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Strengthening Community Relationships

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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

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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

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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

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“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

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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

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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

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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)