BRONZEVILLE — A dozen young people of color are creating and decorating hundreds of wreaths and holiday decorations for sale and display across the South Side through the Love, Unity and Values Institute‘s paid Wreaths of LUV program.
Wreaths are available online, and can be shipped or picked up at the institute’s headquarters in Bronzeville, 4659 S. Cottage Grove Ave. The institute is open for pick-up at the following times:
- Noon-3 p.m. Nov. 27 and 28.
- 3-5:30 p.m. Dec. 2 and 3.
- Noon-3 p.m. Dec. 5.
- 3-5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10.
- Noon-3 p.m. Dec. 12.
Program participants will also sell their wares from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the Willow Creek Holiday Market pop-up, 1319 S. State St.
Wreaths of LUV will supply 500 wreaths to Chicago families, funded by a My Block, My Hood, My City sponsorship.
“This is a wonderful partnership, and we are grateful that we will be able to continue this program and serve young people because of partners like My Block, My Hood, My City,” executive director Cosette Nazon-Wilburn said.
Through partnerships with neighborhood Special Service Areas, wreaths will also be visible throughout Kenwood and Bronzeville along Cottage Grove Avenue, 47th Street and 43rd Street; along King Drive between 39th and 119th streets; and in South Shore along 71st Street.
Wreaths of LUV began in 2013 with six young women on probation who needed something to do during the winter season, Nazon-Wilburn said.
It’s since expanded into a 12-person internship program where participants learn “customer service, punctuality, communication skills, teamwork — all of which are really important pieces that help a young person become successful in the workplace,” she said.
Participants receive an $800 stipend for the ten-week program. Prior to creating and selling the wreaths, “they spent four weeks in a workforce development program online, learning about the real important tenets of getting a job and how to keep a job,” Nazon-Wilburn said.
“The workforce internship is about having to take those practical skills into an environment so they are better prepared for the workforce,” she said.
The program was a welcome opportunity to collaborate with peers in-person, said Mikeyla, a 17-year-old Corliss High School student. Nazon-Wilburn requested participants only be identified by their first name.
“I’m a happy person when I’m around other people,” Mikeyla said. She hopes to use the training on her way to becoming a pilot or serving in some other capacity with the U.S. Air Force.
The workforce training was useful because it not only builds etiquette and other workplace skills, but also helps participants identify skills they already have, said Kimani, a 19-year-old political science student at South Suburban College.
The law school hopeful with an eye on becoming President Pro Tempore of the U.S. Senate said he also appreciated how participants were respectful of social distancing and other guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“It gives you hope that even in the most harshly affected communities, people are willing to do what they have to do to keep moving, keep going,” Kimani said.
Coordinating with peers to complete the Wreaths of LUV project was satisfying, Kimani said, as the teens and young adults “couldn’t have done that by themselves.”
“It took a lot of tedious work to get these wreaths together,” he said. But interacting with customers and families receiving the wreaths is a reminder that “the work that you did these past couple weeks paid off — and is going to pay off — in a big way.”
To donate, mentor or volunteer with the LUV Institute and its programming based in restorative practices, visit its website here.
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