Local Partnerships Cause Others to Give Back

[Top left] GADC Staff, [Right] Cara/Cleanslate Staff, [Bottom right] Volunteers of America of Illinois Staffers.

Aum Mu-Ra & Ernest Sanders

With assistance from the 17th Ward Alderman’s Office, Saint Sabina Church, Local Initiatives Support Corporation of Chicago (LISC/Chicago), and many others, The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC) has been able to cultivate more than 80 existing partnerships to help meet its goal of fostering and promoting the revitalization of the community by designing and implementing programs that: 1) improve the community's economic viability; 2) increase availability of quality housing to people of different income levels, while maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and 3) enhance delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.

Other partners who have been instrumental in supporting GADC mission include, The Cara Program, Cleanslate, and Volunteers of America of Illinois.

Auburn Gresham's Cleanslate Crew led by Cathy Robinson [2nd from left] pose for a photo after completing environmental friendly assignments along West 79th Street.

Ernest Sanders

In 2005, GADC incubated and partnered with the Cara Program’s social enterprise, Cleanslate to beautify West 79th Street’s main business corridor between Marshfield and State streets. Cleanslate performs this function by cleaning sidewalks, parkways, public gardens and vacant lots. Additionally, they help to facilitate and educate our community residents and businesses on the importance of recycling.

As you can imagine, Cleanslate has been phenomenal and has brought acclaim to the Auburn Gresham community, 13 other neighborhoods in the City of Chicago, and our organizations.

Today, Cleanslate’s Auburn Gresham team continues to lead the beautification under the leadership of Cathy Robinson. Robinson began her tenure with the Cleanslate organization in 2006 as an intern and later was promoted to Crew Chief. Robinson is currently attending Kennedy King College for her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. As a mother of 3 children, Robinson also takes her work home and insures her family understands the importance of litter prevention and recycling. Robinson also works with GADC’s Litter Free Zone Initiative (LFZI), where she speaks to local elementary and high school students about the Cleanslate/Auburn Gresham partnership and the importance of recycling and keeping the community clean.

[Left] Cleanslate's Cathy Robinson, Volunteers of America of Illinois' Erica Foreman and Kimberly Cotton (along with her daughter) and GADC's Ernest Sanders share their excitement at the 3rd Annual Auburn Gresham 79th Street Renaissance Festival.

A GADC Community Volunteer

It is only with great partnerships as these, do others come about. Enter Volunteers of America of Illinois (VOA of IL).

Erica Foreman, External Affairs and Community Relations Coordinator for VOA of IL, contacted Ernest Sanders of GADC to explore some partnership opportunities. While many were discussed, Sanders and Foreman found that a partnership was immediately available with the 3rd Annual 79th Street Renaissance Festival. VOA of IL distributed more than 1000 educational books, book bags, and other related materials to families, particularly youth. VOA of IL also participated at the Festival in another capacity. In effort to recruit homeless veterans who need assistance with employment, housing, and addiction treatment, members from their Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) staff passed out materials regarding the program and services.

GADC’s partnership with VOA of IL was conceived because of the partnership with GADC and Cara/Cleanslate. Before her tenure at VOA of IL, Foreman was the Career Development Manager at the Cara Program and assisted with placement of interns into the Cleanslate program, in addition to helping them search for permanent employment opportunities. Sanders also provided support with this initiative (and still does today) frequently lending a hand with job readiness training. One such intern was Kimberly Cotton, who is now employed at VOA of IL as an Administrative Assistant.

Cleanslate's Jesse Treverbaugh fires up the nearly 7,000 festival-goers at the 3rd Annual Auburn Gresham 79th Street Renaissance Festival.

Eunice Carson

Previous to her role at VOA of IL, Cotton was an intern with Auburn Gresham’s Cleanslate team (led by Robinson) in 2006. She participated on this team until September 2007 when she was hired at VOA of IL.

When Cotton heard that VOA of IL would be participating in the 79th Street Renaissance Festival, she immediately wanted to participate and go back to her old neighborhood and give back to the Auburn Gresham community. Cotton volunteered her time, along with her daughter and helped to distribute the educational materials mentioned earlier.

When asked about the importance of her return to Auburn Gresham, Cotton replied, “I wanted to impress upon my daughter the importance of maintaining wholesome and fruitful relationships. I am truly appreciative of my roots in Auburn Gresham and the work of the Cara Program, Cleanslate, and the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation. Thank you.”