Stories of Hope (Part 3)

Judge rules in favor of youth plaintiffs

in landmark Montana climate case

Sam Wilson, Racine Journal Times, August 14, 2023

A Montana district court judge ruled Monday that a state law barring its agencies from considering the impacts of climate change when issuing permits is a violation of the state Constitution’s right to a “clean and healthful environment.”

The ruling comes two months after the conclusion of a seven-day trial in Helena that attracted national attention as one of the first to challenge a state’s fossil fuel policies on constitutional grounds. A group of 16 young Montanans filed the lawsuit in 2020, alleging that Montana’s laws supporting fossil fuel development are contributing to climate change, the impacts of which are violating the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.


The 16 youth plaintiffs outside the Lewis & Clark County Court House in Montana.

 “Montana’s (greenhouse gas) emissions and climate change have been proven to be a substantial factor in causing climate impacts to Montana’s environment and harm and injury to the youth plaintiffs,” Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley wrote in the order.

She continued, “Plaintiffs have a fundamental constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, which includes climate as part of the environmental life-support system.”

The state Legislature is specifically tasked with protecting that “environmental life-support system” under Montana’s Constitution. In the legislative session that concluded earlier this year, Republican lawmakers amended the Montana Environmental Policy Act, or MEPA, to prohibit consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in permitting decisions. MEPA guides the environmental review process for permits, such as those granted for coal mine expansions or new power plants. That prohibition within MEPA, passed as Senate Bill 557, is now invalid, under Seeley’s decision. To learn more, click on this link: Montana youth win climate trial, first of its kind in US (

'You do not have to suffer alone'

New nonprofit provides transitional assistance

Alex Rodriguez, Racine Journal Times, Sept 28, 2023

RACINE — A new nonprofit organization hosted a block party Saturday at Pritchard Park to celebrate its launch and introduce itself to the community.

Lovingkindness Transitional Services, which provides assistance to individuals transitioning from homelessness into housing, is a branch of Lovingkindness Homes. Both were started by Lakesha Davis.

About 25 years ago, Davis moved to Wisconsin to escape domestic violence and found herself homeless.

While staying at the Shalom Center in Kenosha, Davis decided to find a way to create a better environment and “create a clear path toward success.”


“From that point, I started to educate myself financially and with education to learn how to get myself out of that situation,” she said. “I just took it all in and want to give it back to people. This is how you move from homelessness to home-owning to business-owning. This is the blueprint and I just wanted to share that with everyone.”

Related to her not for profit work described above, Lakesha and her husband started an LLC in 2020 which provides a broad range of services to individuals and families to live in and eventually own their home. It is called Loving Kindness Homes.

“From that point, I started to educate myself financially and with education to learn how to get myself out of that situation,” she said. “I just took it all in and want to give it back to people. This is how you move from homelessness to home-owning to business-owning. This is the blueprint and I just wanted to share that with everyone.”

Related to her not for profit work described above, Lakesha and her husband started an LLC in 2020 which provides a broad range of services to individuals and families to live in and eventually own their home. It is called Loving Kindness Homes.


Here is a link to their business, Loving Kindness Homes, LLC:

Tony’s Community Meals offers free healthy meals weekly

to Union Grove residents

by Emma Widmar, The Racine County Eye, August 16, 2023

UNION GROVE — Tony Stephens Jr. spends every weekend grocery shopping, meal prepping and cooking as a way to provide healthy meals to his neighbors in Union Grove, who are in need.

The resident, who moved to the area about three years ago, has taken his love for cooking and pays it forward through what he crafts in his kitchen.

Stephens, who works 12-hour days during the second shift as a full-time CNC machinist, began what is now known as Tony’s Community Meals through work.

Chicken ​Teriyaki

Chicken teriyaki stir fry is just one of many examples of the delicious, from-scratch cooking available through Tony's Community Meals in Union Grove. – Credit: Tony Stephens Jr.

Meal prepping has always been a part of his routine and during the pandemic, he found himself cooking for his coworkers due to the difficult times.

Even with cooking for himself and others, there were still meals that had gone uneaten.

“At the end of the week, I’d have a bunch of meals. I don’t wanna throw them away, so I started giving them out,” explains Tony.

