Chicago police officer creates safe haven where children can go after school, weekends

Credit: Fiona Goodall

Credit: Fiona Goodall

Officer Jennifer Maddox sees and hears violence day in and day out. She recently decided that instead of just reacting after the fact, she was going to do something to prevent it too.

Maddox now provides a safe haven for kids in the Parkway Gardens apartment complex in Woodlawn, Illinois, WFLD reported.

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In a small, cramped basement, down a short set of stairs, something miraculous is happening. Forty children in kindergarten through sixth grade who live in subsidized housing projects are taking part in a program called Future Ties.

“I discovered that there wasn’t any safe spaces or any spaces for the young people to go after school or on the weekends,” said Maddox, a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department.

With a small budget plus money out of her own pocket, Maddox uses volunteers and paid staff to provide homework help, activities, meals and even meditation after school, five days a week.

“We know there is a lot of crime and violence that happens in the area. And so the kids know when they come here, this is a safe space for them to come after school,” Maddox said.

Maddox is now one of 10 finalists for CNN's "Heroes of 2017" award. She says if she wins the award -- and the $100,000 that comes with it -- she'll put the money back into the program, which has a waiting list right now of more than 40 children.

“To try to expand and make it bigger so that we can do more programming for the youth and the teens year-round, ‘cause we really need it,” Maddox said.

See more at WFLD and CNN.