Help close to home

South suburban spotlight

Angela Johnson’s job is to help families in crisis find the services they need is. But little did she ever imagine she’d be the one in need.

Nine months ago, Johnson and her children were driving home from Pittsburgh when the car broke down in Ohio. The family was stranded there for nine days until Johnson’s father could pick them up. Even worse, the car never came home, leaving Johnson stranded indefinitely.

For seven months, Johnson, the mother of five sons ages 19, 16, 14, 12 and 7, says she borrowed her father’s car to get to and from work but couldn’t take it more often because he needed it himself.

“I felt trapped with no car,” says Johnson."How would I get to work or do the other things I had to do?” Johnson’s son, a second-grader, has special needs and requires therapy three times a week at Ingalls Hospital."With no car, I had to stop taking him.”

Johnson, a family support specialist for Head Start’s Aunt Martha’s Riverdale site, felt she was short- changing her sons."Football, band, until now I never missed anything,” says Johnson."It was breaking my heart.”

In January, ChildServ opened its newest Family Service Center in Harvey. There Johnson found Ways to Work, which helps working parents obtain a car.

“For these parents, this is their last hope,” says Jerrica Woullard, the caseworker who runs the program."They have bad or no credit. We teach them about budgeting, finances and credit and we help them get a loan. Angela Johnson needed a car and Ways to Work helped her get one.”

Johnson said she feels free again."My son is back to going to his therapy and things are back to normal.”

New center

ChildServ’s new Family Service Center in Harvey, 369 East Sibley Blvd., is trying to get new programs started.

The programs include support for grandparents raising their grandchildren, support for teen moms and PEP (Parent Empowerment Program), an interactive educational program geared to teach parents how to be their child’s first educator. It is also considering an on-site tutoring program for kids 12-16. For information, call (773) 239-8530.

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