Tony began paying it forward to his neighbors.

“I started seeing people in the Union Grove Newsletter, people that needed them, so I started giving them to them, rather than throwing them in my freezer, or throwing them away,” says Tony.  To read more, click on this link: Tony's Community Meals offers free healthy meals weekly to Union Grove residents | Racine County Eye

‘They come to this country with a dream’: Woman teaches English to migrants on a South Loop basketball court

By Laura Rodríguez Presa, Chicago Tribune, Jul 17, 2023 

Teaching english

Samantha Oulavong, right, teaches basic English to Karla Urbino, 45, from Nicaragua, and Brayan Lozano, 28 from Colombia, at Margaret Hie Ding Lin Park across from the 1st District police station on June 29, 2023, in Chicago. (Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)

There hasn’t been a single day since May that Samantha Oulavong is not thinking of the migrants who stay at the police station in her neighborhood in the South Loop. The children, she said, remind her of her younger self, when her parents made their way from Laos seeking asylum in the Chicago area when she was 5 years old.

Of course, in more than one way, their story is not the same, she said, “but our heart is.”

“They come to this country with a dream,” she said.

Oulavong has been visiting the 1st District police station almost every day since May, when the first families began to seek refuge at the station near her home. She drops off food and clothes and, most recently, has begun to teach basic English to the migrants and their children regardless of a language barrier — she doesn’t really speak Spanish — in the bleachers of a basketball court across from the South Loop station.

“Most want to know how they can ask for a job,” she said. “‘Busco trabajo,’ I tell them to say, meaning, ‘I’m looking for a job.’”

Oulavong is just one of the many Chicagoans who have stepped up to provide more than just food and donations for the thousands of asylum-seekers who have arrived to the city since August of last year, filling a void as state and city official grapple to create more temporary housing for the migrants.

The volunteers have celebrated birthdays with migrants, taken them to baseball games, given them haircuts, provided professional therapy — and now are teaching them English. To read more, click on this link: Woman teaches English to migrants on a Chicago basketball court (

Hiring workers from the South and West sides

is a win-win for Chicago

By Bob Karr, Chicago Tribune, Published: Jul 23, 2023

Bob Karr is the senior vice president of administration and chief legal officer at Blommer Chocolate Co.

Can a job stop a bullet? For a city struggling with gun violence, it’s an important question.

There is no doubt much of our crime has its roots in economic distress. People without opportunity in the legal economy will resort to the illegal economy if only to eat, pay rent and feed their families.

For several years, Blommer Chocolate has been hiring from communities on the South and West sides of Chicago where gun violence is an everyday occurrence. Some of our employees have come to us through the violence prevention program Chicago CRED.

We first learned about Chicago CRED at an event in the Englewood neighborhood where Arne Duncan, CRED’s founder and a former U.S. secretary of education, was speaking. Duncan talked about growing up on the South Side and losing friends to gun violence in his teenage years. He talked about the pain of returning to Chicago after serving in Washington only to experience heartbreak at the level of gun violence. And he vowed to do something about it.

CRED works with young people at the highest risk of being gun violence victims or offenders. They get a lot of help from CRED, but the one thing CRED can’t provide is a job.

That’s where we come in.

Over the years, we’ve hired more than a dozen Chicago CRED graduates. We are one of more than 40 companies in 17 industries that have hired CRED grads, and we will keep hiring them because they are hardworking, talented and hungry to succeed. They are desperate to do something with their lives.

Blommer’s original and oldest operating factory is in downtown Chicago. Since it is not as fully automated or modernized as our other factories around the world, we can recruit and develop many of the young men coming out of Chicago CRED. On average, they earn $20 to $24 per hour, not including overtime.

One of them is Brendan Taylor, who is among the first graduates of Chicago CRED. Brendan began working in the mailroom at Deloitte in 2018. He was a model employee and was training to become a paralegal when he was shot and wounded in a drive-by incident near his South Side home.


Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor, among the first graduates of Chicago CRED, at his job at the Blommer Chocolate factory

on July 20, 2023. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune)

Brendan’s co-workers supported him through his recovery, visited him in the hospital and extended the kind of love and support any one of us would need in a similar crisis. We got to know Brendan and offered him a job. Today, he’s an environmental health specialist earning a respectable salary, plus health and retirement benefits.

