Inside the Trust: Addressing Critical Needs

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Our Inside the Trust series highlights the vital work of Trust employees across different pillars. Our foundation’s successes would not be possible without the work of each and every individual behind the scenes, and it is a privilege to be able to share their stories.

This week, we are highlighting our Addressing Critical Needs team.

Addressing Critical Needs

The Addressing Critical Needs initiative supports essential service organizations that are addressing the critical needs of individuals and families. By improving the well-being of residents, our support will enable the conditions that allow residents to more fully participate in and contribute to the region’s prosperity.

The Team

  • Anna Lee, Director of Community Impact
  • Laura Gutierrez, Impact Coordinator

What do you do at the Trust?

Anna: I lead the strategy in Addressing Critical Needs, which encompasses several change-making activities—from managing grant-making processes, convening around key issues impacting human services, advancing public policies that allow for everyone to reach their individual potential, and making connections between and across sectors.

Laura: I have been working directly with the Community Impact team as an assistant and, currently, Impact Coordinator. I work closely with Anna Lee on the Addressing Critical Needs strategy. We work on intersectional work within the human services sector.

I have also been able to lead alongside the committees on our restricted and collaborative funds, such as the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities, Scholarship America, and Immigrant Funders Collaborative.

What is Addressing Critical Needs?

Anna: The Addressing Critical Needs strategy recognizes that every individual should have access to opportunities in order to meet one’s potential. However, systemic racism has created policies and institutions where gaps in opportunities exist. By building pathways to stability, promoting well-being, and strengthening social cohesion, the Trust commits to its evergreen strategy of investing in people and closing the opportunity gaps.

How does your team support Addressing Critical Needs?

Laura: Our team understands how important our strategy is to the Trust’s larger strategy of closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap. As stated by Anna Lee numerous times to the public, she mentions that we cannot address the needs of tomorrow without addressing the needs of today. We understand that the Trust’s systemic work will take time and there are so many individuals that benefit from services today.

As a member of the Trust team, where do you see your greatest impact on the community? 

Anna: I am grateful to contribute to work that balances both practice and policy. It is rare to be in a position where you have the potential to shape programs and inform public policy. I am an optimist and remain hopeful that Chicago will be a thriving region that is more equitable and connected because of the work that we all do.  

My greatest impact on the community is the ability to think creatively and build authentic relationships grounded in mutual trust.

What is your personal motto?

Laura: Something that resonates with me is Maya Angelou’s quote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope that my energy always makes others feeling happy, wanted, important, and cared for.

Responses have been edited for clarity.