Naperville, IL – Micro-transit solutions, a K–12 enrichment program and disadvantaged business owners will benefit from the latest round of grant funding from Northern Illinois Community Initiatives. NICI, the nonprofit founded by natural gas distributor Nicor Gas, announces three Impact Grant awards worth $100,000 each to nonprofit organizations serving Rockford, Harvey, south and west suburban Cook County and Will County. The grants, created to provide bridge funding for economic and workforce development, and community revitalization programs, builds upon NICI's mission to attract investment, mobilize partners, and connect vital resources to underserved communities in Nicor Gas' service areas.
The 2022 grant recipients are:
Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation (CSEDC), which identifies and mobilizes public and private resources to expand retail and commercial growth and careers. The NICI grant will support CSEDC's Southland Mobility Collaborative (SMC), created to engage stakeholders in micro-transit solutions (drivers, vehicles, training, transportation agencies, legal requirements, coordination). The SMC will be focused on Chicago's Southland region, which includes more than 50 municipalities in Cook and Will Counties.
The Harvey Brooks Foundation (HBF), which provides programs, services, and a food pantry to improve the quality of life for low-income residents in communities impacted by disinvestment and the loss of manufacturing and logistics jobs. The Impact Grant will be used to support HBF's development of a long-term funding plan to meet demand for more services, as well as its Scholastic Motivation and Literacy Program. That includes a Summer Enrichment Camp; an after-school program for up to 30 students in K-12; the We Will Grow Community Gardening initiative; and programming to motivate students to excel in their academic studies.
Think Big! helps disadvantaged entrepreneurs overcome barriers to establishing and growing their own businesses. The grant will support increased demand for services at the nonprofit's new headquarters and cultivate a culture of investing in businesses owned by women and diverse entrepreneurs. The program will include education and technical support through the Think Big School of Business, as well as networking opportunities for up to 100 entrepreneurs.
NICI was founded by Nicor Gas to bolster investment in under-resourced communities hardest hit by deindustrialization, systemic and environmental racism, and other mitigating factors that affect job creation, wealth-building, healthcare and education. The number of people living below the poverty level in suburban Cook County grew by 77% since 2000, according to the 2018 Community Needs Assessment report completed by the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County. The data shows that poverty has steadily moved outside the city of Chicago into other parts of northern Illinois, but services and resources have not followed.
"The most impactful revitalization efforts are hyper-local. People living and working in these communities know what they need to thrive," said Tovah McCord, Executive Director, NICI. "These grants were created to help empower and resource them to rebuild their communities."