Do you know what a settlement house is?
More precisely, do you know just what Northwestern University Settlement House (NUSH) is and does?
Despite NUSH’s substantial ties to and activities in the North Shore, my husband, Nick, and I didn’t really understand it either, until a recent tour brought it to life. After experiencing its rich history, impressive network of support and extensive activities that nurture, educate and empower children and families living in poverty, we’re now prouder than ever of our sponsorship support for NUSH.
The Settlement Movement arose in England in the late 1800s to help immigrants and others living in dire poverty “settle” into better lives. This was the forerunner of social service assistance. In 1891, Northwestern University President Henry Wade Rogers and his wife Emma founded NUSH in West Town—a North Avenue neighborhood then considered a deadly black hole of humanity—and staffed it with professors and other university resources.
Although most of our nation’s other settlement homes have closed (including the most famous, Jane Addams’s Hull-House), NUSH has flourished and grown by adapting programs to changing times and developing an impressive support network. NUSH is small enough that every volunteer and donor can feel a personal connection, but so effective in its delivery of wrap-around services that major corporations and foundations also support it.
NUSH programs support individuals at every stage of life. These include:
- Head Start preschool
- Rowe Elementary charter school
- After-school learning center
- House in the Wood summer camp in Delavan, Wisc.
- Food pantry
- Emergency family services
- Adventure Stage Chicago professional youth theatre
- Golden Agers Club
NUSH preserved its original Arts & Crafts building as it evolved over the past 123 years, further expanding it into new spaces. It’s worth a trip just to see the spectacular architecture. But, if you do go, please bring donations too. Staff and a small army of volunteers use them wisely to help more than 40,000 neighbors each year.
How can you help give back to NUSH?
- The AmeriCorps group has three major volunteer events held in Chicago in 2014: the Martin Luther King Jr. Literacy Fair, January 20; Global Youth Service Day, April 12; and Seeds of Service, May TBA.
- The Golden Agers senior citizens club meets for Bingo every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. Volunteers can distribute prizes, call numbers, and socialize with this fun group.
- Volunteer in a classroom of the Rowe Elementary Charter School.
Northwestern Settlement programs are always in need of the following supplies
- Hygiene products (shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, etc.)
- Canned food
- Household cleaning supplies
- School supplies (pencils, paper, glue sticks, etc.)
- Art supplies (markers, colored pencils, stencils, construction paper, etc.)
- Senior-friendly items (eyeglass cases, socks, lotion, sugar-free cough drops, etc.)
- $50: A week’s worth of supplies for the Head Start (early childhood) program
- $75: Eye exam and glasses
- $150: Curriculum supplies for one scholar at Rowe
- $250: 25 public school children introduced to live theater
- $500: 25 families fed for one week
- $1,000: Two weeks at House In The Wood camp for one child
Northwestern University Settlement House By The Numbers:
- 93 percent of every dollar donated goes directly to the programs and families NUSH serves.
- More than 8,000 children are served by human needs programming each year, and an additional 20,000 through Adventure Stage Chicago programs.
- 12,000 volunteers annually provide 80,000 hours of service to Northwestern Settlement, its programs and the greater community.
- Each year, Adventure Stage Chicago presents more than 420 artistic and cultural events, totaling over 880 hours of programming.