Board Member Spotlight: Liz Pham

Liz Pham is a member of the IIF Board of Directors and a valuable member of Team IIF! You can read more about her in her bio under "Our Team".

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born in Vietnam, our family immigrated to Canada when I was 3 years old, I have lived in Winnipeg most of my life. I am the Director of Operations for Priority Restoration, a mid-size privately owned company, specializing in insurance related restoration services for both commercial and residential customer in emergency and non-emergency disaster recovery response situations. We help people get their lives back when the unexpected happens.

How did you first hear about the Israel Idonije Foundation?

I have been friends with the Idonije Family for a long time, and when Izzy was interested in bringing some of the programming to Canada, I was wanted to be part of his vision to help improve communities here. We were still running the Foundation out of Izzy’s garage when we held our first All-Star Football camp in Winnipeg!

As a member of the Board of Directors, how do you support the foundation?

I support the foundation by bringing awareness of our organization and the programs we support, along with our mission. Locally here, I help Project Manage our Annual All-Star Football Camp, we have incredible volunteers that support the camp year after year, that it runs on its own, we are lucky!

Why did you choose to become a part of Team IIF?

I chose to become a part of Team IIF because I believe in the mission. Throughout the years I have enjoyed meeting all the individuals we have impacted, and it has been invaluable.

What would you say to others to encourage them to support the Israel Idonije Foundation?

Come out to some of our events, hear the stories, meet those we have impacted, volunteer your time with us, you will see how much this will change your life as much as it does for those we support

What is your favorite part of being a Board Member?

The amazing team we have, including all of our volunteers. I feel privilege to work with these talented people.

Blog Spotlight: Judge White

Judge White is a member of the IZZYz KIDz After School Program who was selected to participate in the Youth Leaders Summer Internship where students are exposed to career softskills like personal branding, networking, elevator pitches and administrative support, as well as participating in job shadowing in a field of their interest. Judge spent 7 weeks this summer with EFT Performance and supporting IIF.

Tell us a little bit about yourself :

My name is Judge White Jr. I am from the south side of Chicago. I am 13 years going into 8th grade at Jonh H. Vanderpoel . My interest is playing basketball. I am a participant in the IZZYz KIDz After School Program and was selected to be part of the IIF Youth Leaders Summer Internship this summer.

Tell us a little bit about the program you are involved in:

The Youth Leaders Summer Internship program that I am involved in is wonderful. The Israel Idonije Foundation has given me an opportunity to do what I want in life by letting me do lots of things such as training with professional athletes. My job shadowing working with EFT Sports Performance professionals was my favorite thing of all.

What was something you learned from your summer reading?

As part of program, the youth leaders read the book, How Long Must I Cry, a collection of interviews on violence in communities in Chicago.

I learned that everyone needs to stick together. We need to start a new movement so that the violence will not happen again.

What is one of the most valuable things you learned this summer?

The most valuable thing I have learned this summer is to do your best and to better myself to do great things for the rest of my life. I also learned about networking and that gives you more opportunity.

Blog Spotlight: Tristan Slemmons

Tristan Slemmons is a long-time supporter of the foundation who has leveraged her network and position at Bank of America to support the foundation, volunteer and bring new individuals to IIF events.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Tristan Slemmons. While I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota, I consider Chicago home. I am the Community Relations Manager for Chicago with Bank of America.

How did you first heard about IIF?

I was first introduced to the Israel Idonije Foundation in 2010 as he was recognized as a Bank of America Local Hero. The Local Heroes program was a Bank of America award that annually recognized 5 stellar individuals for their work in the community. A selection panel selected Israel and 4 others that year among 75 applications. I believe Israel’s story resonated and was chosen because he is passionate about service and youth and sincerely making a difference.

We partnered on an event for the students of his First Down Program at Shedd Aquarium. Like many people who run organizations, Izzy was there. Unlike many who run organizations, he was truly involved with the kids. He knew their names, their teachers, their challenges and their stories. For someone who is as busy as he, travels as he, is asked to be everywhere and anywhere, it was clear this was a priority. And he learned it early on from his parents and I believe, is just doing what is natural to him. His excitement got me excited and was on board.

What event(s) have you volunteered at with IIF? Can you share a story from one of them?

As a volunteer for IIF, I have been a part of Shop With A Cop for three years. It is my favorite volunteer event because the message is near to my heart. My father was a St. Paul, MN cop for 26 years. My dad put his life on the line every day, serving the community, and making sure the streets were safe for all and particularly for me and my sister. As he wore the uniform of what is often looked at as the enemy, his only goal was to take care of the community. He cared for others and expressed it in how he served. What I love about this event is that it works to rebuild the relationship between cops and the kids and helps open the dialogue to gain trust and understanding. It is what my father did and he was loved and respected by the community he served, which made a difficult job worth it.

Why is supporting at risk youth so important?

I support at-risk youth because we do not have our choice of family into which we are born and it should not determine our destiny. I grew up in a neighborhood that had its clear challenges and significant lack of opportunity. Fortunately, my mom did something very simple - she gave me a book. Since then I have always loved to read because it took me places beyond my neighborhood street light and corner stop sign. I believe the game changer for me is that I was blessed with parents who worked incredibly hard to change my reality. Had I not had people around me to point me in the right direction or who cared about me, with something as small as handing me a book, I may have a very different story to tell. We never know who may impact our lives and make a difference. For some it could be a parent or a teacher. For others, it might be a Chicago Bear or a Chicago cop.

