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The Idell - McCarthy Foundation was founded on the principle of education as a pathway to improved mental health and overall better quality of life. The concept began as a vision held by Sharita Farmer Cenac while attending Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.


As the first in her family to leave home to attend a four-year university on a full academic scholarship from the United Negro College Fund, Sharita experienced firsthand the impact of education, giving back and the power both have to completely change the trajectory of one's life.


In her formative years she recalls being heavily influenced by the consistently generous and caring nature of her grandmother Idell Bullock Marshall. Idell was the eldest of 12 children, and she went on to marry Sharita’s grandfather James Marshall at the age of 15. They shared 11 children of their own. While James worked for the City of Chicago, Idell spent her professional life serving as a teacher's assistant in the Chicago Public School system.


Idell passed away peacefully in 2005 surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a host of extended family and friends. Her capacity to love, care, and gracefully give of herself was bestowed upon her in her final moments. The selfless love, support, and open door policy she provided to those in need, was just one of the catalyst behind the mission and foundation of this organization.




The other, was Sharita's introduction to educator Lawrence McCarthy in 1995 while attending Robert N. Dett Elementary.  As her 6th grade teacher, they shared a similar sense of humor, tenacity, and love for learning. He quickly became her favorite teacher of all time and would go on to impact her life in ways far beyond what was imaginable. Lawrence continued to serve as a pivotal part of Sharita’s growth, development and transition into adulthood.


With more than 20 years of guidance from his wisdom, world traveling experiences, and stories of humble beginnings, Sharita gained the insight and confidence to believe that everything she ever dreamed of was possible. His generosity and consistent father-like presence through the ups and downs of her life led to many “second chances” that further inspired her desire to give back to others as he has so graciously modeled throughout his own life.


From offering moral support to former students in adulthood; to providing financial assistance and opportunities for educational advancement to underprivileged students in the US and Africa, Mr. McCarthy's real-life examples of what it looks like to be a guiding light & give to others in a real way has carved the path for our organization's mission and leadership style.

To give a second chance where needed, so that others may flourish to become who they are destined to be. 

Our core values are centered around Service, Care, Respect, Responsibility, Collaboration, Excellence,

and Innovation.

Our work is guided by three of the eight dimensions of wellness set forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness are (our focus):

  • Emotional / Mental

  • Environmental

  • Financial

  • Intellectual

  • Occupational

  • Physical

  • Social

  • Spiritual

Emotional &
Mental Wellness

Emotional wellness is all about understanding and respecting your feelings, values, and attitudes, as well as appreciating those of others. Having healthy emotional wellness allows you to feel confident, in control of your feelings and behaviors, and better able to manage life's challenges to feel positive and enthusiastic about your life.


Financial wellness is managing your resources to live within your means, making informed financial decisions and investments, setting realistic goals, and preparing for short-term and long-term needs or emergencies. It's important to be aware that everyone’s financial values, needs, and circumstances are unique.


Occupational wellness is balancing work and your lifestyle, building relationships with coworkers, and managing workplace stress. Finding work that is meaningful, financially rewarding, and aligned with your values, goals, lifestyle, and skills are important here. Contributing your unique gifts, skills, & talents to personally meaningful & rewarding work.


We currently only serve the Chicago-land area.

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