Monday, October 17, 2016

Homeless Little Boy With Cat Takes On Powerful Political Figures

[Naperville, IL, 10/17/16] The bedraggled little boy clutching a cat that almost matches him in size faces strong competition, but it’s

© Pat Van Doren

really no contest. In the end, Charlie will win, inspiring compassionate deeds on behalf of millions of America’s children and youth in homeless situations.
HEAR US, a Naperville-based national nonprofit organization giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, is launching The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids, a 24-page guide to anyone wanting to make life a little better for the millions of mostly-invisible homeless kids in every community. 
The cover of this little book bears Charle’s iconic picture, taken by Naperville photojournalist Pat Van Doren back in the days of the Aurora-Naperville struggle to get homeless kids into school. This little boy, whose image she captured outside the shelter at Hesed House in Aurora, became the poster child for the successful 1994 “Charlie’s Bill” campaign, making Illinois the first state to guarantee the rights to education for homeless students. (Ret.) Congresswoman Judy Biggert led the successful effort to enact this law on the national level in 2002. More than 1.3 million students without homes benefitted from this law last year.
The Charlie Book, written by national homeless education expert Diana Bowman for HEAR US, reflects tried-and-true practices from across the nation. HEAR US founder and president Diane Nilan edited the book and provided photos from her vast collection of images she’s amassed in her past 11 years of cross-country travel to chronicle children and youth homelessness. Beth Adams, a local graphic artist, volunteered her layout and design services. 
Charlie, aka Charles, is real. He and his wife and 3 children now live in West Virginia, where he works. He and Nilan connect occasionally. She’s sending his family several copies of this book. 
The book is suitable for schools, shelters, scout troops, faith communities, service groups, and well-intentioned individuals wanting to make a difference for children in their communities. It sells for $10 (+s/h).
Information and ordering instructions are on the HEAR US website, Proceeds from the book support the continuing work of this well-regarded organization. 
Nilan is loading up hundreds of copies of The Charlie Book in her van/home/office. She heads to Orlando on Thursday for a national conference of homeless student educators, many of whom have expressed great interest in this unique book. 
Who is the competition Charlie (and his book) face? None other than the national presidential candidates who occupy the media with their campaign fodder. When the dust settles, the goodness Charlie and his followers accomplish will touch lives of millions of kids without homes, a story worthy of widespread media coverage. 

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Monday, October 3, 2016

George and Charlie to Help Homeless Kids in Naperville and Beyond

Press Release
For Immediate Release
October 3, 2016

[Naperville, IL] Launching The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids at the October 13  George Winston HEAR US Benefit concert will bring together the perennially popular musician George Winston with the iconic Charlie, the homeless boy who opened school doors for millions of homeless kids nationwide. Mr. Winston will play at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Naperville.

HEAR US Inc., the Naperville-based national nonprofit giving voice and visibility to homeless children and youth, uses the image of Charlie in its logo. Naperville photojournalist Pat Van Doren photographed the little boy holding a cat, an image that became the poster child for the campaign to pass the first statewide law guaranteeing homeless kids access to school, legislation now in effect across the entire nation.

The Charlie Book: 60 Ways to Help Homeless Kids, written by Diana Bowman, a nationally prominent expert on homeless children, contains photos by Diane Nilan, former shelter director at Hesed House in Aurora, one of the people responsible for the homeless education laws. Nilan founded HEAR US 12 years ago and has been on the road since then, living in a small camper, chronicling homeless children and youth.

HEAR US will sell the books for $10, with proceeds supporting this unique nonprofit’s efforts to expand the common perception of homelessness to include children and youth. The 24-page Charlie Book gives practical suggestions to help kids and families. Nilan said, “This is a perfect tool for shelters, faith communities, scout troops, community organizations and individuals who want to make an impact in their community. When I ran the PADS shelter I would have loved to be able to hand the book to people who expressed sincere desire to help families and youth.”

This is the 3rd concert George Winston has done to benefit HEAR US. Nilan met up with George in Seattle recently at one of his performances. “I’m awed a musician of his prominence gives so generously to causes of homelessness and hunger,” she said. Winston has asked those attending the concert to bring donations of food for Loaves & Fishes Community Services, a Naperville-based agency providing food and services to those in need.

Nilan will be in the Naperville area for a short time before taking off for Florida to present at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth’s annual conference on the new HEAR US effort, Yay Babies! According to Nilan, most people have no idea that over 1 million homeless babies and toddlers, mostly with their families, struggle to survive without enough formula or diapers. Her 2-minute Yay Babies! public service video calls attention to this little population.

Naperville was “ground zero” for the birth of this important civil rights legislation that guarantees access to school for over 1.3 million children and youth without homes. Naperville area legislators, educators, and activists were involved in this campaign in 1993-94, including Nilan. “We’ve got ‘skin in the game’ on making sure this law works and that policymakers pay attention to the needs of families and youth in homeless situations,” stated Nilan. She’s coming back to make good on that promise. 

Information about ticket and book sales:  

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