Bridging a Gap


Marillac St. Vincent has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season. The children, families, and individuals who work with us have many accomplishments to celebrate this year. Kristina Ballard is a great example.

After graduating from Christ the King College Prep, Kristina's life was put on hold when she learned she was pregnant and was kicked out of her home. She immediately joined Project Hope, our program for pregnant and parenting teens. She was assigned a Doula Birthing Coach who worked with Kristina to prepare her for motherhood and to resume her dream of going to college to become a nurse. She remained in the program throughout her pregnancy while also going to school and maintaining a part-time job.

When Kristina went into labor, her doula was the only person in the maternity ward advocating on her behalf as she faced the prospect of dying from childbirth due to complications from preeclampsia.

Since giving birth to her beautiful daughter, Nala, in March 2017, Kristina is back in good health, and Nala is happy and healthy. Fortunately for Kristina, Marillac St. Vincent opened its new birth-to-three classroom, just in time for her to enroll in fall classes at Malcolm X City College and resume her career goals.

This new classroom is one of a very few on the west side of Chicago allowing us to serve infants as young as 6 weeks. For the first time, Marillac St. Vincent has a bridge between Project Hope and our Early Childhood Program, allowing mothers like Kristina to build a life for their families. With this support, Kristina can continue to pursue her Certified Nursing Assistant license and her bachelor’s degree in Nursing, knowing that her baby is receiving high-quality care in a safe and loving environment.

Nala has entered our Continuity of Care model where she will receive individualized support from the same teachers for the next three years. Kristina believes this rare opportunity for infants has already had a significant impact by setting Nala ahead of other children. Nala is breaking through developmental barriers thanks to the care she is receiving in the classroom and thanks to the care Kristina received in Project Hope.

In 2018, Marillac St. Vincent will open four additional classrooms; two for infants and two for toddlers. This will help us serve more moms like Kristina in the coming years by providing them the security of a continuous and uninterrupted educational track.

Kristina and Nala continue to succeed with the support of Marillac St. Vincent’s programs. Not only does Kristina receive guidance from a Project Hope parent educator, but a licensed social worker has been working with her to address Nala’s needs based on her observations in Nala’s classroom. Once a month, Kristina has been loading up on healthy groceries from our food pantry, and we are making sure she has everything she needs to make Christmastime special for her and Nala.

Kristina’s story illustrates that service to the working poor must happen on a continuum. Thanks to the financial support of our community, Marillac St. Vincent has been able to offer Kristina and thousands of other children, families, and individuals a broad scope of support to help break the cycle of poverty. It can take a long time to break that cycle, and we need committed partners by our side.

To continue supporting mother’s like Kristina, children like Nala, and many more, please consider making a gift this holiday season to Marillac St. Vincent Family Services.

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