Some employers may justifiably ask why they would take on the challenge of hiring young people with limited work experience and troubled backgrounds. My answer is this

This is our community. This is our city. Pretending that young men like Brendan don’t exist will not make them go away. Just because most of the gun violence happens away from our homes or businesses does not mean we don’t have a responsibility to help address it. We can all be part of the solution. To read the entire article, click on this link: Op-ed: Hiring workers from the South and West Sides is a win-win for Chicago (

The US has tons of leftover food. Upcycling turns would-be trash into ice cream and pizza.

HAVEN DALEY Associated Press Jun 23, 2023 Updated Jun 23, 2023

LOS GATOS, Calif. — At Tyler Malek's ice cream parlors, one cook's trash is another chef's frosty treat.

The head ice cream maker at the Portland, Oregon-based Salt & Straw uses the whey leftover from yogurt makers in upstate New York to make his lemon curd flavor. For chocolate barley milk, he mixes in the remnants of rice and grains from beer brewing to give it a light and creamy taste.

"Instead of calling this food waste, we need to call it wasted food and start decreasing how much wasting we're doing," Malek said.  

Founder Salt & Straw Ice Cream Tyler Malek

Founder Salt & Straw Ice Cream Tyler Malek scoops "Day-Old Bread Pudding" upcycled ice cream at the franchise's newest location in Los Gatos, Calif., on June 2 (Haven Daley, Associated Press)

Malek's ice cream chain is among those at the forefront of the upcycling movement, the process of creating high-quality products from leftover food. Malek's shops from the Pacific Northwest to Miami now feature flavors like "Cacao Pulp & Chocolate Stracciatella Gelato," which is made from leftover cacao pulp from chocolate production that otherwise would have gone to waste.

It's a trend gaining ground as consumers spend more time reading packaging labels and menu ingredients to learn where their food comes from and how it affects the environment. More than 35 million tons of food are wasted every year in the U.S. — about 40% of the country's food production — costing the national economy more than $200 billion, according to the Upcycled Food Association.

Upcycled food is becoming increasingly common in cake mixes and veggie chips at natural grocery stores. Ingredients include fruits and vegetables from farms nationwide that are perfectly edible but often rejected by restaurants and grocery stores because of their shape or color, like white strawberries, wilted greens and ugly mushrooms.

The Upcycled Food Association, which will celebrate World Upcycling Day on Saturday, issues an official "Upcycling Certified" seal to qualifying products. These seals, which adorn the new Salt & Straw upcycled flavors, raise awareness with consumers that the company makes the food using such ingredients.

The association initially certified about 30 products in 2021 and now has 450 carrying the label.

"A lot of the food that is uneaten or thrown away in our supply chain is actually due to archaic cosmetic standards or sort of perceptions that what we think is edible or quality food," said Angie Crone, the association's chief executive. "So, this is a mark that you can see on the products wherever you go shopping, to be able to understand how that company is reducing food waste in their supply chain. To learn more click on this link: The US has tons of leftover food. Upcycling turns would-be trash into ice cream and pizza. (

Faces of volunteers: They provide more than donations and shelter to migrants in Chicago. They give love

Story by Laura Rodríguez Presa, Nell Salzman, Chicago Tribune • Thursday, June 1, 2023

Susie Moya

Susie Moya, right, a licensed clinical social worker and mental health therapist, speaks with a migrant woman about a support group for women she offers in a Pilsen shelter on May 26, 2023. © E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/TNS

CHICAGO -- The buses had just begun to arrive at Union Station that hot and sticky night in August when Ricky Flores heard from an activist friend that a group of asylum-seekers had nowhere to go.

Flores sped to the station in his black and red Rammer truck, with speakers blaring music, followed by friends in other trucks, all ready to help transport the migrants to the first shelter that the city had quickly assembled.

As they waited, they shared phone numbers, laughter and cigarettes with the migrants. And over a single puff, the group forgot the uncertainty of their future on their first night in Chicago after crossing several borders, mostly all the way from Venezuela.

Flores stood by their side until the migrants were picked up. And he is still by their side.

