ROSELAND — Kids off the Block founder Diane Latiker has been named a 2016 L’Oréal Paris Women of Worth Honoree.
“When I found out, I got really excited,” she said. “I’m very honored and very proud to be included with some remarkable women who give me hope. This let’s me know I’m not alone out here in making this world a better place, especially for our young people.”
Every year, out of thousands of nominations, only 10 women are honored. Latiker is the only Chicagoan being honored.
Women of Worth, which is in its 11th year, looks for women who volunteer their time and selflessly serve their communities. Latiker, along with the other 10 honorees, was selected by a panel of judges from a pool of nominations. She will receive $10,000 from L’Oréal Paris that can be used to support her charitable cause or project.
The public can weigh in by voting for a national honoree who can receive an additional $25,000 for her cause.
“The ten 2016 Honorees were chosen from thousands of nominations for their unwavering commitment, drive and desire to better the lives of those around them,” officials said.
Latiker founded Kids Off the Block in 2003 after meeting several children and teens who stayed in the streets because they had nothing to do. She began opening her home up to them and listening to their concerns. She was able to give them a safe place to do their homework and participate in fun activities.
She even started a stone memorial at 11627 S. Michigan Ave. in 2007 with 30 stones. Now the more than 200 stores there represent the city’s young victims to age 24.
The opportunity to receive an additional $25,000 is one Latiker said she would love to see. The funds would be used to buy a place of her own. Right now the young people come to her home, but she said having a building would allow her to do so much more. Her goal is to buy a vacant building in Roseland and create a technology and entrepreneurship center.
“We want to have training that takes the young people off the streets literally and teaches them the skills in graphic design and coding,” Latiker said.
She began with 10 young people and now serves almost 300. The organization has offered mentoring, sports, trips and more.
Since last year, Latiker has been targeting fifth- to eighth-graders, in addition to high schoolers.
“The older kids would tell me that they made the decision to join the gang or get into negativity then,” she said. “I’ve been investing in them so I can catch them before they make that decision and offer them a positive alternative.”
You can watch the 2016 Women of Worth Honorees’ stories at WomenofWorth.com, where you can also vote — up to once per day through Oct. 28— on who should be the National Honoree.
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