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Opportunity Knocks at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards

By: Gordon Walek
Published: August 9, 2016

The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center won 2016's Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards ceremony..  And it didn’t escape the attention of Maria Kim and her colleagues at The Cara Program, who were in the awards audience.

Gordon Walek


Each year, many good things come out of the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA), which recognize outstanding achievement in neighborhood real estate development, community engagement, planning, and building stronger and healthier communities.

There are the winners, of course, who through a competitive, juried process are acknowledged for the good work they do. And an audience of roughly 1,500 people, who through videos and remarks are informed of exactly what that good work is. And then there’s the extraordinary cocktail party following the awards ceremony, which is one of the few social occasions in which all of the people engaged in Chicago community development – the neighborhood organizations, funders, public officials, government staff, etc. – are in the same room at the same time.

But other good things come out of CNDA, too, though they often aren’t so obvious. Last year, for example, The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center, a terrific recreational facility on the far South Side, received The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project. No surprise there. It’s quite a place. And it didn’t escape the attention of Maria Kim and her colleagues at The Cara Program, who were in the audience.


Maria Kim, executive director of The Cara Program, which places people plagued by homelessness and poverty into meaningful jobs, reached out to the Kroc Center following the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards ceremony, resulting in the center hiring more than 20 Cara students to help service their grounds, facilities and events. 

Gordon Walek


“I wasn’t aware of the project until the awards ceremony,” said Kim, who, as Cara’s executive director has an eagle eye for opportunities to place people plagued by homelessness and poverty into meaningful jobs. Over the years, the nonprofit has placed more than 5,300 people into more than 7,800 quality jobs, with one-year job retention rates of 70 percent or better. Cara also runs a couple social enterprises - including one in neighborhood beautification and the other in temporary staffing - that achieve a double bottom line: more than $2 million in revenue annually and 400+ transitional jobs per year for the hardest to employ. 

 So in the days following the CNDA ceremony, Kim and her staff followed up.

“We got to chatting with Kroc’s leadership and created a partnership between our two organizations, and particularly within our staffing company,” Kim said. “In the short time since then, they have already hired more than 20 Cara students to help service their grounds, facilities and events. That connection was made possible by the informal networks that real community building can create.”

The potential for future, similar connections is fast approaching. Applications for the 23rd annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards are now available. Award opportunities include:

  • The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award

  • The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award

  • The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project

  • The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award

  • The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award

  • The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award

  • The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, recognizing best practices in community design, landscape design and architecture.

Monetary awards will be presented to winners, who will be announced and honored on February 28, 2017. To apply online or for more details on the awards, click here.

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2016

 

 

Posted in Areas of Work, Neighborhoods

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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