CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s a sure symbol of the holidays – wreaths hung on light poles or front doors.
And as CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reported Wednesday, if you pass through parts of the South Side, those decorations you’re seeing are helping teens in need take control of their lives.READ MORE: Chicagoan David Kronfeld Shares Advice To Career Success In New Book
In a bustling room in Bronzeville, you’ll find a team knee deep in pine needles. Creating the wreaths is the first job two young men named Marte and Joey have held.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Joey. “It’s very hard, but it’s all going to be worth it.”
They are making wreaths with meaning.
“This project started in my mother’s garage,” said Cosette Nazon-Wilburn.
Nazon-Wilburn is executive director of the Love Unity Values Institute, which puts on the program. It aims to employ young people who have faced trauma – teaching them the ropes of *having a job, and the responsibility of being paid for it.
“The sales of Christmas wreaths help to pay the stipends that the kids earn during this winter season,” Nazon-Wilburn said.READ MORE: At Least 24 People Wounded, 1 Killed In Weekend Shootings In Chicago
In Marte’s case, each wreath sold through the Wreaths of LUV program helps him plan his future.
“Planning on getting my own apartment – living on my own, finally,” he said.
Joey has found support in shared experiences.
“It’s pretty fun, you meet a lot of new people, a lot of new faces; some people who’ve gone through the same stuff you have,” he said.
But what they both have is pride in their work, which can be seen on light posts across the South Side.
“It really is the community really affirming and acknowledging them in a way they don’t normally get affirmed,” Nazon-Wilburn said.
“Just knowing that I’m going to see that on somebody’s door, and I’m going to be like, ‘I made that!’” added Marte. “And it feels so good.”MORE NEWS: 1 Person In Critical Condition, 8 Displaced After Fire In Aurora
Each wreath propels the teens forward in life, with the help of some holiday cheer.