Last month, Honeycomb met with the Senior Director of Teen Philanthropy at the Jewish United Fund in Chicago, Il, and program facilitator, Keren Eckstein to discuss her programs and the ways she is engaging her community all year round. Keren has made the programming her own and uses her pedagogical and project-based learning training to enhance the experiences for the youth of Chicago.  Keren expressed her joy in seeing the camaraderie between previous participants of the program, “it is a good problem to have when I can not get a word in because the alumni are catching up and continuing the great conversations they seem to always have.” These youth philanthropy programs have expanded in the Chicago area, from through the federation (JUF) and for a certain age, to synagogues, camps, and other Jewish cohort programs for a wide range of ages (7th-12th grade), but also into the public schools. I pose to them this question, would you eat pizza, which is delivered to you, but it doesn’t have your favorite toppings, or it might not be from the place you like? The answer is typically a resounding yes. This shows them that consensus is about what is needed for the desired shared outcome, not just wanted by the individual.” Through the generous gift from David and Susie Sherman for these short-term giving circles, Keren is able to fill a need in the community as a whole. “These students are empowered to not only learn about the giving cycle but to be empowered to run their own.”

Since December 2021, Eckstein has been involved with the Jewish youth of Chicago, but over the last 15 months, she has widened her scope to the Jewish and secular community of Chicago, as well as many summer camps.  “Camp is amazing! Being there and seeing these kids come around with their counselors, to be able to celebrate a group like the CITs (Counselors in Training) for gifting a certain amount for a local organization, is the best, and camp is always about celebrating everything.” Taking the Honeycomb curriculum and making it her own for these shorter-term giving experiences has really impacted their youth, but also the counselors who are having this experience for the first time in many instances. To do this, Keren utilizes a pre-vetted set of organizations that the participants can choose from to complete their giving experiences. “We received a very generous grant to bring these giving circles to a wider community. I always start with consensus building, values, and a strong mission statement… I basically take the Honeycomb 90-minute giving experience and adapt it in order to best meet the needs of the group.”

When asked about her goals, she said that in the 20 years of the Voices program, they have raised and gifted approximately $850,000, she is hoping to top seven figures in the near future. She expressed that this tangible goal is great, but what she is truly looking forward to is, “Getting to be with the youth is really the best. Using project-based learning is great and the youth getting to experience authentic giving experiences allows for them to be and feel empowered; seeing them succeed is what is truly exciting, and why I love this.” Honeycomb is very excited to see these programs continue to succeed and bring these philanthropic programs to the youth of the Chicago communities.