In 1996, First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote a book, entitled It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us. According to Wikipedia, the First Lady “focused on the impact individuals and groups outside the family have, for better or worse, on a child's well-being, and advocates a society which meets all of a child's needs."

Nearly a decade later, in 2005, Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a staunch conservative, wrote his response to Clinton's book, called It Takes a Family; Conservation and the Common Good.

Based on the tone of the Republican Primary contest, we can easily surmise what principles and ideas the former Senator described. (If not, simply watch a Republican debate. He's the guy wearing the sweater vest.)

So, who is right? Does it take a village or does it take a family to raise a child these days?

Lets consider developments in the North of Howard area. Last month police officials completed undercover drug arrests resulting from a four-month Operation “Last Stop" initiated, according to a local news source, “in response to community complaints and an increase in violence by gangs engaging in narcotics sales near school grounds and public transportation." According to the police, the investigation disrupted a $1.6 million-a-year gang controlled drug enterprise. Over 20 alleged dealers were charged, many of them presently in jail, awaiting trial.

Though we welcome any police actions geared towards ridding the neighborhood of the scourge of heavy drug use, a hard question remains.

Will these arrests result in any long-term change and an improvement in life for those living in and around the area we know as North of Howard?

On Tuesday, January 24th, 7:00PM at the Gale Community Academy, 1631 W. Jonquil (between Ashland and Marshfield), Alderman Moore is hosting a meeting (actually a follow up meeting) featuring 24th District Commander, James Roussell, to discuss steps that the community can take to intervene before any void is filled with new illicit drug activity. The Police Commander will correctly point out that the City's CAPS programs is a worthwhile way to offer the police important support.

As the community considers steps needed to prevent that void from being filled with more dealers, let's consider that issue of whether it takes a village or a family to raise children – to teach them right from wrong, to learn about the consequences of their actions, and most important, to understand the sacrifices and hard work needed to succeed.

Based on my own recent experiences, I can attest that there are plenty of decent and talented young people who live in this challenged neighborhood. These kids can potentially have a decent life and future – yet so many lack direction and positive interaction with adult mentors. Not all mentoring relationships can and will result in great success – that depends on a variety of factors, and the commitment that both the mentor and the mentee offer to the relationship.

For those of you looking to get involved, I will offer one recommendation, though many good organizations and volunteer opportunities exist.

Family Matters, a neighborhood non-profit offers after school programming and other youth leadership development programs, geared towards strengthening family cohesion and bonds. Based on its Principles of Leadership course, which all Family Matters participants take, Family Matters focuses on peaceful conflict resolution, effective use of language and illuminating the power of responsible decision making.. The young man whom I mentor describes how Family Matters offered him the love and stability that he failed to get from more conventional sources, and he attributes his success to the ongoing support he has received from his Family Matters family

Family Matters is celebrating its 25th Year anniversary this year.

Whether you subscribe to the belief that it takes a family or that it takes a community to save a child, I encourage you to consider supporting Family Matters this year. There are several ways to do so: in May, Family Matters conducts its annual Walk A Thon; in the Fall, we will throw a large scale fundraising gala. As much as Family Matters values all financial contributions, as funds are needed to operate such a successful organization, Family Matters is always looking for volunteers.

Family Matters would value having folks from the community serve on a committee to help assure that the above-mentioned events succeed.

Or, take a bigger plunge and consider getting involved in Family Matters programming, which offers opportunities for people throughout the neighborhood to get involved directly with youth – through mentoring, tutoring or perhaps even to help run a program.

Check out its website, at www.familymatterschicago.org and learn more about this fabulous organization. Or, call Mary Jo Deysach 773-465-6011 ext. 110.

Please comment below if you would like to recommend any other strong organizations that offer volunteer opportunities.