Either way, IIF is making a difference and I am thrilled to be a part of it!

Project Africa: Final Day in Nyameyiekrom: Tour of Asemko, More School Building and a football match!

This is a piece of a several part blog series documenting the work Team IIF is doing in partnership with Free the Children and Me to We in Ghana, Africa to build a schoolhouse and help instill social and emotional life skills.

Final Day in Nyameyiekrom: Tour of Asemko, More School Building and a football match!

Today the Team began our activities with a tour of a neighboring community called Asemko. Just a few kilometers away from Nyameyiekrom, Asemko is nestled right on the sea and is a fishing village, with the majority of the men sailing out in small boats during the morning’s early hours to catch fish. In Asemko, Free the Children has already built schoolhouses as well as helped renovate a schoolhouse built by another NGO who failed to upkeep the building rendering it unusable for a few years.

Asemko is also in the process of building latrines for its students, part of IIF and Free the Children’s four year plan for Nyameyiekrom. After a quick lunch, Team IIF headed over the Nyameyiekrom for another session of school building, this time mixing cement to form bricks, filling in the mortar on the schoolhouse, and filling the soil around the school perimeter. After an exhausting build session, the team headed down to the community center to play a game of football, or what we Americans call soccer! It was certainly an intense match with the community youth bringing their best moves. After the game, the community bid farewell to Team IIF with promises of keeping in touch and seeing each other next year!

Some words from Izzy: “Being able to experience the lives of community members in Asemko was an incredible experience, especially to see how this fishing community differed from Nyameyiekrom. The community members were extremely welcoming and eager to show us their ways of capturing resources as we practiced throwing fishing nets with the men who do this for a living. The sights and the people of the village were beautiful. Afterwards, we got to work on solidifying the foundation of the school in Nyameyiekrom. With our team pick-axing and shoveling away, I said to everyone “Let’s do it! Let’s finish this!” And it was incredible, we got the entire base of the school completed. After much hard work, we went on to play a game of soccer with kids from the village. Despite how exhausted we were, it was a blast running around with the kids! Beautiful way to end the day.”

Some words from Marie: “Today was filled with many incredible experiences! It was very cool to visit Asemko and learn more about their community and what Nyameyiekrom will be closer to in a few years. You wouldn’t believe it but learning about latrines was very interesting! This afternoon our last session of school building was amazing! Seeing how far the school has come in a few short days as well as gaining a new found appreciation for construction was quite the experience. To perfectly end our day, we had a great soccer match. Those kids were talented! We had to try our hardest and it was fun for everyone seeing Izzy challenge the kids during the game. It was hard to leave Nyameyiekrom but it was a good feeling knowing we will be back next year.”

Project Africa: Water Walk and Community Tour

This is a piece of a several part blog series documenting the work Team IIF is doing in partnership with Free the Children and Me to We in Ghana, Africa to build a schoolhouse and help instill social and emotional life skills.

Community Tour and Water Walk

This afternoon Team IIF had a chance to learn more indepth about the livelihood of Nyameyiekrom and their local economy. Nyameyiekrom relies on the production of palm trees and the related products for most of their industry.

Mister Ben and Solomon, two community members lead the team around the village showing how palm is harvested and processed into palm oil. The Team also visited with the community chief, Nana, in his home. Also on the tour, the team saw three boreholes built by the government. These were deep holes dug with attached pumps to produce clean water for the community. Devastatingly, all of the boreholes were non-functioning--in part because of lack of education. The Team then walked women and children to the community’s current water source--a stagnant stream filled with debris, pollution and disease. We then filled up our jerry cans with water to better understand the work women and children go through carrying the contaminated water back to their homes to drink, wash and cook with.

Some words from Izzy: “Water is such a primary resource for this village and to participate in this walk meant so much to our team. Because of lack of education a whole community is now drinking dirty water and 60 percent of diseases are from contaminated water sources. At the end of the day, it was a really amazing experience to participate in the walk as well as tour the community and learn more about how they live and how much a clean water well and education will mean to them was incredible!"

Some words from Kristin: “The lack of adequate education on how to upkeep the community’s three boreholes have left them to rely on an opening of still, insect-infected waters near the village center. Participating in the water walk was such a key insight for our team to experience because that made us realize how much of an essential resource water is to the growth and development and well-being of their community. This water source is one used for a variety of daily activities, such as bathing, cooking, cleaning, and drinking. We’ve taken on the responsibility of ensuring the appropriate education on how to access clean water for the betterment of the community.”

Project Africa: School Building

This is a piece of a several part blog series documenting the work Team IIF is doing in partnership with Free the Children and Me to We in Ghana, Africa to build a schoolhouse and help instill social and emotional life skills.

School Building & Being a Part of the Community

Today Team IIF rose early and headed to the school grounds to begin work. At the site, there is one existing schoolhouse and one temporary structure made of bamboo. Izzy had a chance to chat with students who were on break and show them pictures of what American Football is and talk about what they are learning.

This included a few games, poetry readings and quizzing the students on their lessons. Next, the team put on our hard hats, gloves and glasses and got ready to work. We spent the morning mixing cement, rocks and sand, and transporting it to fill columns on the school. To cap off all our hard work, Nana, the community chief, presented us with some fresh bananas. This afternoon the team will get a tour of the community from Nyameyiekrom’s secretary, Mister Ben, and participate in a water walk to better understand the importance of a clean water well.

