Southland RISE awards $100,000 to 14 grassroots violence prevention programs on the South Side

Collaborative powered by the University of Chicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center increases, extends grant funding to provide safe spaces this summer


Newswise — Through music, boxing, gardening, storytelling and even beekeeping, grassroots organizations on Chicago’s South Side are finding creative and constructive ways to keep young people engaged and safe during the summer months — an especially critical time when students are out of school and need access to safe venues and activities.

To support these efforts, the newly formed Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) collaborative awarded $100,000 in grant funding to 14 community-based organizations for their summer violence prevention and recovery programs.

Launched in April 2019, Southland RISE is a collaborative powered by Hyde Park-based UChicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. The two medical centers are strengthening and integrating existing violence recovery and trauma care services throughout the South Side and across the south suburbs.

The grants to support summer violence recovery and prevention programs represent the first of several objectives Southland RISE committed to achieving during the collaborative’s first two years. Other priorities include aligning and integrating trauma care services across organizations, developing trauma-informed care training models and hosting a community summit.

“Southland RISE is committed to being a part of a comprehensive solution to address the violence that is plaguing our community,” said Matthew Primack, president of Advocate Christ Medical Center. “In an effort to build upon the great work that is underway, we want to invest in these grassroots organizations that are focused on prevention, intervention and trauma-informed treatment. By working together we can build more support for these non-profit partners to better meet the needs of our community.”

This is the third consecutive year these “rapid-cycle” violence prevention, intervention and recovery grants have been awarded to community-based organizations. The program, named for the expedited application timeframe that ensures funds are available to organizations at the start of the critical summer months, was initially launched by UChicago Medicine in 2017 based on the recommendation of the health system’s Community Advisory Council.

During its first two years, UChicago Medicine awarded a combined $100,000 in grants to 14 South Side organizations. Through the collaborative, Southland RISE was able to double the amount of funds and number of organizations that received funding for this summer’s grants.

“Growing and sustaining the violence recovery and trauma care ecosystem in the Southland relies on engaged communities and collaboration, both at the institutional and grassroots levels,” said Brenda Battle, vice president of UChicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative and chief diversity and inclusion officer. “Through Southland RISE, we are building upon UChicago Medicine’s established grant program to support even more organizations and serve more young people with vital summer programming designed to keep them safe.”

Past recipients used the grants to build the capacity of their summer violence prevention and recovery programs. Some were able to hire more counselors, while other bought new equipment or expanded their programming to include more participants.

Two-time grant recipient Chicago Eco House used last year’s funding to transform vacant lots into vegetable gardens and flower farms in West Woodlawn. This year, the group plans to install beehives and train its teen participants in beekeeping.

“We’re teaching kids that it’s possible to turn something that looks like nothing into something that's positive and is a viable asset,” said Quilen Blackwell, the group’s executive director. “This grant and partnership enable it to happen.”

The 2019 rapid-cycle grant awardees are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations that operate or deliver services within the areas served by UChicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center. The full list of recipients is:

  • Alliance of the SouthEast (ASE): A repeat recipient, this South Shore and South Chicago-based group’s Youth Leadership Council provides leadership training for youth to give them a voice in the community, engage them in positive activities and unite them around anti-violence initiatives.
  • Chicago Eco House: This organization works with youth in Englewood, West Woodlawn and West Garfield Park to transform vacant lots into sustainable plots of land to farm fruits, vegetables and flowers.
  • Edward G. Irvin Foundation (EGIF): The Englewood/Woodlawn Community Peace Partnership-Guide Right Program serves Englewood, West Englewood, Woodlawn, West Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhoods by providing youth guidance, mentoring and tutoring.
  • Future Ties: Serving the Parkway Gardens community, this organization provides single female heads of household and their children a free safe space for family-centered events, parent support groups and workshops focused on personal growth, family enhancement and interpersonal communication.
  • Girls Like Me: The D.I.V.A.S (Digitally Innovative Voices of Advocacy Sisters) program is a repeat grant recipient that promotes creativity and leadership skills. Through the program, tween and teen girls learn digital storytelling to document their experiences as they explore Chicago beyond their neighborhoods.
  • Grow Greater Englewood (GGE): The non-profit trains adults and youth in circle keeping, which is designed to help facilitators develop positive coping skills and promote communication, understanding and compassion within their communities.
  • Guitars over Guns: This group matches vulnerable teens and young adults in the Oakland neighborhood with practicing musicians who provide mentoring and access to a community-based recording studio.
  • I Grow Chicago: In addition to gardening and storytelling programs, the group is establishing a youth restorative justice council to help mediate conflicts and promote healthy conflict transformation in Englewood.
  • Love, Unity & Values (LUV) Institute: The group’s Restoring Bronzeville initiative is training nearly 50 young people in restorative/recovery practices to build healthier relationships and communities.
  • New Eclipse Community Alliance: The group’s Summer of Peace and Safety Project incorporates safety talks with local police districts and fire departments, peace circles, job readiness training and soft skills training into activities designed to provide New City youth with tools and strategies to peacefully solve conflicts.
  • Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation: The group supports a holistic violence prevention program that includes street outreach, case management and job readiness training for Back of the Yards youth.
  • Restoring the Path-Crushers Club: Englewood’s Crushers Club – a three-time grant recipient – aims to be the strongest alternative to gangs using its proven model of engaging youth in boxing, music, peer mentoring, leadership/job skills development and community activities.
  • St. Titus One Youth Anti-Violence & Mentoring Program: The Pullman-based group’s “Operation Stop the Violence” program provides guidance, job training, life skills and other activities during the summer months.
  • Woodlawn Re-entry Project: This repeat grant recipient program provides post-release education and support for ex-offenders and at-risk school-aged teens and young adults in Woodlawn and surrounding communities (Washington Park, Greater Grand Crossing, South Shore, South Chicago and Kenwood-Oakland/Hyde Park).

Southland RISE was formed in response to Chicago HEAL – Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership – an initiative launched by U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-IL, in October 2018 to urge health care providers on the city’s South and West Sides to bolster their efforts to help reduce violence and address health care needs associated with violence recovery. The issue has been particularly acute in Chicago where police data shows more than 560 residents were killed and nearly 3,000 were injured as a result of gun violence in 2018.

Caring for a combined 6,600 adult trauma patients in 2018, UChicago Medicine and Advocate Christ Medical Center house two of the busiest trauma centers in the Chicago area – treating patients from communities on the South Side and south suburbs. Both provide a suite of violence recovery services to help patients and their families with immediate and long-term needs in managing the physical and mental-health effects of trauma from intentional violence.

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