Posts

Showing posts from 2020

Strengthening Community Relationships

Image
The Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), which currently has 45 member institutions, including local Catholic parishes, schools, and a hospital, strives to enable families on the Southwest Side of Chicago to improve life in their neighborhoods by building relationships across racial, generational, and faith differences, finding common community concerns, and acting collectively on solutions. “There’s an increased recognition that you can’t win by focusing on one community issue alone. It requires the interconnection between all the different aspects of the work. Rather than pointing to great work in schools, continuing to acquire and rehab homes, and working to reduce violence, what’s most striking to me is how they happen in relation to each other,” said Jeff Bartow, Director of the Southwest Organizing Project. Through collaborative efforts by SWOP and its partners, the Reclaiming Southwest Chicago campaign has been working to repair the physical and social damage caused by th

Helping Families Adapt to Online Learning

Image
When Bonnie Kisielewski and her family participated in Chicago Commons programming through a partnership with her elementary school, she couldn’t have imagined the social services organization would still play a significant role in her life decades later. “My connection to Chicago Commons is quite the story! I attended a Chicago Commons pre-school, and my family used to attend the family summer camp before I joined the organization as a camp employee and then as a teacher after college,” said Bonnie. In her current role as the Education, Diverse Learner & Mental Health Compliance Manager, Bonnie provides technical assistance and training to the education staff in the areas of education, disabilities and mental health. Her work helps teachers achieve excellence in their overall education practices. Bonnie fulfills a dual role as she is also an adjunct instructor in the Child Development Department at the City Colleges of Chicago, which allows her to use her experience in education

Connecting Adult Learners with Resources for Education and Employment

Image
The Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition was formed in 2003 to advocate for the improvement of adult literacy programs. Today, the organization works closely with workforce development organizations and gathers resources for adult education organizations to increase their capacity. The CCLC strives to help underserved adult learners improve their quality of life and become economically successful through educational programs involving technology and health literacy, the Career Pathways program, and continued literacy advocacy. When the CCLC recognized the declining number of adult education programs on the South Side of Chicago, which approximately 250,000 adults could benefit from, the organization took action to launch the South Side Career Pathways Collaborative in 2019 and created an organized career pathway system for the community. “My role as the Mid-South Career Pathways Navigator is to connect 12 adult education and workforce development organizations to increase their capaci

Growing Food and Careers through Urban Agriculture

Image
“I didn’t know there was a farm in the hood .” Fred Daniels hears that a lot. As the site manager at the Growing Home farm in Englewood, he wishes more people knew about this community resource. “Our doors are always open to support. It’s more than just our training program and making sure people get a job. It’s getting to see people blossom into a different person. And, growing some of the best food one can get.” Growing Home is a nonprofit organization on the South Side of Chicago working to help people find meaningful, sustaining careers through agriculture. Through its training program, participants are involved in every aspect of farm production including planting, harvesting, packaging and selling to customers across the neighborhood and in Chicago. Participants, who are referred to as production assistants, also work with Growing Home staff to improve access to healthy food for underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. Before the pandemic, Growing Home sold produce every Thursday

Unifying Communities in Uncertain Times

Image
When the COVID-19 statewide stay-at-home order was put in effect in March 2020, the team at Central States SER, a workforce and education organization in Little Village, had to think strategically about how to maintain their connections to the young people they mentored without their usual in-person interactions, which are an important component of their work. “One of the biggest challenges was losing contact with a lot of our youth because they were struggling to pay their phone bills. I was so used to seeing them in person and whenever they needed something, they would just come to the office. Many of our high school students were struggling to keep up with their education because everything was remote. Many of their parents lost their jobs and family members were dying due to COVID-19. It all came down so quickly and so heavy,” said Joseline Calderon, the Reconnection Hub Manager at SER. “The McCormick funding helped us distribute emergency funds and care packages to some youth wh