Some words from Izzy: “A great first full day! Mixing the cement was no joke! It was incredible spending time with kids before the day started and seeing what their current school conditions are like. To know that in the next 6 months they will be able to learn inside is great. It is so powerful knowing at the end of the day we mixed the cement and formed the columns that will hold up this school. Our work is possible because of support from individuals in Chicago and across the globe--because of your support we are able to create impact and for that we thank you!

Some words from Marie: “Building a school is no easy task! I was amazed at the skill and ease that the community members we worked side by side with were able to carry and build. After a morning of labor under the hot sun, I had an incredible appreciation for the progress that has already been made at the school and what it will bring the community. I really enjoyed learning how the community elders and members cleared dense palm trees and erected a school garden that will encourage youth attendance. Every detail of the school and its construction has been debated and supported by the community—down to a 3D model of what the finished construction will look like. Their investment and dedication to their youth’s education is clear on every level.

Project Africa: First Visit to Nyameyiekrom

This is a piece of a several part blog series documenting the work Team IIF is doing in partnership with Free the Children and Me to We in Ghana, Africa to build a schoolhouse and help instill social and emotional life skills.

First visit to Nyameyiekrom

Today Team IIF had our first visit to Nyameyiekrom. The first stop on the visit was the old schoolhouse in the community, made from bamboo. The team then received a warm welcome from the entire community including the introduction of community leadership, the chief, and all the school children. It was a day of high energy and excitement and the team was early to bed…tomorrow we start work on the schoolhouse!

Some words from Izzy: “Today we received a warm welcome from community. It was great seeing the old school and seeing their excitement for us and to share their vision for education and betterment of community. We all really enjoyed the welcome, which included plenty of singing and dancing. Tomorrow we are helping construct the school. Over all the years of Project Africa, this is one of the most exciting components, to help the community hand in hand and side by side.

Some words from Halleemah: “Today we got a glimpse of the landscape of Nyameyiekrom as well as its people and I’m really excited that we will have the opportunity to impact both this week. Entering the community and being greeted by dozens of hands of the youth was such a powerful experience. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow’s building and the water walk.

Project Africa: Arrival

This is a piece of a several part blog series documenting the work Team IIF is doing in partnership with Free the Children and Me to We in Ghana, Africa to build a schoolhouse and help instill social and emotional life skills.


Team IIF has arrived safely in Ghana! After over 24 hours of international travel, many hours of in country travel, and one long customs line, we have settled in to Takoradi, Ghana, the major city next to the community of Nyameyiekrom. The weather is hot but the team is eager to get to work visiting our schoolhouse and community.

Some words from Izzy: “We arrived here safely! It was a great trip! After settling in at our eco-lodge accommodations on the beach, we had a chance to connect with our Free the Children facilitators Mike and Robin, who will guide our days in the community. Ghana is beautiful and we can’t wait to get to work!”

Some words from Kristin: “We finally made it! The community of Nyameyiekrom and the sights of Ghana are more beautiful than words can say. So glad to finally be in Ghana, settled in, and now we can get to work on advancing the education system of the community. Looking forward to what we can accomplish in the next few days!”

IIF Partner Spotlight: Molise PR

Molise PR is a major supporter of IIF. Through their extensive list of clients and amazing team, Molise PR has partnered with IIF for several events including Shop with a Cop and the All Star Camps. For more information, visit

Tell us a bit about yourself:

Molise PR is a public relations, social media and marketing communications firm in Chicago. We specialize in merging traditional with digital and emerging platforms.

We represent clients such as fellow IIF partners Gino's East and Real Urban Barbecue; plus Garrett Popcorn Shops, Gene & Georgetti, AKIRA, Factor 75, Devon Seafood, the Shops of Long Grove, the Driehaus Museum, Michelle Durpetti Events and many more. We've had our fair share of glamorous moments, like working with plenty of celebs, and red carpet grand opening projects like Perillo Rolls Royce and Maserati Chicago.

We also proudly support other non-profits and charitable initiatives like Imerman Angels, Step Up Women's Network, the Chicago Auto Show First Look for Charity gala, Dancing with Chicago Celebrities and Healthy Schools Campaign.

How did you first learn of IIF?

We first met Israel Idonije a couple years ago when we worked together on a business story in Men's Book magazine. The feature touched on his passion and laser focus on the mission to support at-risk youth in Chicago and beyond. It was then we realized this organization was genuinely impacting individual lives and benefiting the community at large, and we wanted to be a part of it.

What has been your favorite event/project with the Foundation?

We love Shop with a Cop, when we work with Gino's East to feed pizzas to the kids and cops just prior to the holidays.

The All Star Football Camp is a blast in the summer. We get a kick out of watching all the kids learn and apply themselves while still being free to simply act like kids. Witnessing grown ups like Israel also act like kids on the field is equally entertaining.

One of our cherished memories is distributing turkeys and trimmings to families for Thanksgiving in partnership with Chicago Housing Authority.

Why is supporting at risk youth so important?

The NY Times printed an article in 2013 about studies showing that communities like Chatham are so successful, even in a recession, because they have a "strong collective identity" and "high social cohesion." Neighbors there ranked the behavior and upbringing of children as their first priority. With budget cuts in the school system, and ever changing economic conditions, individuals and businesses must pitch in and contribute to their own neighborhoods, with the entire city serving as our own backyard.

