Sara Shacter said she was inspired to create HelpHealChicago.org, a website that makes it easier to contribute time or money to organizations working in violent neighborhoods, after reading a column in the Chicago Tribune.
A February column by Dahleen Glanton implored residents to take action to stop the violence. But Shacter said she found so many programs — and so many different websites for those programs — that she decided to create her own site to make helping easier.
Shacter spoke with Morning Shift host Jenn White about what she hopes to accomplish, and why she thinks taking responsibility is important. Below are highlights from the conversation.
On why she started the website
Sara Shacter: Like so many people in Chicago and the area I had been reading all these articles about these young kids losing their lives and I was reading an article in the Chicago Tribune by columnist Dahleen Glanton. About halfway through she sort of implored people to do something, to sort of do anything. And I realized I’m one of many people I think who hear how terrible it is and want to do something, but you don’t know what to do, because it seems so intractable. …
I went online and I typed in ‘after school programs Chicago’ and I realized that so much came up [in] trying to find what I was looking for — which was a program in a neighborhood dealing with violence. It was serving those kids in particular that was going to take some work. And I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if there were a website where all these organizations that are already working so hard and so passionately were listed so people could easily find them?”
I think I had one of those seminal moments I think we all think: “If I had a billion dollars, this is how I’d change the world.”
I’m never going to have a billion dollars, but I thought, “I think I can actually do that.” Once I actually got the idea I couldn’t let go of it.
On personal responsibility
Shacter: I think it’s hard as a sentient human being to read this articles and not hurt in some way. You know, I used to be a high school teacher and I read so many of these kids are the age of my students, are the age of my children now. And I think — it gets frustrating sometimes because this has been going on for generations. You can sit and wait for the politics and you can sit and wait for the legislation — and that can be very slow — but we don’t have to necessarily sit and wait. We
can do something now.
On the improvements to Chicago she’d like to see
Shacter: I have a good friend who’s a children’s writer, her name is Esther Hershenhorn, and Esther says that when you’re a children’s writer you’re in the hope business. And what I would love to see is resources pour in. I feel like there’s such a cycle when it comes to violence — violence begets violence — and if you can stop that cycle than things can really start to change.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.