Listening to young people and gang members, accepting them with open arms, welcoming them into her home without judgement, being a positive supporter and ‘mother figure’ no matter what a youth’s problems and worries are: this is what makes Diane Latiker of Chicago a hero.
While raising eight kids of her own, Diane started a nonprofit organization called “Kids Off the Block” in her living room, which has grown to help over 1,500 kids in the community. The organization’s mission is: “To provide at-risk low income youth positive alternatives to gangs, drugs, truancy, violence and the juvenile justice system.”
“She inspired me to get out of gangs,” said nominator Gerald Sprattlin who calls Diane a mentor. “Many of those that she works with are gang members because there is nowhere else to go for protection and inspiration. Many of these individuals carry guns and may have even murdered people while in gangs. Diane has been a non-judgmental presence and second mother to each of them. Personally, she has given hope to my life and I am forever grateful. The neighborhood that I am from gave me no hope, but Diane has helped me to see past that.”
Diane is described as having an enormous amount of personal integrity in the work that she does. She is “fearless and loud,” Gerald said. “She vocalizes any disagreements or her opinions about what she finds atrocious behavior in her community.”
Diane lives out the mission of the Red Cross by preparing the youth of today for the challenges they face in life. She also works to prevent further violence in the inner city by inspiring people to think past their circumstances. “She responds to those in need,” said Gerald,” by providing a safe haven for those who want to get away from gangs.”