HYDE PARK — Two nonprofits that aim to help people land jobs in underserved Chicago neighborhoods have received a leg up on their efforts thanks to a University of Chicago grant.
Through its inaugural Urban America Forward Catalyst Grant, the University of Chicago awarded Sunshine Enterprises in Woodlawn and the Chicago Jobs Council $35,000 each to address challenges of economic upward mobility in Chicago. The Chicago Jobs Council works to help people out of poverty through employment. Sunshine Enterprises provides training and resources to neighborhood-based entrepreneurs in Chicago.
Carrie Thomas, executive director of the Chicago Jobs Council, said the grant will be used to fund the transportation-related advocacy, a relatively new effort for the group.
“We can see that every single time we look at the unemployment rate there’s disparities in the unemployment rate, it doesn’t matter how the economy is doing,” Thomas said.
Joel Hamernick, executive director of Sunshine Enterprises, said the grant will help his organization continue its work supporting minority entrepreneurs. The group plans to work with 300 entrepreneurs, half of whom live in neighborhoods surrounding the university, Hamernick said.
“We’re very gratified to be awarded the grant,” he said. “It’s a substantial thing to open up the door and try to create procurement opportunities around this anchor institution to better position our local neighborhood entrepreneurs to take advantage of those opportunities because the university spends a lot of money every year.”
Derek Douglas, vice president for civic engagement and external affairs at the University of Chicago, said the university has “both the ability and obligation to think about the great challenges” Chicago faces. While $35,000 grants will not immediately solve the issues the university hopes to address, they money will serve as a helping hand to organizations that are creating change, he said.
Organizations that participated in the Urban America Forward series were eligible to apply for the grants, Douglas said.
The grants are funded by The Prudential Foundation, Ariel Investments, LLC, and the University of Chicago.