether or not it made it on your list this time around, we hope volunteering is a goal you continue to resolve without the reminder of turning a new year.

Here are some sites and services in the local Chicago area where you can offer your time and/or resources (most of which are linked through our iFindit mobile app!):

 

Cornerstone Community Outreach –this center affords a variety of services to neighboring residents or individuals/families in the area without a home. From free clothing and meal plans to assistance with resume-writing, CCO aims “to raise the quality of life for low-income residents.” To inquire how you may help at CCO, visit www.ccolife.org

Greater Chicago Food Depository –a nonprofit food bank that prides itself in distributing to 678,000 adults each year, Greater Chicago Food Depository looks to continue their fight against hunger. To volunteer in their soup kitchen, visit http://www.chicagosfoodbank.org/

Christopher House –having five sites on Chicago’s north and west ends, Christopher House feeds, educates, and supports over 4,000 children and family members each year.

“Everyday, Christopher House volunteers make a tremendous impact on the lives of the children and families that we serve,” their website writes. If this interests you, visit christopherhouse.org for more information.

Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago –the Comer Children’s Hospital is one of the leading medical centers in the Chicago area. Volunteers at the site help to deliver mail or books to a child’s bedside, comfort families going through difficult times, and assist in games and activities organized for hospitalized children. To participate in their volunteering program, visit http://www.uchicagokidshospital.org/contribute/volunteer

 

**WE WANT TO KNOW: Would you be interested in downloading a mobile application that would match you with volunteering opportunities in your area? Let us know by commenting below!**

December 16, 2011

Heartwarming Story about Puppies

This is not a post about puppies really.   But I thought I’d use them to provoke a conversation about Chicago and a topic that people don’t feel as endearing to the heart, the poor.   I’ve received at least 3 heartwarming videos  from friends, coworkers of puppies in peril rescued from ravines, pits, laboratories or reunited with owners after 7 years of separation and am happy at the millions of downloads. These downloads represent what’s great about all of us, our attention to a great story, an innocent infallible creature.   Change the headline however to Heartwarming story about the Poor and the downloads drop off a ravine.  Why is that?  

If only I could wrap puppy stories around ifinditchicago, I think we’d be able to help more people.   We are smart easy to use apps built to help enable anyone in need of vital services in Chicago find food pantries, homeless shelters and medical clinics for the uninsured.   This is not an app ‘just’ for the homeless, it’s for everyone.  According to Heartland Alliance 1 in 3 chicagoans is below the poverty line.   This not may be the case if you are walking down Michigan avenue but clearly the numbers have increased over so the 1 in 3 is increasingly your family member, coworker, friend who even might be struggling to feed his or her puppy!

With over 2500 listings including new resources like  single room occupancy hotels, ifinditchicago continuing to grow. In 2012, we’ll  will be rolling out a web based solution in address one of chicago’s biggest challenges, affordable housing.  

Ask us about it and if you’re involved in the housing debate, are a landlord, on a waiting list, endlessly searching for affordable housing, or involved with CHA, HUD or any other the usual suspects.

elizabeth@ifinditchicago.com

November 30, 2011

The Nice, the Naughty, and the Needy

Xbox, check. iPad 2, check. Hundreds of rom-coms on Blu-Ray, check. Sound familiar?

While many Chicagoans are camping out at their local Target, Walmart or Best Buy stores this December to buy loved ones everything on their holiday wish lists and stringing garland, mistletoe and fake wreaths around their homes while drinking eggnog and watching A Christmas Story and Home Alone over and over until they know all the lines, thousands others are in desperate need of shelter, clothing, and even their next meal.

What? People are standing outside hungry and freezing while I just purchased the “Chocolate Tasting for Two” Groupon and am in the process of putting a Michael Kors Christmas sweater on my pug?

Yes.

Oh no! How can I help?

You can start by voting for iFinditChicago in the Grand Challenge of MCIC’s Apps for Metro Chicago Competition!

