Neighborhood Heroes: Kids Off the Block in Chicago, IL
By Ring on August 25, 2021
Diane Latiker moved to the Roseland neighborhood in Chicago in 1988. When she and her family arrived, she remembers a dangerous neighborhood where she saw daily violence on her block and was concerned about her family's safety.
“It was rough, but we got through it,” Diane recalls. “The neighborhood started calming down, and we started to bond with our neighbors.”
Over time, as she had her own eight children and saw what their peers were going through as they got older, Diane realized that there were kids in the neighborhood who needed a safe place to go to help them stay out of trouble. So, she decided to do what she could to create one for them.
The pivotal moment happened thanks to one of her own children, “Aisha, my youngest daughter, she was 13 years old, and I found out that the gangs were recruiting the boys, they were failing at school. One day, I just let them into my house.“
What started out as helping a few kids with homework in her own living room turned into a growing nonprofit that’s making a difference in the lives of thousands. Today, Kids Off the Block’s (KOB) mission is to provide at-risk, low-income youth positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, truancy, violence, and the juvenile justice system.
While Diane initially had no intention of becoming a community activist, she quickly realized how dire the need was.
“I had no idea how much it was needed until all those kids that I didn't know started knocking on my door and asking for help,” Diane Latiker.
It took some time and hard work for Diane and the kids to win the hearts and support of their Roseland neighbors. "At first, I didn’t have any community support," she remembers. But as the organization stayed consistent with doing good in the neighborhood — like picking up litter, planting flowers, and running errands for the elderly — people started to see the beauty of what Diane had created.
“The kids were doing a lot of things — good things,” she says. “This organization built respect, honor, and over the years, the community just started reaching out. They started helping, and they started wanting us to help them, too.”
Changing Lives Though Art, Sports and Education
Since Diane started Kids Off the Block in 2003, the program has served over 3,000 members, promoting good health, education and encouraging personal growth. But most importantly, it’s transformed the lives of youth in Roseland by giving them a safe haven and community support.
“The community wants to be better, it's just they don’t have as much resources as we need to do better,” says Denzel, a KOB participant. (pictured in the top image)
"What I learned from Kids Off the Block is to be a pillar of my community, a philanthropist, and a leader," Tre.
Since its inception, Kids Off the Block has given young people a chance to learn new skills and get involved in the Roseland community. Through arts, music, sports, and mentoring programs, they have been exposed to new experiences and built relationships that have had a lasting impact.
“I used to get in trouble a lot, fighting every day. My mom actually changed that around, got me into basketball. Ms. Diane got me into more basketball, and was just there for me through it all, no matter what,” DaQwon.
One of the most popular programs that Kids Off the Block offers is the Summer Basketball League. It hosts over 300 students from across Chicago, giving them a safe place to build bonds and participate in fun activities.
“I love to play basketball because it keeps me off the streets,” says program participant DaQwon, who admits that playing basketball has been life-changing for him.
To continue providing opportunities for kids like Denzel, Tre and DaQwon, Kids Off the Block is creating a technology center that will be a place where they can develop career skills, both while they’re in school and after they graduate.
“We want to make sure that in the future, Kids Off the Block can go to even the most adverse, disconnected young person and say, ‘We can help you,’ and have the resources to do just that,” Diane says.
Ring and Kids Off the Block Team Up to Support Youth in Chicago and Help Make Neighborhoods Safer
To support Kids Off the Block in advancing its mission, Ring made a donation to help them build the new technology center that will serve 250-300 kids per year, offering a variety of educational and extracurricular activities, like coding and entrepreneurial workshops.
“I think the similarity between Ring and Kids Off the Block is that we both want to keep people safe,” Diane Latiker.
“Our mission here at Ring is to make neighborhoods safer. It’s really important to us to listen, and to learn from community leaders, like Diane, who really understands how best to serve the community in which she lives. And we have a shared desire to make communities better together,” Ring President Leila Rouhi says.
Guided by our commitment to contribute to safer communities, Ring also donated 1,000 Ring Video Doorbells, including free installation and a Ring Protect subscription to local residents in several Chicago neighborhoods selected by Kids Off the Block.
Carastella, one of the recipients, has lived in Roseland for almost 55 years, and she loves that she’s able to use her new Ring Video Doorbell to see what’s going on when she’s away.
“When someone is close — you know. When someone is at your door — you know who’s at your door,” she says. “You know whether it’s a stranger or someone you’re familiar with.”
Another recipient, Enid, says since installing a Ring Video Doorbell, she’s felt safer at home. She loves that she can see and hear what’s happening at her own door, as well as look out for her neighbors.
Enid and others have also enjoyed using the Ring Neighbors App to connect with each other and stay up to date with what’s going on in their neighborhood.
“It brings that sense of community back, right there on your phone, because that’s what everybody is gravitating towards — technology,” Enid.
Diane is still getting calls from neighbors saying thank you for their Ring Video Doorbells. While Kids Off the Block has made an impact in the lives of many teens over the years, she says now Ring has helped the community feel safer, too.
“What [Ring] did was give a sense of security to 1,000 residents,” Diane says. “The communities that we live in have a little peace of mind.”
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