WEST TOWN — A nonprofit that provides schooling and programs for children and adults with disabilities received a city grant to start much-needed improvements at its West Town campus.
Esperanza Community Services, 520 N. Marshfield Ave., was awarded $585,230 this week to replace its roof, update its bathrooms, increase security and more.
The organization was one of almost 80 businesses and groups to get grants in the latest round of funding under the Community Development Program, the city’s pandemic recovery initiative to spark investment in neighborhood development and programs.
Esperanza has about 60 full-time students from kindergarten to the age of 22, CEO Jayne Drew said. Students travel to the school from around the city and nearby suburbs.
“These are students that have not been successful in their home school, so they come to us for therapeutic needs,” Drew said.
The nonprofit also has about 70 people in its adult program, offers in-home services and operates several group homes in nearby neighborhoods.
Since the ’70s, Esperanza has been based out of a more-than-130-year-old former Catholic school with dated facilities.
Drew said the leaky roof has been distracting for students and teachers and is the top priority in the renovations.
“We’re teaching around active situations with the roof leak. … If you’re trying to engage your class and there’s a leak going through your roof during your educational session, it’s not very effective,” she said.
The first phase of construction will begin in the fall, including the roof, bathroom updates and exterior masonry work, Drew said.
A second phase will include additional bathroom improvements, updates to the school’s nurse station and reconstruction of the front entryway to add space for additional security, Drew said.
Administrators say repairs will be completed in the next two years, depending on the availability of materials.
As part of the renovation, students and adults will also repaint a signature mural on the school’s southern wall, which needs to be replaced.
Drew said she’s not sure if the mural was originally painted by Esperanza participants, but she thinks it’s the perfect project to get students and adults involved in the improvements.
“I think it’d be a great thing to demonstrate we have our program, while we’re rebuilding the wall, let’s repaint the mural and use our own artists. So that’s a way to bring in some of that direct programming, because they will be so excited about that project,” Drew said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast”: