A quick google search will tell you quite a bit about Diane Latiker and how in 2003 she started Kids off the Block with the encouragement of her mother, as a way to keep connected to her youngest daughter Aisha and her friends. Diane started with no plan to become an official business or organization, she was just trying to do something with the kids in her neighborhood. She spent an afternoon talking to them, listening to them, and discussing the issues that they were enduring such as: gangs, abuse, absentee fathers, poor grades, and fears of violence. After that first afternoon, she knew what she had been called to do. That day, she vowed to give the kids all that she had to show them a better way.
As time went on she would have the kids in her house as she helped with homework, others were writing raps, and doing various things to stay productive and off the street.. On occasion she would even invite the parents over to see what the children were working on. What started with her daughter and her friends began to grow and before she knew it she had kids sleeping on her floor and she became a surrogate mother to many. That’s the short and sweet story of how Kids off the Block was born.
On this May morning in 2020, I had the chance to catch up with Diane and I chatted with her about the current work that she is doing. We had a brief but impactful conversation.
When Diane answered my call she was on the go. You see we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and she has work to do. Diane and her team, which consists of her husband James, sister Tammy, and Dawn Valenti are busy preparing to serve the residents of Chicago. For the last month or so they have been providing meals, hand sanitizer, masks, and gloves to those in need. With the help of the community and organizations such as Rainbow Push, they have been able to deliver necessities to nursing homes, hospitals, community centers, and even to those on the streets.
The Kids off the Block team is delivering over 500 meals a day to the residents in Chicago. They are truly a blessing to many. Talking to her for just a short period of time will make you want to do your part or do more. When I asked her how she came up with this plan her reply was so authentic, she said “There is nothing major or magical about helping people, you decide what you are going to do and you roll.”
I went on to ask her how she determines where the help is needed. She said that the need is great and organizations have been reaching out to them with requests. Diane and her team do their best to fulfill the requests that they receive, however there are never enough supplies. Their days begin early as they prepare to make and or assemble the items to be delivered for the day. On an average day, they are in the van as early as 9:30 am until as late as 6:00 pm traveling from the far south suburbs all the way across town to the west side of Chicago, making stops in several communities in between.
Diane is leading by example. She sees a need and develops a course of action. We want to thank her for her continued commitment to people. Diane Latiker is a community hero that you should know.
If you would like to help to provide supplies for the community, there is a constant need for hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, and face shields. Monetary donations are helpful as well. To connect with Diane or to learn more: