FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
New initiative aims to help revitalize Englewood neighborhood through service years
Managed by an Englewood native, the Initiative will, for the first time, engage 21 AmeriCorps VISTA members in the community
“As a native of the Englewood community of Chicago, you realize quickly that much of the world sees you based on the challenges and disparities in your community, but when you have lived in a community like Englewood, you have seen first-hand the strengths and assets of that community. To be in a position where those strengths and assets are uplifted, celebrated, and supported is what really excites me about this initiative,” said Monique Ellington, Chicago Director at Service Year Alliance. “Englewood is my home — it’s where I went to school and church. We were a community — we ate together, we played together, and we tackled issues together — that’s the side of the story that people do not hear. To be able to implement a program where those who are serving are developing critical 21st Century skills and becoming community leaders while simultaneously supporting and building capacity for my community to thrive — that warms my heart.”
Service Year Alliance, an organization working to make a year of paid, full-time service — a service year — a common expectation and opportunity for young Americans of all backgrounds, was initially charged with exploring strategies to address violence and crime in Chicago communities. This aim lead Chicago Director, Monique Ellington to partner with Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation (GECDC) and the Englewood Quality of Life Task Force whose committees strive to improve Englewood’s education and youth development, health and wellness, housing and public spaces, jobs and economic development, and public safety.
“Both GECDC and the Englewood community are on the cusp of benefitting from a fresh cadre of committed professionals that have a passion for adding to positive change. This surge of energy has already produced many bright and innovative ideas on how a service year can have lasting impact on our community and the organizations this initiative is dedicated to partnering with,” said Robert Houston, local Pastor at Freedom United Methodist Church in West Englewood and VISTA Project Manager at the Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation. “As a direct social and human service practitioner in Englewood for the past 20 years, it is encouraging to be a part of this initiative which will provide much-needed human capital to strengthen existing programs and service delivery models here. Service Year Alliance helped opened our community’s eyes to view service years as a strategy to address pressing challenges. It’s because of this partnership that we have seen what service years can be doing in this space and in our community.”
The Greater Englewood Community Development Corporation’s mission is to re-brand, rebuild, and revitalize the greater Englewood community by building on existing community assets and facilitating ongoing collaboration between residents and other key stakeholders. As part of this initiative, GECDC is hosting the 21 AmeriCorps VISTA members during their service years where they’ll bring additional capacity and support to building to the Englewood community, strengthening local nonprofits and ultimately helping to leverage and increase opportunity in Englewood.