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Not long after the fire, representatives of the west chicago Public Schools contacted Puente del Pueblo with another opportunity to serve the Timber Lake community: the district 33 board and the teachers’ union were at an impasse after sixteen months of contract negotiations. They believed a strike was imminent.
For many working families in the community, it would be a significant hardship if their children suddenly required care during normal school hours.
The district’s desire was to provide emergency childcare services for families who would be most impacted. Puente del Pueblo was asked to partner with the district to provide that care specifically for elementary school students who lived in Timber Lake.
As anticipated, the strike went into effect in early February, and as requested, Puente del Pueblo offered childcare services to Timber Lake families for the three days of the strike, providing programming for twelve children on Monday, twenty-two on Tuesday, and thirty children by wednesday.
Matthew McNiel, director of Puente del Pueblo, was blessed both by the opportunity to provide for the community and to see God’s provision for Puente.
“We were so grateful to have the space available in the new facility we acquired last year that gave us the opportunity to do this” he said. “another way that God provided for us was bringing a volunteer teacher to fill an emergency staff absence at that time.”
Wheaton Bible church attender Linda Carlson, a former public school and outreach community center after-school-program teacher, volunteered to teach a classroom, joining regular Puente staff Will Franco and Nena Silva. Edguardo Vega, a regular volunteer in Puente del Futuro, served as the program’s coordinator.
Puente’s priority during the strike, Matthew says, was making sure the families Puente serves were supported during a time when many would have faced a great deal of hardship in finding emergency childcare.
Carmen Marin, whose two daughters attended the program—and are also part of Puente’s regular after-school program—thanked the Puente team.
”I am very grateful for the help they gave me,” she said. “May God give them continued willingness to help.”
Though Puente’s staff and volunteers were prepared to continue the program, an agreement was reached in time for students to return to school on that Thursday morning.
“We appreciate the hard work of both the school board and the teachers in coming to an agreement” Matthew said, “and all that both groups do to serve