Festive wreaths decorate South Side, fill youth with sense of pride

Chicago's Very Own

CHICAGO — She has a passion for helping Chicago’s inner-city youth and also loves decorating for the holidays.  Bringing her two loves together, Cosette Nazar Wilburn created a unique opportunity for her students.   

Lining the city streets throughout Chicago’s South Side, the festive handiwork of her students and the wreath making program is on display for everyone to see.  

It’s an entrepreneurial program Nazon Wilburn developed several years ago after her late mother requested holiday décor.   

 “Wreaths of Luv started in my mother’s garage,” she said. “And we used to have a pop up shop at Harper Theater and people would come by and pick up our wreaths.”

Founder of the Luv Institute, Nazon Wilburn had already been running a nonprofit aimed at helping at risk youth.

 “The Luv Institute provides out of school and after school programs that really have a social emotional learning approach to college and career readiness,” she said.

Some of her students are in the foster or criminal justice system but all are in need of job skills and training.  

A 10 week program, Wreaths of Luv has provided entrepreneurial training but it has brought something unexpected.”

“For the young people what has made it popular is crafting a Christmas wreath is almost art therapy,”  Nazon Wilburn said.

Nazon Wilburn said partnering with organizations such as  like My Block My Hood My City has boosted sales and recognition,  but she said the biggest benefit has been the effect on the programs participants. 

“When they see our Christmas wreaths, they feel that, ‘I’m a part of the community and I’m a part of making it beautiful,’” she said.  “And it makes a huge difference in terms of how they see themselves”

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