Democracy Program Grant Opportunity

Image
The Essentials Through 5pm CT on Monday, October 5th, 2020 the Democracy Program is accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOI) to support programs and organizations working in our three Focus Areas : Strengthen Local Journalism, Engage Youth Civically and Invigorate Public Institutions. Grant requests may be for work in any Focus Area and should be over $50,000. How to Apply for a Grant Visit the Democracy Program’s “Apply for a Grant” page where you will find our funding criteria (e.g. you must be a 501(c)(3)nonprofit), a timeline for our review process, and a link to the online portal through which you must submit your LOI. What is an LOI? The LOI is the first stage in our two-stage application process for evaluating grant requests. The first stage of the process serves as an introduction for the Democracy Program staff to your organization and the work you propose to undertake during the grant period and how it aligns with our strategy. The LOI provides helpful information on: Adm

Veterans Addressing Food Insecurities During COVID-19

Image
This article is the first in a series written by the McCormick Foundation’s Veterans Program, introducing topics that have impacted the Veterans Community in 2020. This article introduces the issue of food insecurity in the veteran community. Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center had been closed for non-essential operations, including its food pantries, one of the first of its kind to open back in 1996. In response to the closure, a grassroots group of active veterans led by the Travis Manion Foundation began conversations to discuss emerging issues including food insecurity and how to reopen the facility. Hosted by the nearby First Immanuel Lutheran Church, a little more than a mile from the original location of the food pantry, the local community joined with veterans to provide prearranged food bags for veterans and nearby residents. Since May, the group has gathered on five occasions (with a sixth planned for late August)

Achieving the Civic Mission of News

Image
Mapping Chicago’s local news coverage In the Democracy Program, we envision a day when all residents of the Chicago region will be informed and engaged citizens. To achieve this goal, we need to ensure there is sufficient high-quality, civically relevant, and personally resonant information available to each resident of our region. A new study by the Center for Media Engagement reveals topical and geographic gaps we need to fill in our information ecosystem to achieve this vision. It builds on earlier work and shows how these gaps align with low community confidence in the local news media. Understanding the gaps Researchers collected all articles published on the websites of 21 local news organizations over a two-week period. They then mapped the locations mentioned and the topics covered in each article. The research revealed a geographic imbalance in local news coverage. Chicago’s North Side and Downtown are mentioned more than twice as much as the South Side and more t

Medill’s Metro Media Lab Aims to Boost Local Journalism in Chicago

Image
Newspapers across the country have been in decline for decades and Chicago outlets have not been immune from precipitous drops in ad revenue and mass layoffs. But the region has been distinguishing itself nationally with its entrepreneurship in journalism. A new class of collaborative, equity-focused outlets are taking root in the region and attracting national attention with their commitment to listening and serving the public news they need to be civically informed. Innovative nonprofit and forprofit models are emerging to tackle the nation’s local news challenge, making Chicago a unique opportunity for research and partnership. Photo by Jenna Braunstein, Staff Photographer, Medill School of Journalism   Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications is taking an ambitious step to more deeply engage with Chicago’s information ecosystem and launching the Metro Media Lab, a comprehensive series of initiatives to support local outlets

Emergency Supplies For Childcare Providers

Image
As households and businesses reeled in the wake of COVID-19, families suddenly found themselves unable to find or afford urgent child care supplies such as diapers, wipes and infant formula. Even while closed, more than 100 child care agencies across the city with links to those families stepped in to help, first by documenting their families’ needs — sometimes weekly — then by putting out the call more broadly for supplies. Hoarding at grocery stores depleted child care and cleaning supplies, not only in Chicago but nationwide, and stores were unable to restock fast enough to meet demand. Working with child care providers such as the YMCA, Gads Hill and the Carole Robertson Center for Learning, as well as the City of Chicago’s Dept. of Family and Support Services (DFSS) and the Cradles to Crayons, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation helped mobilize both a volunteer drive and bulk-purchasing of emergency child care supplies. Cradles to Crayons, which provides families living in homel