We've been blessed to spend quality time with at-risk youth and we've learned firsthand how bright, ambitious and talented they are. When provided with the right resources and guidance, they are on track to become the next community leaders. The circle of benevolence for generations to come starts right here with our actions, right this very minute.

What would you say to others who are thinking of getting involved with IIF?

RIGHT NOW, do it people! It's an amazing team.

IIF Partner Spotlight: Fame Production Group

Fame Production Group is IIF's 2014 Media Partner and we can't get enough of their amazing work! CEO Kristin Williams took the time to offer this reflection on the upcoming year. Find out more about FAME at:

Tell us a bit about FAME Production Group:

FPG is a full service digital marketing agency. We manage brands and execute our clients’ digital strategiesthrough our suite of in­house services. Our key service areas include: web, creative, production, advertising and experiential.

How did you first learn of IIF?

I learned about IIF from my fellow Howard Bison, Halleemah Nash (CEO of IIF). She shared with me heroverall vision and branding goals for IIF. I jumped on the opportunity to support her and the rest is history! Halleemah’s expertise combined with the amazing philanthropic work at IIF is positioning the foundation as the new gold standard in the nonprofit world.

What has been one of your favorite projects with the Foundation?

I love when FPG is able to utilize our full breadth of services with our clients. It is an effective and beneficial way to brand effectively. We know our clients’ brands front and backwards and understand our their preferences and needs. For IIF, there was not one single project that was my favorite but over time, our ability to have the creative freedom to deliver visuals from billboards to online advertisements to print advertisements and online videos has allowed us to push the envelope and execute a comprehensive digital strategy.

What has been the most interesting thing you have learned about the Foundation since the partnership began

I was unaware of IIF’s dynamic program, Project Africa until I learned about it extensively in FPG’s preparation for the trip. Israel’s participation in years past and the work he leads today for African communities is truly amazing. We are grateful to be able to capture such an impactful experience.

Why is supporting at risk youth so important?

Whom much is given, much is required. I am a firm believer of paying it forward, and when given opportunities, I feel it is our duty to give it right back. Whether that be through our time, financial contributions or providing opportunities for those in need, it is necessary and required. IIF does this 10 fold and the opportunity to support its mission is worth it.

What are you most looking forward to in 2014.

I am looking forward to a year of quality experiences, providing and receiving quality opportunities and continuing and forging quality relationships. My theme for this year is “quality”.

IIF Student Spotlight: Egypt and Tariel

Egypt and Tariel are students in the IZZYz KIDz After School Program who offered the following words on their experience.

Tell us a little about yourself:

E- I think I'm a brave talented bold and intelligent person who is not afraid to chase my dreams.

T- I am a 16 year old that goes to Morgan Park High School. I am smart, athletic, and like to play basketball.

What has been your favorite outing in program and what did you learn?

E- My favorite outing in Izzy Kids was the women's basketball game (Chicago Sky) we attended. I learned about how to work as a team.

T- My favorite outing was to NikeTown. I learned different opportunities so I could work there. Also, I learned a lot of facts about Michael Jordan.

What are some goals you have for your future?

E- I have a goal to become a OBGYN and to be the best one I can.


1. Being a caddie this summer

2. Playing on an AAU basketball team

3. Going to college

Who was your favorite guest speaker? And why?

E- I'm not sure which speaker was my favorite, but I really enjoyed listening to Loni Swain (WGCI Radio Host) speak about her past.

T- My favorite speaker was the man that knew every math problem with 5 seconds (Mike Byster, Brainetics).

What is one thing you will accomplish in 2014?

E- I will like to graduate 8th grade and will like to get enrolled in the best high school I can. Maybe Gwendolyn Brooks another school where I can learn while having fun.

T-Getting my driver's license!

What is something you have learned about the IIF that mean something to you?

E- I learned that Mr. Idonije runs a nonprofit organization and does it out of the kindness of his heart and helps a lot of people in need.

T-I learned how to be more appreciative of everything that is given to me.

IIF Spotlight: Teresa Myers

Teresa Myers is a long-time supporter who donates her Public Relations and Communications services to the foundation. She currently runs marketing and communications for Realis Group.

Tell us a little about yourself:

My name is Teresa Myers. I grew up in the Chicago area, but currently reside in Atlanta. My background is in Communications and Public Relations. I have been leading media relations campaigns, communications plans and marketing projects for 20 plus years for non-profits, start-ups, corporations and small businesses. I have a great husband and two fantastic children. I enjoy helping out where there is a need and have tried to instill the importance of service to my two children.

How did you first hear of the Foundation?

I first learned about IIF and its mission in August 2012. I was honored to share the Foundation's efforts through local and national media.

What has been your favorite event with the Foundation?

Any event in which the children take part is my favorite. It is the best feeling to see the light in their eyes as they interact with Israel and others who truly care about them and their future.

What would you say to others who are thinking of getting involved with IIF?

I would say "Do it!" It's so rewarding to be involved with a foundation that makes a real difference in the lives of others. There are so many ways to help IIF: Volunteering your time at events; sharing your talents -- are you a graphic designer, photographer, caterer, etc; and/or giving monetary donations to support the programs. If you know of place that would provide an enriching field trip experience, IIF is always looking for opportunities for youth in its after-school program. If your business is open to having an intern for a few weeks in the summer, IIF is providing hands-on experiences for youth who have excelled in its programs to have real-life experiences in various fields of interest. Even just following IIF on social media and sharing its news with your friends is a great way to help spread the word.

How have you seen the Foundation grow throughout the years you have been involved?

