Our mission is to provide distressed communities the tools necessary for financial, physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth
Our goal is to break the chains of ignorance and violence by being a witness to the love of our Creator and serving with an unconditional love. U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center programs are based on following the example of Jesus. Our theme verse is Mark 10:45: “For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
About Our Organization
In the winter of 2007, U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center vision began with an observation of a community that has been perpetually self-destructive. Its perpetuity is generational as it has maintained this status for decades and will be sustained unless an intervention was implemented. This intervention became a reality with the aid of God and a handful of volunteers who organized a faith based organization for growth.
The organization has provided such opportunities to community youth at Tilden High School, Richards High School, Lara School, Chavez Elementary, Salvation Army – Red Shield Englewood, and St. Joseph Church. The programming has included soccer, videography, guitar, aerobics, basketball, photography, dance programs, martial arts, art for youth between the ages of 7 and 16 at no cost. A youth leadership forum is also offered, which brings together teens and young adults to meet with mentors from various professions.
This unique partnership is led by Dr. Rafael Yañez, a longtime resident of the Back of the Yards community in Chicago, Dr. Yañez is not only resident of the target community, but also the founder and President of U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center and a Chicago Police Officer. U.N.I.O.N. received a Community Service Award in 2008 from Cook County Crime Stoppers.
The programs initiated by this partnership are made up of many types of after school programs for youth, who prior to the summer of 2008 had few programming options in their community. The program strategy is to keep kids busy during after school and weekend hours and therefore out of trouble. Since it is well documented that most crimes involving juveniles occur between the hours of 3pm to 8pm, keeping them off the streets during these critical hours is a sound strategy. The key strength of the program offered by U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center is the commitment of the volunteers who facilitate the programs. The volunteers are an all-ages corps of committed community members, parents, police officers, and older teens.
Currently, U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center is the organization leading the efforts of the Back of the Yards and New City Task Force. This group is comprised of various organizations throughout the city of Chicago who meet once a month to find solutions to the myriad of issues our young people face today, especially the violence. Task Force partners include Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Neighborhood Housing Services, Chicago Police Department, City of Chicago – Mayor’s Office, After School Matters, Tilden High School, Richards Career Academy High School, Cesar Chavez School, States Attorney’s Office, Cook County Crime Stoppers, St. Joseph Parish, St. Michael and residents from Brighton Park, McKinley Park, Back of The Yards, New City, and Canaryville.
As noted above, programs are facilitated by volunteers from the Chicago Police Department, parents, church members from St. Joseph’s parish, and other concerned community residents. The efforts of the soccer team have been met with great success, both in terms of youth participation, as well as volunteer participation. It is the collaboration of the partners that allowed the program to grow to form U.N.I.O.N. Soccer League, with over 250 students participating in twenty-five teams.
Data from the Chicago Police Department indicate that juvenile criminal arrests in the areas that U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center’s programming touches most directly declined after the program’s inception in summer 2008. An examination of juvenile arrest data from these areas from April of 2007 to present indicates that while the overall rates of crime in specific areas remains steady, there is a noticeable decline where Chavez School is situated. Further, there is evidence that violent crime is on the decline in all areas that U.N.I.O.N. touches, as data indicate that crimes involving weapons or physical violence (i.e. first degree murder, aggravated battery of a school employee, armed robbery) decline after programming began. While this analysis does not provide enough evidence to suggest a direct causal link between the programming and the crime rate (it does not control for a myriad of other factors),
Community Organization and Public Safety Partnership
The partnership led by U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center exemplifies effective public safety partnerships in that the participants a) reflect the community’s diversity and b) share a common vision for a safer neighborhood through cooperative efforts. Programs organized by U.N.I.O.N. Impact Center are replicable by other community-based organizations. The key ingredients for successful volunteer driven community programming include: the commitment of key community members, including parents; institutions such as schools and churches that are willing to host the after-school programs; and public safety practitioners who epitomize the philosophy of community policing.