United Way of Metro Chicago announces grantees of United Neighborhoods Equity Fund

Local nonprofits to receive a total of $500,000 in unrestricted funds

Chicago, IL – September 22, 2021 - United Way of Metro Chicago today announced the grantees of the United Neighborhoods Equity Fund (UNEF). These are 10 small, Black and brown-led nonprofits on the city’s south and west sides and south suburban region. Each of the grantees will be awarded $50,000 of unrestricted funds over a two-year cycle to be used according to the needs of each nonprofit. The organizations and leadership include:

• Edwin Martinez, Executive Director of Centro Sanar - an organization facilitating access to mental health resources for community residents who have experienced violence, traditionally face economic inequities, an inability to obtain health insurance, and limited access to services due to immigration status.

• Jamila Trimuel, Founder and CEO Ladies of Virtue - instilling purpose, passion, and perseverance in girls, while preparing them for college, careers, and to become change agents in their communities.

• Irene Romulo, Co-Founder Cicero Independiente - delivering news in the Cicero and Berwyn communities ensuring that reporting and the historical record is accurate, and centers the people who are most affected by injustice.

• Maria Velazquez, Executive Director TCEP - providing Little Village residents with comprehensive direct services; opportunities to develop skills to ensure their active participation in decisions directly affect their well-being; and supporting in their efforts to secure political, economic, and social equity.

• Ruth Kimble, Founder and CEO Austin Childcare Network - empowering early childhood educators with knowledge, skills, and best practices, which ensure high quality learning programs and sustainable businesses.

• Carmen Terrones, Founder Connecting RJ Communities - expanding and supporting everyone’s right to shape their own lives and to create a collective ability to shape their communities by partnering with all working to identify, build, and strengthen their communities in the service of their passion and mission statements.

• Eula Burge, Executive Director Proactive Community Services - reducing health disparities and eliminating inequality through programs that improve health and quality of life for vulnerable people in Chicago’s south suburbs.

• Messiah Equiano, Executive Director Chi-Rise - working to change negative narratives about Chicago through film, community involvement, and spreading love through positive messaging.

• Antonio Santos, Executive Director Gage Park Latinx Council - transforming the community through youth programing, public art, health access, fighting food insecurity, and environmental racism.

• Richard Wallace, Founder Equity and Transformation - democratizing Chicago's Black Informal Workforce to increase physical and emotional safety in informal occupations, expand the reach of policy development, create viable alternatives to harmful state interventions, and provide a political home for the historically unemployed.

In addition to the unrestricted funding, they receive two years of intensive capacity building, support from DePaul University’s nonprofit management program, and will have opportunities to network with corporate partners, funders and with each other.

“The first cohort of UNEF exemplifies both a high-quality caliber of local Chicagoland nonprofits and represents those who truly know their communities best,” Sean Garrett president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago said. “We’re thrilled to be working side by side with these organizations in hopes that, together, we can strengthen the fabrics of the neighborhoods they serve.”

UNEF is made possible with the generous support of founding sponsor Peoples Gas, which committed $1 million to the initiative, and corporate sponsors Nicor Gas, UL and Target.

"Investing in community-based organizations and the leaders who have the knowledge and expertise to maximize the potential that exists in those communities is essential to the prosperity not just of each neighborhood, but of the entire region," Charles Matthews, president and CEO of Peoples Gas said.

United Way will assist this cohort in building capacity at the grassroots level to accelerate neighborhood-driven outcomes and mentor them to plan for long-term success.


About United Way of Metro Chicago
United Way of Metro Chicago brings together businesses, government, nonprofits, and community leaders to deliver funding, resources, and expertise to nonprofit organizations across greater Chicago. We are working alongside our partners at the neighborhood level to tackle the systemic issues that have plagued our region, creating communities where children and families can thrive. United, we’re building stronger neighborhoods for a stronger Chicago region. To learn more, visit LIVEUNITEDchicago.org.

Media Contacts:
United Way of Metro Chicago – Marilyn Jackson, 312-906-2387, marilyn.jackson@liveunitedchicago.org
Prosper Strategies – Walker Post, 773-597-7504, walker@prosper-strategies.com

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