A few new programs have been added and there is an additional layer of depth to what was already being offered. I look forward to seeing where The Israel Idonije Foundation is in ten years.

IIF Donor Spotlight: Sharbel Shamoon

Sharbel is a tireless sponsor, donor and volunteer for Team IIF! He offered this reflection on the foundation:

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Born and raised on the north side of Chicago, I graduated from Lane Tech Prep School with honors before earning a Bachelors of Science degree in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). I am private mortgage banker with Perl Mortgage, and have a decade of mortgage experience. Currently residing in River North and when not working or helping non-profits, I spend time exercising at the East Bank Club and spending time with my family, especially with my two nephews Christian & Jacob.

How did you first heard about IIF?

I first heard of the Israel Idonije Foundation when the Executive Director of the ASAP foundation Micaeh Johnson introduced me to IIF and Israel Idonjie. My team and I had just finished volunteering at an ASAP foundation event and Micaeh suggested to my group that we might be a great match with IIF because we are always looking to give back to new organizations that are helping inner city kids.

What event(s) have you volunteered at with IIF? Can you share a story from one of them?

  • Points of Light event (Target)

  • Shop with a Cop

  • Field Trip to Cinespace with IZZYz KIDz

  • Project Africa (donated to help build the school in Ghana)

I really enjoyed the field trip we had at Cinesapce. My good friend is one of the owners of Cinespace and he offered to give IIF a private tour of the studios. Izzy wanted to take the After School Program and show them how there are so many jobs in media other than being an actor or a producer. We also facilitated the donate 10-15 cameras from the neighboring business to our mortgage company to implement a new art program at the Kroc center.

I love how everyone came together and made the best out of the experience. From the cool name tags, to the new cameras that were donated, to the actors/staff that came out and talked to the kids…just a huge success.

There are a lot of great causes to support, why do you choose IIF?

Growing up in the City of Chicago, I was not exposed to opportunities or have mentors that taught me to visual a bigger and brighter future. IIF events/programs allows these young kids dream big and set the right goals.

What would you say to others to encourage them to support the foundation?

Come out as a guest to any of the IIF events and experience what the foundation is about. Once you experience the mission of the foundation through an event you will definitely want to be apart of the foundation. Like they say you have to see it to believe it.

IIF Partner Spotlight: Darlene Harvey and the Salvation Army

Darlene Harvey works for the Salvation Army, IIF's partner for the IZZYz KIDz After School Program.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

My name is Darlene Harvey. I have been a Salvation Army Officer for almost 25 years - which means that I am an ordained minister and an administrator for The Salvation Army. I grew up in the Detroit area and started attending The Salvation Army through their youth programs when I was 8. My family and I live in the Chicago area and I am the Program Development Officer for The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center located in the far south side of Chicago.

How did you first hear about the Israel Idonije Foundation?

I first learned about the Israel Idonije Foundation when their former CEO contacted me asking to come and visit the Kroc Center. When we met, we realized that our missions were very aligned and that we could partner together to provide programming to the youth on the far south side of Chicago.

As a partnering organization, how do you support the foundation?

The Salvation Army and IIF have worked together in providing programming for the youth in the areas of social and emotional learning and development. The foundation provides funding for our after-school programming for our teens. This program helps youth set goals for college and career, learn about conflict resolution, tutoring, financial planning, cultural exposure, and much more. We also have hosted the Israel Idonije Foundation Football and Cheerleading Camp.

Can you tell us a little more about the Kroc Center?

The Salvation Army Kroc Center is a 160,000 square foot facility situated on 33 acres in the West Pullman Community on the far-south side of Chicago. It houses four gyms, a competition pool, a leisure pool, a senior center, teen zone, performing arts center, dance studios, art studios, music rehearsal room, a computer lab, classrooms for after-school programming and tutoring. The Kroc Center was built with money received from Joan Kroc who gave the majority of her estate to The Salvation Army to build state-of-the-art facilities in under-resource communities. Our programming helps participants reach their potentials physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually. It is a place where dreams are birthed, nurtured, and realized! It is an inter-generational center that has something for everybody. Mrs. Kroc's donation has helped us bring hope and light to the community.

What would you say to others to encourage them to support efforts to benefit under-represented youth?

If you invest in youth, you are not only making a great investment for now, but for the future. Youth are leaders today and leaders tomorrow. If communities come together to support efforts of under-represented youth, they will not only help individuals, but whole communities and society. It is a way to bring a future and a hope to a young person and also improve a society. Plus, it personally feels great to give to others!

Can you share a personal story that for you represents what IZZYz KIDz is all about?

I would like to emphasize that the Israel Idonije Foundation represents the person that Israel Idonije is. Not only does the foundation have great goals and vision for how they want to utilize their resources to the best way to make an impact for youth, but Izzy (Israel Idonije) gets involved on a personal level. He gets to know the young people in the program by name. He comes and "hangs" with them in the Teen Zone. He shows an interest in their passions and goals. He relates to them and inspires them. I remember all of the kids gathered around him and him showing them a video on his phone. They love when he visits. They say that he is the nicest, famous person they know. He is such a genuine and sincere person. It is this sincerity that is life-changing and transforming. We thank God for Izzy and his very generous foundation that is making a great impact on our youth!

