By Audrina Bigos

(CBS) – A Chicago police officer goes beyond the badge every day to help children in one South Side community.

Officer Jennifer Maddox has been on the force for 20 plus years, and she’s spent half that time in a basement.

CBS 2’s Audrina Bigos reports.

It’s rough around the edges here, surrounded by barbed wire and big metal fences. But the tough exterior is nothing this woman can’t handle.

Maddox has to be tough, but when she takes this walk down these stairs every day, her toughness transforms to tender.

Today, the kids are meditating, taking a few minutes to forget everything they deal with outside these.

“This is a safe space for them so they can come and be well,” Maddox says.

The program is called Future Ties, and it’s based in the basement of Parkway Gardens, a housing complex in the Woodlawn neighborhood. These 40 youngsters, in grades K-6, live here.

She saw the need for this while patrolling the neighborhood more than a decade ago and later running security at the complex.

Since then, she’s secured some funding to help pay her small staff. But Maddox has always worked part-time jobs to help to pay for all of this.

“As long as God breathes breath in my body and gives me energy to do it, that’s what I’m going to do,” Maddox says.

Maddox is in the running for CNN’s Hero of the Year Award. The winner gets a whopping $100,000.