Who Is My Neighbor? Inc. began with two ideas: to serve local and global neighbors. Locally, community members who were looking for ways to better serve the neighborhood. They identified a situation shared by many local families – the need for adequate youth supervision after school, when many parents were still at work. Awareness of this need spurred the creation of WIMNI and it’s first program – The Cave Afterschool Center, a free-of-charge, afterschool program for middle school youth.
WIMNI’s founders also wanted to take action globally by assisting people in the world’s poorest countries by helping to develop the fair trade movement. WIMNI opened a fair trade store in 2003 and by 2007, WIMNI had engaged the nonprofit fair trade retailer, Ten Thousand Villages, to open a store in Highland Park. In 2009, WIMNI co-founded the Highland Park Fair Trade Coalition and sponsored Highland Park’s application to TransFair USA to be designated as a Fair Trade Town.
In 2007, WIMNI began offering summer camp programs for elementary, middle school and high school aged youth. In 2010, this program adapted into Camp Cool Environment, with a focus on environmental and science education. By providing hands-on learning activities, camp is designed to foster children’s love of nature and to encourage a commitment to sustainable living practices. Camp also offers a unique leadership opportunity to local teenagers to serve as “VolunTeens” (volunteer assistant counselors), developing team building skills, and discovering the importance of working as a community service volunteer.
In 2009, WIMNI partnered with Elijah’s Promise to confront issues of food insecurity and opened A Better World Café in hopes of making healthy eating accessible and affordable for all. This nonprofit community café offered healthy, seasonal and local food to all regardless of one’s ability to pay. The Café’s goals were to alleviate hunger, promote healthy eating, reduce obesity and eliminate food waste. Creating livable wage jobs, the café employed skilled workers who were trained at Elijah’s Promise Culinary School. On-the-job training and volunteer employment opportunities for low-income and/or developmentally disabled adults were also part of the operation.
In 2009, WIMNI began serving as the fiscal agent for Buddy Ball Highland Park, a team sports program for special needs children partnered one on one with teen volunteer athletes.
In 2011, WIMNI created and opened The Family Den, a free-of-charge early childhood enrichment and parenting support program to provide a creative learning environment for children ages infant through four years to develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills while providing caregivers the opportunity to form a supportive community through a parenting education group. The Den brings together neighbors from multiple socio-economic, racial, ethnic, religious, and family backgrounds, including a wonderful response from local immigrant populations.
In 2013, WIMNI launced The Gratitude Graffiti Project, a 33-day purposeful appreciation of one’s life through public interactive art, with intentions to bring the community together, improve the quality of people’s lives, and develop a habit of gratitude.
In 2014, WIMNI started the Highland Park Senior Social Network as an organization for adults (60 and older) seeking a supportive social network made up of long standing and new friends who share a commitment to remain active, independent and involved in the community.