ENGLEWOOD — Every summer, the Rev. John Chisum said he takes a head count of students who attend an end-of-the-year party his organization sponsors.
Then he conducts another count once school resumes in August.
"And every year there is at least one chair empty at school because violence claimed that kid during the summer," said Chisum, chairman of the Pastors of Englewood organization and pastor of Gifts From God Ministry, 1818 W. 74th St. "Each year we pray that our kids stay safe during the summer, but unfortunately that does not always happen."
The nonprofit organization will host its seventh annual neighborhood party for students, parents and residents Wednesday. The free party is from 3-6 p.m. at Greater Salem Baptist Church, 215 W. 71st St.
"As we always do with any gathering, we will begin with prayer. After that we plan to move outside and let the party begin with raffles, fun games, music, and of course, food," Chisum said. "We will also inform parents about what churches in Englewood are part of the city's Safe Haven program. My church is one of those locations this summer, as it has been for the last few years."
The free Safe Haven program is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays from Tuesday through Aug 3. The city-funded program is available throughout Chicago at churches and other places.
Toya Green, 29, who lives in the 5900 block of South of Eggleston Avenue with her 14-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, plans to send her kids to the program for the first time this summer.
"I was looking for something they could do this summer that's free, and this Safe Haven program sounds like a good spot to send them," Green said. "I get tired of seeing them lay around the house all summer playing video games and watching TV. I'm the only one allowed to lounge around the house. I pay the bills."
Having a party for students is more of a celebration that they were able to finish the school year alive, Chisum said.
"Living in Englewood is a battle every day for kids. There are so many negative things put before them that could steer them in the wrong direction," Chisum said. "Acknowledging their achievements each school year gives them hope, and you can never have too much of that."