News Flash

Village of Park Forest - Top Story News

Posted on: June 7, 2023

United Way of Metro Chicago and Cook County’s “Transforming Places” Partnership Expands

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United Way of United Way of Metro Chicago, in partnership with Cook County and with support from the Nicor Gas Foundation, has announced the expansion of its Neighborhood Network Initiative in Park Forest and Richton Park, among various other communities in the Southland Region. 

Over the next three years, the Neighborhood Network coalitions will develop and implement visions to improve the quality of life for residents facing systemic disinvestment in their communities.

Mayor Joseph Woods said this partnership will bring results for those in need.

"We know that zip codes should not be code for lack of services or resources, or code for the quality of life versus the quantity of lives lost," Woods said. "Whether it be from expanded healthcare services for children or workforce development for parents, we realize that there is no need to trade spaces when we can simply transform places."

United Way of Metro Chicago President and CEO Sean Garrett echoed the mayor's comments and said this is an excellent example of everyone coming together to serve various communities.

"This partnership is more than an expansion of our Neighborhood Network Initiative in suburban Cook County. It is an example of how partners from government, nonprofits, businesses, and the community can learn from each other to improve systems, strengthen economic development, and build thriving communities," said Garrett. "United Way of Metro Chicago is thrilled to be a part of this cross-sector partnership with Cook County, Nicor Gas, and our nonprofit agency partners to support resident-led transformation in the Southland."

Cook County supports the expansion of United Way's Neighborhood Network Initiative as part of its $15 million investment in the Transforming Places Program. This is the first project resulting from the Cook County Equity Fund's recommendation to pursue place-based, community-driven, sustainable economic development.

"This investment through Cook County's Equity Fund demonstrates our commitment to creating more inclusive, sustainable, responsive, and vital communities," said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. "Empowering and building up communities that have been historically left behind will require sustained, catalytic investments in people, businesses, and local infrastructure. The Transforming Places Pilot represents our comprehensive, equitable approach to investment in underserved Cook County communities."

As a leading supporter of community-driven efforts, United Way launched its Neighborhood Network Initiative in 2013 as an "inside-out," place-based approach to neighborhood transformation. A decade later, this community-led strategy has gained momentum and garnered millions of dollars in support from corporate and philanthropic partners, including the Nicor Gas Foundation. 

The Nicor Gas Foundation is supporting the expansion of the Neighborhood Network Initiative in the Southland as part of their $1 million leadership gift to United Way of Metro Chicago.

"The Nicor Gas Foundation is honored to join United Way of Metro Chicago, Cook County, and our community partners on this transformative investment in the Southland," said Nicor Gas President and CEO Wendell Dallas. "We are committed to equitably supporting economic development and building a workforce pipeline across south suburban Cook County to help create stable households and stable communities."

Each Neighborhood Network is led by a "community quarterback," an established agency that brings together a coalition of organizations, local leaders, and resources to develop a community vision and execute plans to address a variety of issues, including affordable housing, cradle-to-career education, family wrap-around services, economic development, business ownership, and arts and culture.

The community quarterbacks for the new Neighborhood Networks are Cornerstone Community Development Corporation in Ford Heights/Chicago Heights; Restoration Ministries and the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc. (CEDA) in Harvey; and OAI, Inc. in Park Forest/Richton Park. Metropolitan Family Services will continue to serve as the community quarterback for the Blue Island/Robbins Neighborhood Network.

With the addition of the three new Neighborhood Networks in the Southland, United Way's Neighborhood Networks now reach 17 communities: Auburn Gresham, Austin, Blue Island/Robbins, Brighton Park, Bronzeville, Cicero, Elgin, Englewood, Evanston, Far South, Ford Heights/Chicago Heights, Garfield Park, Harvey, Little Village, Park Forest/Richton Park, South Chicago, and West Chicago.

To learn more about United Way's neighborhood work, click here.

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