IIF Spotlight: Derrius Quarles, Board Member

Derrius Quarles is a member of the Israel Idonije Foundation Board of Directors. Also know as the Million Dollar Scholar, Derrius is a huge asset to Team IIF.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

I am a Chicago native and a recent graduate of Morehouse College. My journey before college opened up some amazing doors that allowed me win over a million dollars in scholarships –clearly enough for a full ride to Morehouse. This was huge jumpstart to my collegiate career, where I was able to become an author, travel the world, and become the founder of my own company all in four years. I am currently the CEO of Million Dollar Scholar and reside in Chicago for now. I have been having a great time in the city and love my role as a board member.

How did you first hear about the Israel Idonije Foundation?

Sitting across from Common and Harry Belafonte, I was at the table with Israel in April of 2012 at an gala hosted by the Common Ground Foundation. Israel had the great opportunity of sitting right next to each other and having dialogue about Chicago, football, Africa, and the work IIF does. It was an amazing night and I was honored to be in the presence of men of such high character.

As a member of the Board of Directors, how do you support the foundation?

Beyond the universal duties of a Board Member that encompasses oversight, planning, and contribution, I specifically focus on developing the Chicago after school program–a core program of the foundation, to make it more robust and impactful on the students.

Why did you choose to become a part of Team IIF?

I love Chicago and I am discouraged often in regards to the tragedies our youth experience related to violence and the difficulties of unemployment and undereducation. Team IIF is committed to working for these youth by helping them gain the skills and awareness needed to better their own lives and more importantly the community around them. For me, the choice to become a part of the official team was quite an easy one.

What would you say to others to encourage them to support the Israel Idonije Foundation?

The youth our IIF programming reaches are amazing and have great potential. If you meet these students – see their smiles, hear their ambitions, you will understand the greatness of the work we are doing. If you haven’t met them though, take my word for it. Beyond the youth, IIF is an organization characterized by passionate and servant leadership, from the CEO on down, the leadership in place is allowing for high impact with low input and waste.

What is your favorite part of being a Board Member?

Other than being the youngest person on Board…I love the fact that I get the behind the scenes and holistic view of how a non-profit organization is operated. Gaining such exposure at this point in my life, is allowing me to more holistically understand that the meaning of leadership at its core is the ability to create great teams and this Foundation (both the staff and board) are quite clearly amazing teams with great leaders.

IIF Staff Spotlight: Paulie Bassin

Paulie Bassin is an intern with the Israel Idonije Foundation. She sat down to give us the following reflection on her time with IIF.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and I currently live in Lincoln Park. Along with being the IIF Intern, I’m also a part of the Chicago Bears Event and Entertainment Staff and I’m the assistant to the director at the Villa D’ Citta which is a boutique bed and breakfast in the heart of Lincoln Park. I went to Indiana University for two years and just began my junior year at DePaul University. I am studying Public Relations with a minor in Event Management. In my spare time I like to cook, watch sports and spend time with my family and friends.

How long have you been working for IIF?

I became a part of Team IIF in September 2013 as the Project Management Intern.

What is the best thing about being apart of Team IIF?

Without a doubt the best thing about being a part of Team IIF is the staff itself. Everyone is so passionate and committed to the work we do for people in the community, it’s very inspiring. I’m lucky to work closely with three such amazing and talented women who I am learning so much from. After only a few months I’ve already been exposed to such change and positivity that I am continuously amazed at every this Foundation stands for. It has been an incredible experience so far.

Can you share a story of working with program participants that reminded you why you love your job?

The first time I was introduced to IZZYz KIDz I was floored. They were very eager to share their dream boards with the guest speaker. I was amazed and inspired by what these kids have planned for themselves; everything from chef to rapper to doctor. It really put into perspective that everything the Foundation stands for is being set into action through our team and these kids.

As a staff member, what would you say to IIF's donors and supporters?

I would say thank you, thank you, thank you. Nothing we do would be possible without the selfless support from our amazing donors. Even though I have only been on board a short time, I have really been able to see what what our donor’s generosity and involvement does for IIF and I am grateful.

What are you looking forward to most in 2014?

In 2014 I’m most excited to learn more about the events portion from the outstanding Events Coordinator, Kristin Ignozzi, as we prepare for our annual summer fundraiser. Prior to that, I’m eager to begin planning for the 2014 All Star Camp as it will be my first event that I am the point of contact. It will be great to learn the process of planning an event start to finish and watching a successful event unfold.

Question from Liz Pham:

Why did you choose to Intern with IIF?

I chose to intern with IIF because of the guiding principles of Social and Emotional Learning. I am from Chicago and I hold the city and the people to the highest regard and I think what the foundation does for those in underserved communities is outstanding. I also am very interested in the management of events and I thought learning about the event process by way of Non-profit would be very helpful to me in the future. All in all, I wanted to do my part to give back to this beautiful city and further my learning and I could not be happier or more thankful for this opportunity I have been presented with by the Israel Idonije Foundation.

IIF Volunteer Spotlight: CJ Clayton

CJ Clayton is a long-time volunteer for the foundation, especially for the Chicago All Star Camps. Here is her reflection on IIF.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

Although I grew up and went to high school in Crete, Illinois and live there now with my family, I've lived all over the country since my graduation from Purdue University. While at Purdue I studied communication and was fortunate enough to do an internship under Michael Veeck at the Chicago White Sox. The next several years of my career were spent doing public relations work for various professional sports teams including the California Surf, NASL Championship Chicago Sting and the Memphis Americans. During that time I had the opportunity to meet, interview and work with a large number of professional athletes.

