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When I was a kid, my parents made it a priority to expose my brother and me to as much of our cultural heritage as possible. Our family vacations often revolved around visiting places like Alcatraz, mining towns in Nevada, meteor impact sites in Arizona, churches in Mexico, and pyramids in Guatemala. Every trip had its own history that made me interested in learning everything about it beforehand. I was in awe of the construction of each place – from giant stones that made monoliths to centuries-old wood that helped build a town. I was my family’s resident tour guide.
As I got older, my curiosity evolved to look past the physical and notice the people who called these places home. These residents often had family histories stretching back to when these sites were built. My realization was that the people who inhabited these places, both past and present, contributed to their rich history and built the community we see today.
I am not originally from Chicago, but through my time here, I have similarly recognized how important people are to the city’s identity. Families on the South Side have lineages going back to the Great Migration and were a major part of the development of notable enclaves and communities. What I have come to learn is that residents and communities have a reciprocal relationship — strengthening one strengthens the other.
The Trust’s Catalyzing Neighborhood Investment (CNI) strategy addresses this exact thing: strengthening communities and people by creating an environment where investment can take root in historically underserved Black and Latinx communities. We do this by investing both in the physical environment and building the capacity in the neighborhoods to spur development. Neighborhood development projects need the knowledge and expertise of local stakeholders to create thriving communities. New development helps to create new businesses, bring jobs to the area, introduce new services, and make life better for residents.
One of the ways CNI accomplishes this is through general operating grant support from our Flexible Funding program. The grants provide community-based organizations support for their ongoing operations around promoting investment in their neighborhoods. The funding is based on how well the organization can address our three “north stars”:
Is work being performed to change land use or the built environment?
Are proposed projects having a direct impact on local economic growth?
Are these projects working to address issues around a distinct place or corridor?
In August of this year, the program made its fourth round of grant making to 15 neighborhood organizations leading work that aligns with these priorities. A total of $1.3 million in funding will allow these organizations to be proactive in building the environment in their communities that will work to increase investment.
As part of the Trust’s work to close the racial and ethnic wealth gap, there is a need to provide communities with access to services, amenities, and jobs. Community-based organizations play a major role in neighborhood development by offering a multitude of services, often serving as the go-to resource for developers looking to invest and even acting as the voice for the residents. Resourcing these organizations allows neighborhood development to be led by people, just like it was done in so many of the communities I grew up visiting.
2023 Flexible Funding – General Operating Support Grant Recipients
Austin Coming Together ($100,000)
Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council ($100,000)
Economic Strategies Development Corporation ($100,000)
Emerald South Economic Development Collaboration ($50,000)
Endeleo Institute Inc ($100,000)
Far South Community Development Corporation ($100,000)
Garfield Park Community Council ($100,000)
Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation ($100,000)
Greater Englewood Chamber of Commerce ($50,000)
Greater Southwest Development Corporation ($100,000)
Marshall Square Resource Network ($100,000)
North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council ($50,000)
Quad Communities Development Corporation ($100,000)