CCHD grants help the poor change their lives

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, September 25, 2011

When the Catholic Campaign for Human Development gave nearly a half-million dollars in grants to 24 community-based organizations this year, it was aiming not to provide charity to the poor — although that is good and necessary — but to strike at the very roots of poverty, helping people in need change their worlds and make them better.

“They’re trying to help people understand that they have rights and they have a say in how their life progresses,” said Carol Smith, the Archdiocese of Chicago’s CCHD director. “It’s telling them that they can change things.”

That has always been one of the main goals of the campaign: working with community-based organizations to change the structural causes of poverty. The other goal is to educate Catholics about poverty in the United States.

Both goals took on added urgency this month when the U.S. Census Bureau announced that 15.1 percent of Americans — 46.2 million people — were living in poverty last year, the highest percentage since 1993 and the highest number ever.

‘Faith and Public Life’

Jesuit Father Daniel Hartnett understands the need to offer direct services to the poor. His parish, Most Blessed Trinity in Waukegan, has all kinds of ministries to help.

“We have a soup kitchen and food pantry that have been in operation for over 20 years,” he said in an email. “Now, while it is important to respond to the immediate needs of our neighbors who are in need, and we plan to do so as long as it is necessary, we also feel compelled to bring about real transformations in people’s lives, both at the personal level and structural levels.”

That’s the point of a new initiative called “Fe y Vida Publica” (“Faith and Public Life”) that received a grant of $14,489 from the campaign at the Sept. 7 awards reception.

“The purpose of ‘Faith and Public Life’ ministry is to foster these transformations and to create within each of our 60 ministries a deeper awareness concerning the intrinsic relationship between faith and public life,” Hartnett said.

“As people of faith, we have a basic duty to engender an effective difference in our world and to make our world a true home for all. In order to bring about this real social change, our Faith and Public Life ministry devotes itself to social action in the following areas: immigration reform, education reform and increased civic engagement in the Waukegan area.”

Generous givers

The CCHD grants are funded by a collection taken up in parishes the weekend before Thanksgiving; this year, it will be Nov. 19-20. Last year’s collection brought in $620,749. Half the money is used here in the archdiocese, with a portion going to the national Catholic Campaign for Human Development to help projects around the United States. Local grants can be renewed for up to three years.

Other organizations in the Archdiocese of Chicago that received grants this year work on issues such as the rights of workers, especially day laborers, housing, the rights of senior citizens and disabled people and chastity education.

The rights of immigrants are a particular focus, Smith said, because “they really don’t know their rights and a lot of them are being cheated out of wages.”

To address problems like that, the organizations funded by CCHD generally work to develop leaders from within the communities they seek to help, she said. Those leaders approach the people they work with or who live in their communities.

“I’ve heard some amazing stories,” she said. “They’re not only making a difference in their communities, when they get legislation passed, they can make a difference in the whole state or country.”

This year’s grant recipients

Arise Chicago Worker Center: first year, $20,000. Partners with the workers in the lowestpaid, least-regulated industries where workers face wage theft, discrimination, unhealthy or unsafe workplaces and other abuses. Since 2002, Arise Chicago has partnered with workers to receive more than $4.65 million in owed wages and compensation.

BENNU Legal Services ACCESS and SKILL programs: first year, $7,500. Provides low-cost legal aid, education and job-skill development to help those new to the United States to legalize and integrate. Nearly a third of BENNU’s pro-bono and low-bono clients give back by volunteering so others may learn how the law can help them.

Blocks Together Taking Root Project: First year, $10,000. Addresses unemployment, affordable housing, the infrastructure of local schools and the violence and criminalization that affect youth in the West Humboldt Park community.

Center for Companies that Care AIM High: First year, $7,500. “Eight Pillar Curriculum” helps low-income Chicago Public School students overcome barriers to college access and success. This year, 100 percent of AIM High’s college freshmen remained on campus.

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos Immigrant Workers’ Project: third year, $20,000. Collaborates with churches and other local organizations to provide labor rights workshops and acts as part of the Just Pay for All Coalition. Since 2008, it has successfully recovered thousands of dollars in owed wages to low-income workers.

Chicago Workers’ Collaborative Raising Standards Project: third year, $10,000. Organizes and educates low-wage temporary workers in the Chicago area with three Worker Service Centers; helped lead the Just Pay for All Coalition to pass improvements in the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

Jane Addams Senior Caucus Aging With Dignity: first year, $20,000. Won the preservation and renovation of two senior housing developments, Section 8 contracts at several other buildings and the passage of the Illinois Nursing Home Safety Act.

Metropolitan Tenants Organization Healthy Homes Program: first year, $7,500. Backed the “Lead Safe-Clear Win” project and helped secure window replacements for low-income renters at risk of lead poisoning; worked to enact mandatory inspections to protect families from lead poisoning.

Mission of Our Lady of the Angels Neighborhood Outreach: second year, $7,500. Identifies and supports community leaders, helping them get training to confront neighborhood challenges.

Most Blessed Trinity Fe y Vida Publica: first year, $19,489. Raises awareness of issues and systems oppressing the community.

MOVE (Mothers Opposed to Violence Everywhere) Youth Empowerment Centers: third year, $15,000. Founded “Boxing Our Negativity,” an afterschool boxing activity formed to mentor youth.

PASO (Proyecto de Accion los Duburbios del Oeste) Immigrant Rights Project: $10,000. Registered more than 3,536 new citizens and children of immigrants to vote and mobilized support for DREAM Act.

Respect Life Office, Archdiocese of Chicago, Chastity Education Initiative: second year, $20,000. Reaches 23,000 young people each year with encouragement to embrace chastity.

Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago Restaurant Worker Policy Project: third year, $20,000. Conducted most comprehensive study to date of Chicago’s restaurant industry, trained 150 workers, launched state-wide campaign for sick days and minimum wage increase.

St. Toribio Romo Immigrant Center Immigrant Leadership Development: second year, $20,000. Trained more than 100 parish volunteers to provide information to, organize and accompany fellow immigrants.

TARGET Area Development Corporation Justice at Work: first year, $7,500. Developed a model for community reintegration of ex-offenders and won millions of dollars for public safety work in Auburn-Gresham and Englewood.

Warehouse Workers for Justice Leadership Development: first year, $7,500. Trained more than 500 warehouse workers in Chicago, the nation’s largest container port, on their rights, recovered stolen wages and lobbied for a wage increase.

Zacchaeus House: second year, $5,000. Provides housing, basic health care, life skills and spiritual growth for men in transition.

National Grants

Developing Communities Project Community Organizing: first year, $40,000. Advocated for cleanup of soil at a Roselandarea industrial park and got a CTA Red Line extension on a list of high-priority transportation projects.

Lake County Center for Independent Living Community Organizing: first year, $35,000. Partnered with township officials to launch project to provide public transportation in an underserved area of the county.

Lake County United Community Organizing: fourth year, $30,000. Won zoning approval for 70-unit affordable housing development in Grayslake and create “Waukegan to College,” a family-focused college readiness program.

Latino Union Community Organizing: third year, $75,000. Joined with other CCHD grantees to form the Just Pay for All Coalition, which advocated for the passage of the country’s strongest statewide law against wage theft.

Progress Center for Independent Living Community Organizing: third year, $30,000. Works to allow people with disabilities to stay in their homes. Won $25,000 in home modification funding from Proviso Township last year.

SWOP (Southwest Organizing Project) Community Organizing: fourth year, $45,000. Worked on a variety of issues, including the creation of a foreclosure mediation program allowing 500 families to avoid foreclosure and the passage of legislation allowing religious ministry to immigrant detainees in McHenry County.