I've always done volunteer work, which started at Purdue when I was the Vice President of Service for the national service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. My first charitable work after college was with Harvey-born comedian Tom Dreesen, where for 15 years I handled the public relations for his annual fundraiser "A Day for Darlene" which was named for Tom's sister, Darlene, and benefited the Multiple Sclerosis Society. Part of my job was to work with all the celebrities who would come in annually for our 3 day fundraising event. I got to meet and work with all kinds of wonderful professional athletes, actors and actresses and musicians. That list included some very well known people: Jim Brown/NFL, Jim McMahon/NFL, Mike Schmidt/MLB, Boom Boom Mancini/Boxer, Smokey Robinson/Singer-Songwriter, Frankie Avalon/Singer-Actor, Dennis Farina/Actor, Betty Thomas/Actress, Adam Baldwin/Actor and athlete turned reality star, Bruce Jenner among others. They all donated their time to be part of this annual event and over the years we raised millions of dollars to help find a cure for MS.

I currently work as an independent marketing communications consultant for a small group of clients for whom I do the creative work for their business. I do everything from writing strategic marketing plans, creating ads, designing and securing corporate giveaways to writing and producing radio and television commercials like the ones done recently with former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka. Additionally I've been coaching high school varsity cheerleaders for the past eight years where my cheerleaders have become "my girls" since I have two sons and no daughters of my own.

I volunteer on a number of committees at Illinois Lutheran Schools and have worked charity events for the NFL Alumni Association/Chicago, ABCD (After Breast Cancer Diagnosis) and Dwyane Wade's Wade's World Foundation.

How did you first hear about the Israel Idonije Foundation?

I learned of IIF through Izzy himself. I met Izzy through a mutual friend who invited me to Izzy's football camp. After talking with Izzy I realized what a special, down-to-earth and selfless young man he was. Having worked with celebrities throughout my career I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly and Izzy is BETTER than good! He impressed me from the first time I met him and I knew I wanted to use whatever skills I had to help him grow his work and so I invited him to do some TV and radio commercials for my one-time grocery store client, Moo & Oink. While some of the Bears players poked fun at him for doing Moo & Oink commercials, between those commercials, his exemplary play on the football field, his work in the community and a wonderful Foundation staff, his popularity and exposure in Chicago grew as did my involvement with IIF. My client, Moo & Oink became a sponsor of the IIF football camp feeding all the camp attendees for several years and I was one of the ones happily serving the food.

There are a lot of great causes to support, what made you select the Israel Idonije Foundation as a cause you believe in?

There are lots of great causes and I support as many as I can with my God given talents and/or connections. My dad shared a life lesson with me as a teen that I now understand and that stays with me today. He said, "Never give of your time, your talents or your money expecting to 'get'. If you give to get, you're setting yourself up for failure and giving for the wrong reason. Give because you CAN and because when you lay your head down on your pillow at night you know you have been the best person you can be for that day."

As I mentioned, I have been privileged to work with a great many celebrities throughout my career and I can say quite honestly NO ONE has ever impressed me as much as Izzy has with his selfless efforts! He is genuinely one of the most giving people I've ever met and the fact that he's a professional athlete with tremendous demands on him, impresses me even more. When I took him to guest lecture at Columbia College in their sports journalism class, one of the students asked him if he'll miss football when he's done playing. His answer shocked me and was one I feel few pro athletes would ever give. He stated, "I've never let football define me. I'll be ready to move on to the next phase of my life working with kids full time when my football career ends." That statement showed me a lot about his character and impressed me as well as the room of students and professor with which he shared it.

How have you seen your donation make an impact?

I have seen my donation of my time and various resources, including those of my clients, used to benefit thousands and thousands of young people. I've watched kids' faces light up when Izzy walks in a room and knows them by name. I've watched them receive awards for academic achievement from former Mayor Daley and I've seen kids fed and taught skills that will last them a life time.

What would you say to others to encourage them to support the Israel Idonije Foundation?

I would say if you've ever met or watched Izzy, you would know he's the "real deal". He's someone who does things for the right reasons and has surrounded himself with the same kind of people who give of themselves to help better the lives of others. Anyone who wants to know their time and resources are being used wisely should support the Israel Idonije Foundation.

IIF Spotlight: Dominic Apraku

Dominic Apraku is the former Youth Empowerment Through Sports Coordinator from Project Africa's efforts in Ghana. He submitted the following reflection on how the Israel Idonije Foundation and Mr. Idonije himself have impacted his life.

I want to take this opportunity to announce my new appointment with Actionaid International Ghana as the District Coordinator for Complementary Basic Education in Tain district of Ghana. All of this happened because of the five key social and emotional life skills Israel Idonije and his foundation taught us. I owe him a lot and will keep the Team IIF spirit wherever I go.

Izzy and Team IIF have been the backbone of my career opportunities. When I met Team IIF, I learned a selfless, dedicated service, love, commitment and service to God and humanity. Team IIF taught me the five social and emotional life skills. Most important was learning to setting a life goal and steps to achieving it. These things I have learned have made me a counselor among my peers and pushed me hard to my 2030 goal of becoming the Voice of the World for Peace and Stability as the UN SEC GEN-2030 17 years from now. Whenever I think of Israel Idonije and Team IIF, I see myself as someone who owes my community and the world a lot. If someone like Izzy who is very popular and busy can find time to serve his country and the rest of the world for me in Ghana to benefit, then I have more to do. IIF for me is not just organization but a MINISTRY that God wants to transform lives in Africa and the rest of the world.

