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Help-a-Stranger program to help DuPage family spend quality time together

The “Austin” family lives in West Chicago. Both parents work full time to support their three active children, two elementary-aged boys and a baby sister, and the whole family participates in counseling through Metropolitan DuPage’s WeGo Together For Kids program.

“They are actively engaged in our services and always make the efforts to implement the support strategies offered within the therapy sessions,” says Program Director Mariola Kasper.

WEGO Together for Kids is a collaboration mobilizing West Chicago schools and community to address the health, safety and well-being of students and families. Our newest partner, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, invests through its United Way Neighborhood Network.

The parents and grandparents are committed to the dream of providing their kids with a better life than the one they knew growing up; they work hard day-to-day to support the family’s needs, and they encourage the children to be their best selves in order to achieve their academic goals and open doors to a variety of opportunities as adults.

The family has experienced obstacles along the way to self-sufficiency, and is committed to making positive lifestyle changes in order to achieve everyone’s goals. One obstacle they face, however, goes beyond basic needs: with two parents’ full-time schedules and a new baby at home, the Austin family struggles to spend quality time together.

“Despite these obstacles,” Mariola says, “the parents have not given up.”

This is where BMO Harris Bank’s Help-a-Stranger program comes in. The program provides direct services to families and individuals in need, but is unique in that its support goes beyond assisting with basic needs.

One of the Austins’ short-term goals is to increase the amount of time they share together as a family, since it’s been limited recently. Their idea for a solution made the two older children very excited: they decided to develop a weekly family night, when the children get to decide on an activity that the family will do together.

Through the Help-a-Stranger program, BMO Harris employees will support the Austin family in developing ideas for fun and engaging family nights, expanding upon their family time, and even creating opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

The Austin family’s situation is an unfortunately common one, so Metropolitan DuPage hopes to replicate their bonding experience for more families across our DuPage communities.

At its recent Annual Take Action Event, BMO Harris announced Metropolitan DuPage will be one of three local charities selected by its employees to participate in the program. Development Manager Robin Knox and Program Director Mariola Kasper attended and presented at the event, sharing more insight into the services and programs our DuPage Center offers.

*Family’s name changed to protect privacy.