A New Van For A Youth Center in Englewood, Chicago

New Van for a Youth Center in Englewood, Chicago

Over the last year, we’ve partnered with a youth center in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. This amazing outreach program is responsible for providing a safe place for hundreds of kids to learn, play and have a proper meal. The generosity and selflessness of the incredible people that run the youth center is truly inspiring, and we were amazed at how much they’ve done for kids in Englewood.

Englewood Youth Program Van Fundraising

When we found out that the youth center didn’t even have a safe, reliable mode of transportation for getting kids to and from the program, we couldn’t stand by and do nothing. So we started our “Van for a Van” program, where we used the proceeds from toy vans that we sold to purchase a real van for this much needed organization. And, on Friday, June 13, we were thrilled to present them with their shiny new van. It was the least we could do for an organization that’s so dedicated to providing so much for so many kids. We look forward to our continued partnership with the group, and stay tuned for more.

Englewood Youth Program Van Reveal Englewood Youth Program Van Reveal | The Land of Nod

Milk + Bookies Story Time Celebration

As part of our commitment to social responsibility, The Land of Nod partners with numerous organizations, charitable partners & philanthropic events. You may be familiar with our “Van for a Van” program, where 100% of the purchase price of this toy van will be donated to help buy a real van for an afterschool youth program we partner with located in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

A few months ago, we also joined forces as a proud sponsor of a non-profit organization, Milk + Bookies. Milk + Bookies is a nationwide charitable organization that promotes literacy and is dedicated to providing books to children who don’t have access to books of their own. We’ve hosted in-store events that encouraged children to stop by with a new or gently-used book to donate to kids in Chicago. A few weekends ago we were lucky enough to attend Milk + Bookies annual Story Time Celebration fundraiser in Los Angeles. The Story Time Celebration was filled with arts & crafts, delicious snacks and a celebrity story time.

We donated product to the story time stage and break room as well as handed out goodies from our traveling Nod Tour Bus. We had an absolute blast listening to storytime from the likes of Max Greenfield, Jenna Elfman, Julie Bowen, Jerry Ferrara and more.

Milk + Bookies Story Time Celebration

Milk + Bookies Story Time Celebration 2

Milk + Bookies Story Time Celebration 3

We encourage you to learn more & get involved in the Milk + Bookies mission. Details here —> Host your own Book-Raiser.

By Katie Harrington – In addition to being the mom to heart-throb toddler, Gavin, Katie’s in charge of all things social media and PR at Nod. She’s exceedingly energetic, which is good since, like the rest of us, she’s just trying to figure out how to be an incredible mom, while working and still having a blast being young herself! (BTW, we think she’s nailing it, but she’d probably disagree…darn mommy guilt.)

Englewood Project – Thanksgiving

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog about the classroom makeover we did for a youth group in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago.  Before we even set foot in the facility where this makeover happened, we decided we wanted to do more than provide them with a fun space to play in, we wanted to help the neediest of families in this community to have a nice Thanksgiving, especially those with children.

We not only wanted to help as part of our support of the No Kid Hungry Campaign but also to provide our employees with a very tangible and real way to get involved.   Our employees shopped for and donated all of the side dishes for 50 Thanksgiving meals, The Land of Nod provided the turkeys with the help of Sunset Foods, headquartered in Highland Park, Illinois.   When we were making the plan for doing this, we couldn’t figure out where in the world we were going to store 50 frozen turkeys!  Our two refridgerators here at the corporate offices were just not going to work!  Sunset not only offered to store the frozen turkeys for us, but then gave us gift certificates to help offset the cost.  It was a huge help. 

Our next issue was transportation, how were we going to get 50 boxes of food and 50 turkeys safely down to Englewood in one trip?  Again, we found a generous partner in RSL trucking in Chicago, they gave us a rental van free of charge, so we could load up and get everything down there in one trip.

The day of the Thanksgiving meal distribution, we loaded up the truck with turkeys and food and then a small caravan of us, including our Managing Director Michelle Kohanzo and two of her kids, headed down to Englewood.  Yolanda Morris, the director of the youth program along with several volunteers helped us unload and set up for the families who would come to claim their meals.  Everyone was very appreciative of our efforts, and more than gracious in accepting our help.  One of the women who work with this program told me that without our donations, these families would not be able to have a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.



Englewood Thanksgiving

It’s amazing how good it makes you feel to be a part of something like that, but even more, I’m incredibly proud to be working with such an amazing and generous group of people here at The Land of Nod.  It just goes to show you that a small group of people really can work together to make a big difference.  Happy Thanksgiving!

By Sue Cortesi

Sue is the Director of Human Resources at The Land of Nod. Not only that, she’s also an avid cook and baker, much to the delight of everybody in the office. In fact, Sue’s famous cranberry recipe took home the grand prize for Taste of Home Magazine’s recipe contest. 

Classroom Makeover

Back in August, our Managing Director, Marketing Director and Human Resources Director attended a partnership summit for No Kid Hungry here in Chicago.  The day started out with a trip to the Greater Chicago Food Depository where they had a tour and over lunch they listened to a few speakers.  Among the speakers was Yolanda Morris who runs a youth program in the neighborhood of Englewood in Chicago.

For those of you who do not know, Englewood is an area with extremely high crime, gang and drug rates. This youth program was created to provide the children of Englewood a safe haven where they are fed, educated and most importantly, cared for.

During the summer months, Yolanda and a group of volunteers take in an average of 150 children from 8:30am until 2:30pm, Monday through Friday. During the day, these children are fed a nutritious breakfast and lunch, which for some kids are the only meals that they receive. They get to play, read and learn about the positive opportunities that are available to them beyond what they may know.

During the winter months, the youth program is available on Thursday evenings, where the children can go after school. Those who attend the winter program are fed dinner and receive assistance with their schoolwork.

Yolanda shared her passion and concern for the kids in the youth program. She spoke of Share our Strength and how it has helped her with grants which have allowed the youth program to become available to more children. Her story was very moving, so moving in fact that we asked Yolanda to come and talk to The Land of Nod employees at our corporate office. She made the trip to the northern suburbs and gave a presentation on what life is like for the kids and the struggles she faces in running the youth program.  Our employees were completely engaged by Yolanda’s presentation, we decided that we had to find some way to help this youth group in particular.

Being a children’s furnishings company, the first thing we decided to do was to take some of our product and makeover one of the children’s classrooms for them.

Our employees donated art supplies, games, DVDs and children’s books. We planned out the classroom space and took a group of volunteers down to Englewood where we spent the day painting and setting up the room with The Land of Nod product. We also donated 5 repurposed computers, a printer and a projector with DVD player for entertainment.

The end result turned out amazing as you can see in the before and after photo. We were able to transform the room into a vibrant, colorful, and inviting space for them to use. 


The relationship we have formed with the Englewood Youth program has just begun. We have already started plans for making over another room this winter; this one will be for the younger kids.

Our employees are currently donating Thanksgiving meals to share with some of their more needy families.  And we are planning to provide “Letters to Santa” gifts to the children in December.

Our partnership with No Kid Hungry has allowed us to make this very special connection. It has provided our employees an opportunity to be involved in a very tangible way to help people right here in Chicago.



By Becky Phillips

Becky works in Nod’s HR Dept. doing everything from booking the hot dog cart for our kickball parties to training our store staff on all the details of our latest products. In addition to cooking, she learned how to knit last year, but has yet to finish her first project…a scarf. So, if you come across any good, quick, knitting patterns, send them her way!