The Chicago Community Trust wants to see Chicago families thrive. While we continue working to close the region’s racial and ethnic wealth gap, we know residents have immediate needs that can best be addressed through a holistic intergenerational approach. To help meet those needs, the Trust created the Promoting Wellbeing grant program under its Addressing Critical Needs strategy, which focuses on providing stability to individuals, families, and communities throughout the region.
The three-year grants range from $50,000 to $75,000 per year to support interventions for people facing challenges at different stages of life, such as children and youth impacted by trauma, people with disabilities facing economic instability, and low-income aging adults experiencing unstable living conditions. The Trust awarded 37 grants, prioritizing place-based organizations led by people of color in Black and Latinx communities and organizations that advance community-led solutions.
The Trust awarded these grants to organizations that listened to residents’ needs and responded with the resources and services most appropriate for their community members. Grant recipients include Breakthrough, serving those affected by poverty in East Garfield Park; El Hogar del Niño, which provides early childhood education and family support services in Little Village and Pilsen; and HANA Center, which assists the region’s Korean, Asian American, and multiethnic immigrant community members.
While each of these organizations is focused on serving particular communities of people and providing culturally responsive services, they also understand that family-based and intergenerational approaches to care create a deeper web of support.
As Breakthrough’s Executive Director Yolanda Fields explained, “It isn’t enough to just provide services for children. We have to think holistically because our children are attached to adults. If we’re going to build wealth by breaking cycles of poverty, we need to go back and start from the beginning. And the beginning for us is not the babies; it’s their parents and what are the resources that parents need to care well for their children.”
“Our approach has always been to help not only the child who is involved in the program but also support the whole family,” said Rosaura Arellano, managing director of El Hogar del Niño. “It’s listening…working with the families formally and informally in order to gain their trust.”
The leaders of all three organizations agree that it is through their authentic dedication, commitment, and willingness to listen to the needs of their community that they gain the trust of the people they serve. It is because of that trust that residents come to these organizations not just seeking existing services but also becoming collaborators in envisioning new programs and services.
Inhe Choi, executive director of HANA Center, explained that having this established trust gave them an opportunity to serve her community better after the murder of George Floyd. Young people from the community reached out to HANA, expressing their devastation and anger. They asked for help discussing the topic with their parents and older relatives. This honest disclosure led to HANA holding listening sessions with first-generation Korean American and Asian American residents. They realized these residents never had the space to discuss race or question their own experiences of discrimination. Thanks to the Promoting Wellbeing grant, they were able to grow this intervention into intergenerational drumming circles and ongoing discussion sessions.
From George Floyd to the pandemic to rising violence, the last few years have been traumatic for everyone and heightened the need for more mental health resources. Organizations responded to this time of crisis by adjusting their services and building strategies to help strengthen the safety nets in their communities. Funding sustainable mental health resources was one way organizations used their grant funds.
However, when it comes to mental health resources, stigma and language can be barriers. That’s why it was so important for El Hogar del Niño to find a bilingual mental health consultant to focus on helping families. A bilingual mental health consultant now comes to visit classrooms twice a week and works with the teachers to identify which students may be in need of mental health counseling. The language flexibility and the consultant’s understanding and connection to the community have become a tremendous asset to the El Hogar team and the families they serve.
According to Arellano, “The mental health need, it’s huge and burning now since a lot of families don’t have access to a mental health practitioner, or there’s a lot of stigma. With the trust we have gained from them, we’re able to connect them to services.”
That’s also the case for the HANA Center. The organization used its grant to hire a full-time Korean-speaking mental health counselor and is working to create additional resources for the community to stay informed about their rights and recognize what they can do if they experience a racially motivated verbal or physical attack without involving the police.
The Chicago Community Trust is committed to partnering with deeply rooted community organizations to address the region’s most urgent needs. For more information about the Promoting Wellbeing grant program and other recipients, visit Promoting Wellbeing.