In my district, my team is working to bring 500 out of school children between the ages of 8 and 14 to school after nine months of Complementary Basic Education classes and reintegrate them into formal schools. Izzy had taught me that community development is service to humanity with care and love.

Thank you so much for helping to make life a better place for all. TEAMIIF, Together We Succeed!

IIF Partner Spotlight: Free the Children

Israel Idonije Foundation will travel to West Africa to launch a 5 year partnership with Free The Children’s Adopt a Village Program. Through this platform, IIF will build a schoolhouse, construct clean water systems including latrines and wells, support health awareness programs, and provide resources for sustainable community development in Nyameyiekrom, Ghana.

Through the creation of this partnership, IIF will promote social and emotional learning through platforms of education, health and community development.

Spotlight: Free the Children


Free The Children believes in a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. They work to empower youth to remove barriers that prevent them from being active local and global citizens. In Canada, the US, and the UK, the organization provides comprehensive programs for service learning and active citizenship.


Free The Children’s mission is to create a world where all young people are free to achieve their fullest potential as agents of change. The organization was founded by Craig Kielburger in 1995 when he gathered 11 school friends to begin fighting child labour at the age of 12.

While flipping through the Toronto Star in search of the comics, Craig was struck by a raw, but courageous story of a boy his age named Iqbal. Iqbal Masih was born in South Asia and sold into slavery at the age of four. In his short life, he had spent six years chained to a carpet-weaving loom. Iqbal captured the world’s attention by speaking out for children’s rights.

Eventually, Iqbal’s wide media coverage caught the attention of those who wished to silence him. At 12, Iqbal lost his life defending the rights of children. What Craig learned from Iqbal’s story was that the bravest voice can live in the smallest body. Moved to action, Craig gathered together a small group of his Grade 7 classmates from his Thornhill, Ontario, school and Free The Children was born. Free the children from poverty. Free the children from exploitation. Free the children from the notion that they are powerless to effect change.Those are the messages that sparked Craig’s passion, and continue to fuel the mission of the organization today. Every day the movement grows and every day more young people are free to achieve their fullest potential.

Today, Free The Children is an international charity and educational partner, with more than 1.7 million youth involved in our innovative education and development programs in 45 countries.

Adopt a Village

Too often aid groups focus only on one area of development: water or education or healthcare, etc., rather than what the community really needs: a holistic solution that forever ends poverty. With Adopt a Village, Free the Children’s international development model, there are five core pillars to ending poverty: Education, Water and Sanitation, Health, Alternative Income and Livelihood, and Agriculture and Food Security. Each of these projects serves to enhance the other, ensuring the greatest overall impact in each area of intervention, and achieving long-term sustainability.


schools teach habits of healthy homes, business skills, and how to increase farming output enhances healthcare, alternative income and food security

Clean Water and Sanitation:

preventing water-borne illness enhances healthcare; allowing girls and women to spend less time fetching water and more time attending school or setting-up small business enhances education and alternative income


children healthy to thrive enhances education; quickly treating illness ensures that people do not lose their savings and enhances alternative income

Alternative Income and Livelihood:

profits from small business ensures the community has the means to repair water projects, pay school fees, support medical projects, and re-invest into farms – all of which enhances the sustainability of water & sanitation, education, medical and food security

Agriculture and Food Security:

children at school with a full stomach ready to learn enhances education; a proper diet preventing illness enhances healthcare

Through Adopt a Village, Free the Children seeks the greatest benefit through investing in the community infrastructure. Once a village has these five core pillars, then all members are able to thrive, make individual purchases, and lift themselves forever out of poverty to the point where charity is never again needed.

To learn more, connect with Free the Children

IIF Spotlight: IZZYz KIDZ Goal Setting

The following quotes are pulled from journal entries submitted as part of the IZZYz KIDz After School Program. Learn More

During our focus on Goal Setting we asked our youth to cast a vision for three goals they could reach for over time. The time frame included what they could achieve in 3 month, 1 year, and 5 years.

Kaelyn C.

What I'd like to achieve in 3 months is to have at least 5 letters from high schools that have a good graduation rate.

What I'd like to achieve in 1 year is to be at the high school of my choice doing great as a Freshman.

What I'd like to achieve in 5 years is to be packing up in order to go to Spellman College studying Black History and what I need to become a pediatric nurse.

Jeremiah C.

In three months I plan to make honor roll by report card pickup.

In one year I plan to be improve enough to join the varsity basketball team.

In five years I see myself in a recording studio making hits for the radio. I hope to achieve my goal of rapping in sports , but if I'm not pursuing these goals I will be in college taking class on business management. I hope to own multiple businesses and make millions.

Kimani F.

In three months I plan to have been on the honor roll which I'm really striving for during my first year of high school. I try my hardest to bring up my grades and I will not give up, which is already a success. Sadly I don't know where my grade right now, but I will push no matter the circumstance.

In one year I want to have a great relationship with my teachers. I heard in high school if you have a great relationship with your teachers if you ask they may be willing to write you a letter of recommendation to a college or even a different high school you want to go to. In order to do that I have to complete all my assignments, ask questions and participate in all school or class activities.

In five years I'm going to be out of high school and on my way to a college or university starting with online classes. But before that I most want to fulfill my biggest goal, which is to become a gospel singer. I'm going to pray and work my way up just like I do through school, but if anything this must be done.