Nancy Coleman speaks at Elgin Neighborhood Network launch

Nancy Coleman, executive director of Alignment Collaborative for Education, speaks at the launch of the Elgin Neighborhood Network on March 15, 2023.

Public, private, nonprofit, and community partners gather at the Village Green in Park Forest to celebrate the expansion of the Neighborhood Network Initiative in the Southland on June 6, 2023.

For more than a decade, United Way of Metro Chicago has been working alongside community partners through place-based, resident-led transformation. In 2023, we deepened this commitment in the suburbs through the launch of four new Neighborhood Networks: Elgin, Ford Heights/Chicago Heights, Harvey, and Park Forest/Richton Park.

This significant expansion from 13 to 17 Neighborhood Networks would not have been possible without our partners in business, government, and community. In March 2023, the Elgin Neighborhood Network launched with founding support from Nicor Gas Foundation. Alignment Collaborative for Education is the lead agency driving the work on the ground in Elgin.

“The launch of the Elgin Neighborhood Network is a gamechanger for the Elgin community,” said Nancy Coleman, executive director of Alignment Collaborative for Education. “We are grateful for United Way of Metro Chicago and the Nicor Gas Foundation for believing in our work and joining our strong coalition of community leaders to ensure all people can thrive in Elgin, starting with crucial education and workforce development programming for our youth.”

A few months later, in June 2023, we gathered at the Village Green in downtown Park Forest to share that our Neighborhood Networks were once again expanding, this time in the Southland. In partnership with Cook County and with support from Nicor Gas Foundation, Networks launched in Ford Heights/Chicago Heights, Harvey, and Park Forest/Richton Park. We also committed an increased investment in the existing Blue Island/Robbins Neighborhood Network.

“In government, we must figure out how to invest in the communities that have been disinvested in, marginalized, and left behind. That means you must have a place-based strategy to address the challenges that those communities face,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Clearly, United Way is best-in-class for executing on place-based strategies, so the opportunity to collaborate was clear.”

“The Nicor Gas Foundation is honored to join United Way of Metro Chicago and our community partners on this transformative investment,” said Wendell Dallas, President and CEO of Nicor Gas. “When we work together, we can do meaningful things. It takes business, civic, community, government – all of us working together. When we do that well, the citizens and the community benefit from it.”

Over the next three years, the new Networks are developing and refining their community visions related to education and youth development, jobs and economic growth, health and wellness, and more. These plans serve as a blueprint to create communities where all people can thrive – where every child has better access to quality education, communities are safer, our neighbors are healthier, incomes increase, and our region prospers.

“All across our region, communities have plans. Too often those plans are left on a desk,” said Sean Garrett, president and CEO of United Way of Metro Chicago. “Our job at United Way is to work with our partners to help make those plans happen. The Neighborhood Network is the idea of bringing people together to create a vision and make that vision a reality.”

Learn more about United Way’s place-based approach to neighborhood transformation.