Chicago cop provides safe haven for kids to go after school, on weekends

How does a police officer react after years of witnessing violence and children in need? For officer Jennifer Maddox, the decision was to do something about it.

She's providing a safe haven for kids in the Parkway Gardens apartment complex in Woodlawn.

On a grey, wet afternoon in Parkway Gardens, down a short set of stairs, something magical is happening in a small, cramped basement. Forty kids who live in the subsidized housing project from kindergarten to 6th grade are taking part in a program called "Future Ties."

Jennifer Maddox is a 21-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department who decided that rather than reacting to violence, she was going to prevent it.

"I discovered that there wasn't any safe spaces or any spaces for the young people to go after school or on the weekends,” Maddox said.

With a tiny budget, and money out of her own pocket, Maddox uses volunteers and paid staff to provide homework help, activities, meals and even meditation after school five days a week.

"We know there is a lot of crime and violence that happens in the area. And so the kids know when they come here, this is a safe space for them to come after school,” Maddox said.

Now, Maddox is one of ten finalists for CNN’s "Heros of 2017" award.

Maddox says if she wins that award, and the one-hundred thousand dollars that comes with it, she'll plow it back into this program, which has a waiting list right now of more than 40 kids.

"To try to expand and make it bigger so that we can do more programming for the youth and the teens year round, cause we really need it,” Maddox said.