The Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities

Small Local Groups Get Up to $10,000 Each

CHICAGO – When COVID-19 stay-at-home orders threatened summertime plans for small community groups, the fifth annual Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities — a violence-reduction strategy of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities (PSPC) — adapted its $1 million grant program to continue supporting organizations to help them create the conditions necessary for peace with summer and fall activities that are safe in a time of social distancing.

Chicago’s African American and Latinx communities, already battling the effects of disinvestment and gun violence, continue to pay a heavy price as the coronavirus outbreak disproportionately harms individuals and communities on the South and West Sides. Neighborhoods depend on the critical services, programs, and community-building events that small, grassroots organizations provide. These activities promote community safety and peace by creating social cohesion, building trust and fostering cooperation among residents and police. The groups are the connective fiber of the communities they serve, but they are straining under the impacts of COVID-19.

“In this unprecedented time, these resources are even more important to sustaining and building strong community bonds, social cohesion and reducing gun violence,” said Deborah Bennett, senior program officer, Polk Bros. Foundation, a PSPC member. “The pandemic took root as we were reviewing applications, so we quickly partnered with the Goldin Institute, a world leader in building community remotely, to provide technical assistance on how to go virtual. Program plans, budgets and timelines were revised and resubmitted. We are helping grantees stay abreast on the latest public health guidelines and plan to provide masks and gloves to help them offer their programs and activities safely. We anticipate learning together about how to build community virtually as social distancing remains the new normal.”

On May 20, 2020, the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities announces the recipients of its $1 million rapid-response grants from its Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities. The grantees are 164 small organizations serving 21 communities on the South and West Sides that experience high levels of gun violence. PSPC is a coalition of more than 50 foundations and funders that have aligned their funding to support community-based, evidence-backed, sustainable strategies to address gun violence.

“The Little Village community has one of the highest infection rates of COVID-19 in the city and is also experiencing deep economic distress,” wrote organizers of Jardincito Community Nature Garden in its program modification submission for a Chicago Fund grant. “We’d like to provide social/emotional relief for the families most in need while providing much needed community programming in the areas of healing and togetherness.” Jardincito plans to help residents with at-home art and garden therapy projects and a virtual summer solstice celebration with an Aztec- and-Mexican theme. Also in the works are no-contact drop-offs of school supplies. Jardincito is a previous recipient of a Chicago Fund grant.

Virtual events and no-contact drop-offs were on no one’s minds when the fifth year of the Chicago Fund for Safe and Peaceful Communities kicked off in January. That’s when the first 312 organizations applied for grants of up to $10,000 each. The fast, three-month turnaround between the application due date and the release of funding gives recipients time and money to schedule their summer and early-fall activities for the public. Funded activities will continue through October.

Another grantee, 40 Plus Ohio Players, is turning its annual block party into a virtual event. Organizers are planning games and activities that families can play at a coordinated time in their yards and homes, building a sense of togetherness even while neighbors remain separate. The pre-coronavirus plans for a bouncy house, face painting, and pickup football games will be replaced by packages of board games, card games, balls and sports equipment for families to pick up. The organization has also developed a system that enables it to visually check on seniors without exposing them to COVID-19. Green and red cards have been distributed to seniors, who can place them in their windows to signal if they need help.

PSPC launched the Chicago Fund in 2016 to prepare for the potential of a spike in violence in Chicago during summer months, and to support activities that build community cohesion and promote safety and peace. Over the years, the rapid-response fund has provided $3.2 million in support of 505 projects. Evaluations of the Chicago Fund have found that activities supported build the community and social cohesion necessary for violence reduction.

“The COVID-19 crisis puts extra stress on our communities, which is why we made the grants more flexible,” said Anna Lee, director of community impact at The Chicago Community Trust, a member of PSPC. “It is key for our partners to continue supporting residents’ efforts to build and nurture the conditions for peace.”

In Englewood, the musicians of the Live the Spirit Residency will fill the air with jazz music as they play from atop a flatbed truck at different neighborhood locations. Residents can enjoy live music from their windows and front steps, sharing the sounds as they have done in previous years at Live the Spirit performances. The organization also is hosting an online jazz education workshop to support an art form that was greatly shaped by Chicago musicians of the past. Live the Spirit is a previous recipient of a Chicago Fund grant.

The Chicago Fund is one of four key strategies of the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities:

  • Street outreach, support services and jobs;
  • Police reform and community engagement;
  • Gun policy reform; and
  • The PSPC Chicago Fund, a rapid-response fund for community-led summer and fall activities

In 2020, the Fund prioritizes 21 community areas on the South and West Sides: Austin, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Chicago Lawn, Englewood, West Englewood, Gage Park, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Greater Grand Crossing, Humboldt Park, Lower West Side (Pilsen), New City (Back of the Yards), North Lawndale, Roseland, South Chicago, South Lawndale (Little Village), South Shore, Washington Park, West Pullman and Woodlawn.

See the list of 2020 Chicago Fund grantees at

About the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities

The Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities is a coalition of more than 50 Chicago funders and foundations committed to aligning their funding to support proven and promising approaches to reducing gun violence. To date, members have committed nearly $75 million to street outreach and transitional jobs, police reform and community relations, gun policy reform and a rapid-response fund for community-led summer activities. Learn more at: Learn more about the Chicago Fund at