What once stood as another abandoned building is now home to a youth mentoring organization. Because I Care Inc. works with kids between the ages of 4 and 18.
“I want to be the person in Austin who works with youth of all ages and be someone to hear them, their needs and dreams,” said Margaret Spearman, director of Because I Care Inc.
Until the program gets more funding, Spearman says the number of participants will hover at about 13 participants, though the group is keeping a waiting list.
“The mentoring program will allow young people to come and receive homework help, play games, learn job readiness skills, college readiness skills, laugh, and be safe,” said program director Patrick Rogers, who is Spearman’s cousin. “We are constantly seeking funds, and we hope to acquire a few grants.”
The organization has partnerships with DePaul University and Dominican University, with both institutions providing student mentors. Nearly 30 DePaul students have participated through a service learning class.
Student mentor Tim Rolph has been with the organization since last fall. He’s mentoring a 5-year-old girl and a few of her cousins.
“I help the girls with their homework and sometimes just laugh about silly things,” said Rolph. “And I really enjoy every second of it.”
Rolph, an Elk Grove Village resident, said he knew very little about Austin before getting involved.
“I was told that mentoring in Austin could mean a lot. After touring the community with my class, I realized that we don’t need to rely on unevenly distributing funds and resources from the city. This is a self-made, empowering solution,” said Rolph.
The program is located at 5811 W. Chicago Ave., across the street from where Spearman’s husband, James, has operated a tax preparation business.
The program took off in earnest after Margaret Spearman retired from teaching in July 2009.
“I want Because I Care Inc. to be a real presence in the Austin community,” said Delundon Spearman, a program coordinator and the Spearman’s nephew.
“In the African-American community, the new generation is lost,” Delundon Spearman said. “The only way we can keep people from taking our community is if we claim it and own it.”
Malcolm Crawford, president of the Austin African American Business Networking Association attended an open house last fall and donated the organization’s first $100.
“Austin needs to put its funds back into the community, and that starts with funding programs that will teach them positive ways to live,” said Crawford. “I donate to them because I care. No pun intended,” he added with a smile.