Courtesy of Nerdy Media

Memorial Day will kick off a season of neighbors coming together to strengthen communities and reduce violence

$1.5 million in grants will support 201 community-led organizations in Chicago neighborhoods hardest hit by gun violence

CHICAGO—Memorial Day is approaching, and while many in Chicago are bracing for an anticipated surge in shootings, many grassroots organizations in areas hardest hit by gun violence are proactively planning ways to bring neighbors together to help make their communities safer this summer and early fall. 

A coalition of more than 50 foundations and funders called the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC) today announces 201 grassroots organizations will receive $1.5 million in grants from its 2022 Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. Groups will use these funds to host activities in 24 neighborhoods on the South and West Sides that experience high levels of gun violence. The grant application review committee ⁠— made up of funders, a community development practitioner and a former Chicago Fund grantee ⁠— identified these projects as 2022 Chicago Fund grant recipients after reviewing a total of 262 applications. 

“Solutions born of the people most impacted by violence are an effective, but often overlooked, approach to community safety,” said Deborah Bennett, senior program officer for Polk Bros. Foundation and co-chair of the PSPC Chicago Fund. “These grants are a direct response to the many people and grassroots organizations that are already taking powerful, on-the-ground action in their neighborhoods.”

This year marks the seventh year PSPC has facilitated neighborhood grants through the Chicago Fund, which provides grants of up to $10,000 to small, neighborhood organizations engaged in community-led approaches to increasing community cohesion, safety and peace. PSPC launched the Chicago Fund in 2016 to prepare for the potential of a spike in violence in Chicago during summer months, and to support activities that build community cohesion, provide safe spaces, and promote safety and peace. 

Over the years, including this year, the rapid-response fund has provided $8.2 million in support of 1,024 projects. Proposed grantee program activities range from gardening and peer mentoring projects to art programs and music festivals, community yoga sessions, youth sports programs, and other physical activities. Many are youth-led and incorporate social emotional learning components.

Among the 2022 activities: 

  • Alliance 98 (South Lawndale) will offer Suited for a Cause, a professional development and mentoring program, to help teens and young adults learn about resume building, interviewing, landing a job, dressing for success and developing their identity.
  • alt_ (Austin) will engage multiple generations in the Redemptive Plastics summer arts camp to collect accumulated plastic trash from throughout Austin and use it to create public seating and other community assets.
  • Harambee Community Garden (Austin) will host programming in the garden including ongoing spoken word poetry and music performances, gardening and healthy eating workshops, Dig in the Garden work days, and Goat-a-Palooza, an event that features goat yoga.
  • Mothers Ona Mission28 (Austin, West Garfield Park) will offer a healing community that encourages young people and families affected by violence to explore the outdoors in local parks, engages them in creative expression activities, and supports their mental and physical health. 
  • Peace Players International (North Lawndale, Roseland) will engage young people (Chicago CRED participants) who are at risk of gun and gang violence in an 8-week peace basketball league.
  • South Merrill Community Garden (South Shore) will host programming in the garden including a Block Club Bike Giveaway, Harvest Fest, Saturday workshops, senior self-care days, and an opportunity for children to create a mini meadow of butterfly plants.
  • The South Side Jazz Coalition (Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, South Chicago, South Shore, Woodlawn) will host a monthly jazz series, called Jazz’n on the Steps, on the steps of St. Moses The Black Parish.
  • Two Five Three Two Corp (Lower West Side) will hold its Luv City Summer Institute to give young people an opportunity to become immersed in filmmaking, editing and sound design; multimedia production and techniques; acting and storytelling; and music production. Participants will showcase their work at a public event at the end of the program.
  • Ujimaa Medics (Auburn Gresham, Austin, North Lawndale, South Shore) will build on its efforts to empower people to protect Black lives through emergency and community care first response training by offering two Basic Gunshot Wound First Response workshops, two Advanced Gunshot Wound First Response workshops and one Community Safety Planning workshop.
  • What About Us Charitable Enterprise (Auburn Gresham, Austin, Humboldt Park) will engage young people and families in its Our Community, Connection and Culture program to increase their access to resources and engage them in activities like peace circles and sports.

PSPC is a coalition of more than 50 foundations and funders working together to identify and support community-led, evidence-based solutions to addressing gun violence. Since its 2016 founding, PSPC has committed more than $110 million to anti-violence efforts in Chicago. In addition to the Chicago Fund, PSPC’s comprehensive, four-point approach also includes: neighborhood-based initiatives, including street outreach and transitional jobs; reimagining and reforming public safety systems; and creating a supportive policy environment. 

Evaluations of the Chicago Fund have found that activities supported build the community and social cohesion necessary for violence reduction. Additionally, the Chicago Fund’s grantmaking has supported and expanded the capacity of emerging and hyperlocal community-based organizations and over time enhanced their ability to implement impactful programs. 

“We’re seeing more organizations creating ways to engage community members every week, from Memorial Day through Halloween. Groups are moving away from one-day events and toward programs that provide community members with support over and above their engagement in scheduled events or activities,” said Anna Lee, senior director of community impact for The Chicago Community Trust and co-chair of the PSPC Chicago Fund. “We’re also seeing a greater focus on social emotional learning, addressing behavioral health, and organizing communities for change.”

The Chicago Fund prioritizes 24 community areas on the South and West Sides based on data compiled by the University of Chicago Crime Lab for highest number and rate of homicides, and in alignment with State violence prevention priority areas: Auburn Gresham, Austin, Burnside, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, West Englewood, Fuller Park, Gage Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Greater Grand Crossing, Humboldt Park, Lower West Side (Pilsen), New City (Back of the Yards), North Lawndale, South Lawndale (Little Village), Riverdale, Roseland, South Chicago, South Shore, Washington Park, West Pullman and/or Woodlawn.

See the full 2022 list of grantees.