Flores is one of the countless Chicagoans who have stepped up since August 2022 to help the migrants, going beyond assisting them with basic needs such as shelter, food and clothes — also making them feel welcome. The volunteers have celebrated birthdays, organized cookouts, provided free therapy services, driven migrants to doctor appointments and job interviews and helped them access showers.

Volunteer Ricky Flores

Volunteer Ricky Flores, left, uses a rope to control the pinata as Sobrino Luciano, 8, attempts to hit it during a group birthday celebration in a temporary migrant shelter in Pilsen on May 21, 2023. © Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/TNS

To read more, click on this link: Faces of volunteers: They provide more than donations and shelter to migrants in Chicago. They give love (

Golden Apple Award winners full of emotion receiving cheers from students: ‘My heart cannot hold all the love’

By Zareen Syed Chicago Tribune, May 10, 2023 at 5:53 pm


Helen Chan                                                                       Rick Coppola

Immediately after being “surprise bombed” with a Golden Apple Award on Wednesday, South Loop Elementary School fourth grade teacher Helen Chan, tried her hardest not to get choked up.

“I really don’t want to start crying,” Chan said, with tears halfway down her face. “I want to thank you for all the support that I have received, especially from my students. I feel like you guys give me 100% every single day and you’re like my little cheerleaders every day.”

Chan and her co-worker Rick Coppola, a seventh grade teacher at South Loop Elementary, were among the 10 Illinois recipients of the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching. Alan Mather, president of the Golden Apple Foundation, said it was a first for the foundation to have two teachers from the same school win the same year. The winners were awarded $5,000 and a free spring sabbatical provided by Northwestern University.

Coppola said when he switched to a career in teaching, one of his mentors was a past winner.

“I was like, oh, seems like a good goal. Maybe one day — I’ll set that as a star to reach,” Coppola said.

Since 1985, the Golden Apple Award has been given to educators who have shown dedication to their students and school communities. This year, more than 570 fourth- to eighth-grade teachers were nominated for the prize, according to the Golden Apple Foundation. At the surprise school visits, the foundation gathers the winners’ friends, families and colleagues to share in the celebration.

To read more about these two teachers and the Golden Apple awards, please click on this link: Golden Apple Award winners full of emotion receiving cheers from students: ‘My heart cannot hold all the love’ – Chicago Tribune


Inspired by lessons his mom taught

Probation officer hits 50 states in superhero guises for sick kids, homeless

Chicago Tribune, 28 May 2023, By Hunter Lee

Yuri Williams, wearing his Mandalorian costume, is a deputy juvenile correctional officer in Orange County, California. Williams dresses in superhero costumes when visiting sick children and homeless adults.

When Yuri Williams was 8 years old, his mother sometimes took him with her to work at the Los Angeles County’s Central Juvenile Hall when she couldn’t find a sitter. Lynda C. Hubbard worked there, with troubled children and young adults as a juvenile correctional officer, for more than three decades.

“There was this one big guy banging on the walls in his room,” Williams recalled, who is now 46 and lives in Signal Hill.

“My mom walked in and asked him what was going on and he just started crying and she was holding this much bigger person in her arms.

Williams ended up following in his mother’s footsteps, becoming a deputy juvenile correctional officer for the Orange County Probation Department. Over the years, he sought guidance from his mother, who told him how to speak with those in custody, how to help the boys and girls.

When Hubbard died of cancer in 2009, Williams fell into a deep depression for five years.

“One day I was just sitting there and tried calling her phone and just started crying,” Williams said.

But his mom’s lessons inspired him.

In 2017, Williams began donning the costumes of superheroes and other iconic figures to raise the spirits of others who are fighting their own battles. A year later he launched his nonprofit, A Future Superhero and Friends, to try and cover the costs of such things as donations and his travel. If he lassos big donors, he wants to create an after-school program of some sort.

“My mom always told me when you do something, try to do it different from others,” Williams said. “I figured by wearing a costume it could be a distraction, because it was rare that people see others in costume coming out to help.”

His started off locally, visiting families and children’s hospitals in Southern California, dressed as characters such as SpiderMan, Deadpool and the Mandalorian.

In February, Williams rolled in three large bins of plush toys — Santa Clauses, unicorns and others — through the doors of the Cherese Mari Laulhere Children’s Village in the Long Beach Medical Center. Because of the coronavirus, he was in street clothes — not able to visit the children in costume as in previous years.