Chicago’s Peace Outreach Continues as Gun Violence Takes No Break

Image
Amidst the continual backdrop of COVID-19, Chicago’s plague of gun violence has raged on, and over several weekends spiked higher than previous years. Almost no other group is seeing the broad effects of these events more than the outreach workers of Communities Partnering 4 Peace, or CP4P, a city-wide collaborative of community-based organizations whose outreach teams are trained to prevent and intervene in violence using restorative de-escalation tactics. Coordinated by Metropolitan Family Services, the teams are in communities most impacted by violence. “When COVID-19 was on the rise in Chicago in early March, we saw our situation go from bad to worse,” said Vaughn Bryant, CP4P’s executive director. “Our teams were beginning to experience additional sadness, frustration, and anger as they themselves were having to deal with the virus while still managing to do their jobs to help curb shootings.” The outreach teams acted quickly and were prepared with the necessary PPE to maint

Team Rubicon and local Veteran Service Organizations Respond to Veteran Needs

Image
The McCormick Foundation recently issued two grants to address the needs of veterans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. is a rapid-response veterans’ organization that mobilizes veterans to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises. Their “Whole of America” initiative is executing operations and logistics at local food banks, pantries, testing centers, and COVID-19 quarantine shelters in Chicago. are collaborating to re-open a food pantry that had been operating in the Jesse Brown Veterans Hospital and had to be closed due to the pandemic. Additionally, a rapid response fund for veterans is being established to help maintain stability during this economic hardship. More details will be shared once the rapid response fund is open for applications.

A History of Support in Unique Times

Image
We are facing unprecedented times globally, as a nation and locally. Despite the circumstances these unique times we are currently facing, together, we are unwavering in our commitment to serving the needs of Chicagoland. In addition to our mission that supports developing educated, informed, and engaged citizens, we draw strength from our history of providing resources both in anticipation and in preparation for disaster. In 2012, in response to the 9/11 tragedies, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Advanced Emergency Response Center at Rush was created as a first-of-its-kind treatment center for a deadly attack or pandemic. Today, this Emergency Response Center was the first hospital to mobilize its infrastructure to receive COVID-19 patients. “We had received a large amount of funding from The McCormick Foundation for advanced emergency preparedness, with roots in 9/11 and the ebola outbreak. The funding provided allowed us to create an infrastructure that allows us to expa

COVID-19 Health Worker Data Alliance Aims to Establish Best Practices in the Battle Against the Virus

Image
A new health worker data collection campaign, supported in part by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, is tracking the physical, psychological, and occupational effects on frontline medical staff treating patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Health Worker Data Alliance created a confidential, HIPPA-compliant, web-based survey that collects self-reported data from frontline health workers in weekly intervals. The survey link can be texted out by each hospital’s administrators one time, and their workforce can elect to participate. All data is independently collected, contains identifiers that can only be accessed by the researchers, and takes four minutes to complete. “Health workers are three times more likely to contract COVID-19,” said Maria Demopoulos, project director and Founder of Athe Consulting. “This is an alarming rate. And even after the curve flattens, they will continue to be exposed for a long time. But having information on how quickly they become sick, how

Strengthening Local Journalism in 2019

Image
December 2019 Recapping Our Goals In 2019, the Foundation set forth four goals to guide its journalism philanthropy. We want to: Broaden and deepen public affairs reporting Enhance collaboration, engagement, and entrepreneurship in journalism Invest in human capital , to increase the racial and ethnic diversity and the capacity of reporters working locally Defend press freedom , to ensure journalistic independence and effectiveness In 2019, the Foundation made over two dozen journalism grants, totaling over $2.5 million, to organizations whose work aligned with one or more of these goals. We hope that investing in these four areas will help us achieve a journalism ecosystem that is inclusive, sustainable, and free of coverage gaps so that all people, regardless of social or economic distinction, have access to the news they need to be informed and engaged in our democracy. To understand the Democracy Program’s progress on these goals in our first year, we have looked to our