Just Visit www.appsformetrochicago.com December 6 – 12, 2011 and vote for iFinditChicago as your favorite app!

What is iFinditChicago?

OK, we know you were last to read the Twilight series, you still don’t know who Harry Potter is, and it wasn’t until last month that you decided to figure out what all this Facebook stuff was about, but get with it! iFinditChicago is an Android app designed to help low income and homeless residents connect with critical resources such as medical clinics, food pantries, and shelters. And it’s changing lives!

The iFinditChicago app sounds awesome, but how do I know homelessness and hunger in Chicago is really a problem?

Chew on this: Last year, the Emergency and Transitional Housing (E&TH) program—a program that gives immediate and comprehensive shelter services to the homeless and provides funding for meals, shelter and support services to not-for-profit organizations and local governments—provided overnight shelter and transitional housing to 40,542 people, one-third of who were under 18. Still, people in need were turned away 45,673 times!

This year, the Illinois state budget for the E&TH program was cut by 52%, from $9.1 million to $4.4 million! The new budget cuts could force an additional 6,746 people onto Chicago’s streets in 2012!

Shelters and soup kitchens are responding to these cuts by:

  • Reducing number of beds available
  • Reducing number of people served
  • Laying off staff who provide case management and other services

Some agencies are even at risk of closing unless cuts are restored.

So how does iFinditChicago help?

Research has shown that people in low-income communities and on the streets have increasing access to smartphones. iFinditChicago can help these people in need find places to eat, sleep and receive medical care, quickly and discreetly with the press of a button! And we’re not the only ones who think our app is genius! iFinditChicago recently won the Community round of The Apps for Metro Chicago competition!

So what is this competition?

The Apps for Metro Chicago Competition is an unprecedented #opengov software challenge facilitated by Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC) that invites software developers, community groups, businesses and individuals to build innovative apps that solve longstanding social problems and improve services in Metro Chicago. The goal of the competition is to increase government transparency by facilitating the building of software applications that are creative, useful, and designed for long-term impact. The competition is hosted by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition, the Motorola Mobility Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust, with $50,000 in awards up for grabs.

When are the winners announced?

iFinditChicago already won 1st place in the Community round of the Apps for Metro Chicago competition, so our app will automatically be one of the 20 finalists in the Grand Challenge Round of the competition. The winners will be selected by a panel of Grand Challenge judges and announced on December 16, 2011!

What else can I do to help those in need?

Go to www.HousingMatters.net and log in to contact your state legislators and ask them to restore funding cuts to the Emergency and Transitional Housing Program!

Together, we can fight homelessness and help low-income Chicagoans enjoy the season too!

Happy Holidays!

October 25, 2011

Turning Chicago’s Food Deserts into an Oasis of Better Food Options

Finding more food options including farmers markets in Chicago

The twitter and online universe is abuzz today  about Michelle Obama and Mayor Ram hosting a food summit here in Chicago to tackle the longstanding issues of food deserts in neighborhoods.

 How can over 600,000  Chicagoans not have access to healthy food options? (source David Heinzmann , Chicago Tribune October 25).

Think that’s unacceptable? Well, we do too and now it seems,  people are mobilizing around this endemic problem and with the help of high profile Chicagoans, like First Lady Obama and Ram Emanuel the problem is starting to be addressed. According to a recent article by  Grocers are being incentivized to move in ‘food deserts’ and corporations like Kraft and WalMart are going to build or retrofit buildings to allow for more healthy options.   It’s a start, it doesn’t necessarily change behavior overnight, but access is a first step.

At iFinditChicago, available in the Android store for free, we’re all about access, and can say we’re doing our part to share information about vital resources.   Although we wish the city had more farmers markets in places considered food deserts, we do list the ones that many people probably don’t know exist and include hours of operation.   Seems like a small move, but more Farmers markets  accepting  SNAP/Food stamps could translate to heathier eating habits and better health outcomes.

In Chicago, there’s no desert of ideas…we just need to implement practical solutions faster and more effectively.