Early one winter morning, a dozen wealth advisors gathered to learn about a program helping young people at risk of committing violent crimes to change the trajectory of their lives.
“There are no gates around Austin or Englewood”: Chico Tillmon of @YMCAChicago leads field trip for financial planners, taking our Professional Advisory Committees behind the scenes of #youthviolence prevention program
The gathering was the annual field trip of the Trust’s Professional Advisory Committee (PAC) and Young Professional Advisory Committee (YPAC)—lawyers, financial advisors, investment managers, accountants, trust officers and other professionals from leading Chicago financial institutions.
These two committees “play a critical role in the future of philanthropy in our region, working closely with the Trust to learn more about the community, and to better address their clients’ philanthropic goals,” said Abbe I. Temkin, senior philanthropic advisor with the Trust.
While the committees meet quarterly, the annual field trip is always a special experience, said Thomas Schroeder, a PAC member who works as an estate planner with Prathner Ebner LLP.
“This is where you get to see the money in action,” Schroeder said.
On this trip, committee members toured the at the Crown Family YMCA and met with Chico Tillmon, the executive director of the Y’s Youth Safety and Violence Prevention initiative. The recipient of a grant from the Trust’s Unity Fund, this program connects with young people who have experienced trauma and face high risks of enacting violence.
“The purpose of the field trips is to provide opportunities for people to see the theory in practice—how funds are used to focus on a complicated challenge,” said Anna Lee, the Trust’s program officer for basic human needs and social services. Lee recommended that the YMCA program receive grant support from the Unity Fund, which mobilizes donor contributions to respond to immediate, critical needs for communities.
At this winter’s field trip, the PAC and YPAC members went behind the scenes at the community-oriented facility which has served as the YMCA’s metropolitan Chicago headquarters since its construction in 2016. The building houses not only administrative offices but also a number of cutting-edge programs in specially tailored spaces, like an Early Childhood Demonstration Center, and conference areas where YMCA staff and community members can learn about evidence-based methods for enhancing Chicagoans’ health and well-being.
In Chicago, any conversation about holistic community wellness needs to address neighborhood violence. Tillmon explained that the Y is committed to helping lower the city’s homicide rate—and the initiative he leads is working with young people in their own neighborhoods to help achieve that.
Tillmon, who holds a Ph.D. in criminal justice from the University of Illinois at Chicago, grew up in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. At nine years old, while walking to the mailbox, he saw a man shot dead in order to steal his boom box.
When he got home, Tillmon’s family gave him hugs and candy, but he received no counseling. The message that he absorbed was that violent death was a normal event.
Today he understands how violence and trauma can create a continuous loop in a community, and how vital it is to break that loop by helping young people heal and reshape the narrative of their lives. “I’ve got to, because people are dying,” he told the group.
“There are no gates around Austin or Englewood,” Tillmon said. “Most people don’t get involved until it affects them personally—but we all have a responsibility to do something about the violence in our city.”
Andrea Sáenz, the Trust’s chief operating officer, opened the morning’s event by talking with committee members about the Trust’s new strategic direction, addressing more urgently the disparities in income and opportunity across our region.
Sáenz described how thoughtful philanthropy, of the kind that the wealth advisors on committees help to guide, can greatly improve the ability of nonprofits like the YMCA to “move the needle” toward a more equitable and thriving community.
Advisors value conversations and events like these for the “deep insights into organizations and ‘boots on the ground’ work that they otherwise might never learn about,” Temkin said.
“All the advisors are deeply concerned and involved in making our community stronger and better. By being involved with the Trust, they become better versed about the role of philanthropy in their work. They do not have to be experts on every cause and organization, because they have us as their partners. We are always here.”