“Yuri has been amazing,” said Rita Goshert, director of the center’s Child Life Program. “He’s been partnering and collaborating with us for several years. He just surprises us with these donations and it just makes all the difference in the world.

“It brightens their day, makes them forget they’re in the hospital and keeps their minds busy,” she said.

To read more, click on this link:  To watch a 3 and ½ minute video, click on this link:

An act of kindness, a sign of hope

A recent spring walk took me past a park where a group of children were playing a game of kick ball.

The children of varying ages, genders, and abilities took turns kicking, pitching, and fielding the ball.

Noticing that the younger kids didn't know when or where to run, an older boy took himself out of the line up and named himself "first base coach."  He spent the rest of the game teaching the younger children how to play the game

This boy inspires me to invest in the common good, to rise above individualism, and to be a witness to hope.

How can you bring the spirit of this boy into our world today

Hope to see you soon at Siena!

Claire Anderson

Claire is the Executive Director of the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, WI

Last year in the June 2022 Hope Newsletter ( ) we ran a story about Christiana and Nic Trapani, owners of Door County Candle Company, holding a check for over 1/2 million dollars that represented the amount of money they had raised in a little over two months to help the people of Ukraine. Here is the story update.

Wisconsin candle company hits $1 million in donations to Ukraine

Wisconsin State Journal, Barry Adams,  Apr 20, 2023

"That one candle, plus another one candle, plus another one candle is what got us to our goal, and it just shows that one person should never think they can't make a difference." Christiana Trapani.

Door County Candle Company has sold more than 100,000 candles and has donated more than $1 million over the past 14 months to benefit Ukraine.

Christiana Trapani knew within a week or so how popular the sale was of her candles to benefit the people of Ukraine

But on Wednesday, she received further confirmation.

Her Door County Candle Company has surpassed $1 million in donations with the sale of more than 100,000 blue and yellow candles in 16 ounce jars since the start of the war in February 2022.

Trapani initially thought it would be a weekend project and a few weeks later thought maybe 5,000 candles would be a modest goal. Now she says the candle will be a mainstay and even after the war's conclusion, will continue to be sold to help the country rebuild.

"It's such a huge milestone and we're obviously really proud of that," Trapani said Monday by phone. "I never, ever, in my wildest dreams ever thought this would happen."

Trapani, whose maiden name is Gorchynski and who has family and friends in Ukraine, will be in Madison on Tuesday when she meets with the legislators and speaks at the State Capitol. To read more, click on this link:

To view a 4 ½ minute video about this story, click on this link:

Easter backpack project unites helpers across generations to ‘bring joy’ to homeless kids

By Jeff Vorva, Daily Southtown, Apr 04, 2023

Queen of Martyrs seventh grader Mia McGreal holds up a backpack she and her classmates

helped fill Thursday at Mercy Circle in Chicago. The backpacks were set to be distributed

to children staying in a homeless shelter. (Jeff Vorva / Daily Southtown

Easter has always been a pleasant holiday for seventh grader Mia McGreal.

“My Easters have been nice,” she said. “I’ve been appreciative of everything I have gotten.”

But McGreal, a student at Queen of Martyrs in Evergreen Park, doesn’t have to travel far to hear stories of those less fortunate.

Her mother, Margaret, for example, went through a tough childhood but later rose through the ranks to lieutenant colonel with the Illinois State Police.

“They couldn’t afford much and when they went to the grocery store, they couldn’t afford a box of cereal,” Mia said. “My mom had to get a job when she was 7. She would go on her bike and deliver newspapers.

“She really knows what’s going on.”

What was going on for McGreal on Thursday morning was a gathering at Mercy Circle in Chicago to help those who are down on their luck.

That’s where Mercy Circle residents — many who are retired nuns — tag teamed with Queen of Martyrs seventh graders, including McGreal, to put together backpack care packages for homeless children and teenagers. To read more, click on this link: Easter backpack project unites helpers across generations to ‘bring joy’ to homeless kids – Chicago Tribune

Parkside professor receives teaching excellence award

By Ryan Patterson, Racine Journal Times. April 22, 2023