The growing organization Caring Outreach by Parents in Evanston (COPE) held a concert on April 27 at Saint Mary’s Church on Lake Street for a capacity crowd of more than 100 people.
Along with the $175 buy-in to the benefit arranged at Kingsley School – the founding location and nucleus of COPE – the event brought in $1,548 that will fund the grocery delivery program at Kingsley, provide aid for a Walker School family that is being evicted and in which the single mother is seriously ill, and help at least one other family that lost furniture in the recent flooding.
COPE is a “volunteer support network of Evanston parents,” according to its Facebook page, founded in 2011 at Kingsley to help families with urgent or ongoing needs.
The organization’s coordinator and co-founder is Juliet Bond, an Evanston resident since the age of 13, who married her lifelong Evanstonian high-school sweetheart. Ms. Bond holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Illinois and attended Nichols Middle School and Evanston Township High School.
“When someone needs something,” says Ms. Bond, “we can just send out an email. … For illness, when a family might be in need of childcare or meals, volunteers at the family’s school take care of it. … The ability to find ‘stuff’ is collaborative among schools. For bigger things,” COPE works cooperatively district-wide. School social workers help bring families and COPE together when necessary.
Regular programs include delivery of groceries monthly to families who need them. Ms. Bond says, “[W]e try to do as many organic foods as possible, fresh vegetables and fruit and some kind of protein,” as well as recipes. Great Harvest donates bread, and when crops in the Kingsley garden are ripe, vegetables come from there.
At the other end of the spectrum, last year COPE organized a benefit for Dajae Coleman’s family after his shooting death overturned their lives. Dajae’s sister is a Kingsley student; teacher Pamela Weir, who had taught Dajae and the children’s father, was involved in the benefit too.
The value of the program to the community is reflected in the organization’s progress. The number of “satellite” schools is growing, Ms. Bond says. “Six schools are now with COPE; Walker School [just] joined … and Washington a couple months ago.”
The first seeds were sown when a friend of Ms. Bond became ill. “When Rina got sick, I was invited to join the Lotsa Helping Hands website, put up by a member of the Dawes School community. It was just great, because you can use it to … create a community calendar for scheduling activities, ask for help, offer help.”
The organization itself came to fruition not long after. Ms. Bond says, “Our first year at Kingsley, two teachers and two moms became seriously ill with cancer. I got together with this stack-of-dynamite little woman, Clara Stanley, who sees a new person on the playground, approaches them and connects them with the community. She zoned in on me. My daughter was in the class of a teacher with pancreatic cancer, and I told [Ms. Stanley] about my friend.
“I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if the community had a resource that would do this?’ Churches do this, but if you don’t belong to a church, you [don’t have that]. Clara put a bunch of twigs and leaves under my butt and lit them on fire.”
When it came to a name, Ms. Bond says, fellow Kingsley parent Kate Monte suggested “COPE.”
Recently elected District 65 School Board member Candance Chow, Kingsley PTA president at the time, was “really supportive,” says Ms. Bond.
The Kingsley PTA matched them $300; money from that first fundraiser, hosted at the Bonds’ home, went to create a logo and the comprehensive and useful http://evanstoncope.weebly.com/ website. After that, Ms. Chow “put us in touch with a friend of hers at Orrington,” Ms. Bond says, “and they started their own COPE, too.”
Ms. Bond says COPE has just applied for a $3,000 Rotary grant. If COPE receives the grant, a portion of the money may go to a collaborative effort with the nutrition and wellness group Nurture, with whom Dewey School is already a partner.
The rest will support ongoing projects and response to urgent needs.