Healthy Neighborhoods
Annual Report
July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021
Dear Friends,
Strong and healthy neighborhoods are essential to building a robust community.
A healthy neighborhood provides an opportunity-filled environment, leading to improved health, social, and economic outcomes for its residents.
Yet, we know that Chicago’s predominantly Black neighborhoods have faced decades of systemic disinvestment.
Globally, Habitat for Humanity’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. We live into this vision by taking a neighborhood-focused, community development-oriented approach to our work in Chicago, where neighborhoods, in particular, shape so much of their residents’ quality of life.
Currently, we are at work in West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing. By focusing our complementary programs in these neighborhoods, we seek to not only help households access the long-term benefits of affordable homeownership, but also to strengthen the image, market, and physical and social conditions of the neighborhoods at large.
In this report, you will find a featured story for each month of fiscal year 2021, which highlights the numerous ways our programs work together to foster healthy neighborhoods.
This work would not have been possible without your unwavering support. From all of us at Habitat Chicago, thank you for catalyzing change throughout another challenging year. Together, we are building a healthier, stronger Chicago.
Jennifer L. Parks
Executive Director
Daniel Marszalek
President, Board of Directors
Neighborhood Grants Initiative:
Community Broadcasting
In July, we were proud to fund a community broadcasting project for Ring of Hope, a Greater Grand Crossing-based community space, as part of our Neighborhood Grants Initiative.
By accessing our funds, available to any group of residents in our focus neighborhoods wishing to make a positive impact on their community, Ring of Hope established an ongoing informational resource covering topics like health and safety, credit repair, and estate and property protection.
At the height of the pandemic, this group recognized the toll of separation on their neighbors and dug in to creatively form community in new ways that continue today.
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why does this matter?
Connected, informed neighbors shape a community’s resiliency. By encouraging opportunities for peer-collaboration, our Neighborhood Grants Initiative aims to not just fund positive activities, but also to fortify the social fabric of the neighborhood.
Volunteer Appreciation
For our August highlight, we recognize the thousands of volunteers that catalyze our work. For many months, as a result of the pandemic, we had to halt our in-person volunteer opportunities for the safety of our community.

When it was time to welcome them back, we were relieved, overjoyed, and once again inspired. Time and time again, we are in awe of the active commitment of our volunteers and the initiative they take to push back against the deep-rooted inequality in housing and neighborhood investments in Chicago.
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why does this matter?
Habitat Chicago volunteers have great power to positively influence the image of a neighborhood.
By learning about the systems that have impeded investments into Black communities, visiting our focus neighborhoods to see their strengths first-hand, and digging in on the build site to improve the physical conditions of the community, volunteers have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the communities we serve to see our direct impact.
Homebuyer University
In September, we proudly graduated the first of two cohorts of Homebuyer University students for the year. This open-to-all, five-part preparatory course readies students with the knowledge, tools, and resources to be able to successfully purchase their first home.
Homebuyer University is taught by experts in the homebuying industry in a neutral, low-pressure setting. Students learn the steps of the homebuying process; identify their homeownership goals; create action plans for financial, community, and lending readiness; and by the end of the course, are ready to pursue their homeownership goals.
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why does this matter?
While Homebuyer University puts the individual student front and center, it is also designed with neighborhood health in mind. New homeowners infuse a community with so many assets, from a swelling of invested caretakers, to improved municipal and commercial sway, to augmenting the density that helps schools, businesses, and transit thrive.
Women Build
In October, nearly 400 women volunteered on our West Pullman build sites as a part of our annual Women Build, alongside our women homebuyers. Why?
To help their fellow women overcome the gendered hurdles (such as uneven caregiving responsibilities and the gender pay gap) to owning stable homes in neighborhoods of opportunity. Leading up to and throughout October, our Women Builders raised a remarkable $393,000 to help fund construction and ensure long-term affordability for our buyers.
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why does this matter?
The benefits of affordable homeownership are immense, not just for the owners, but their community at large. High rates of long-term homeownership have been found to increase civic engagement, decrease crime, and improve high school graduation and college attendance rates.

By helping women who have been locked out of traditional loans, Women Build creates a path for more women to access the benefits of homeownership for their families and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities.
Resident Meetings
Year-round, Habitat Chicago prioritizes scheduling listening and knowledge-sharing sessions with neighborhood residents.
These ongoing conversations with neighborhood stakeholders help inform both our short- and long-term plans in our focus neighborhoods, ensuring our work complements the efforts and aspirations of the community members.
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why does this matter?
Residents understand their community far better than any organization can, and embracing their knowledge when planning neighborhood investments can be the difference between service blind spots or service efficacy; project failure or project success; reception coolness or reception enthusiasm.
Listening to, hearing, and championing neighborhood residents is not only the right thing to do, it’s also the smartest thing to do to make the best use of our resources.
Neighborhood Grants Initiative:
Holiday Decorations
In December, with an infectious air of holiday cheer, an enthusiastic group of West Pullman neighbors accessed our Neighborhood Grants Initiative funds to plan and coordinate block decorations for the season.
By engaging every single neighbor in the decision making and in a synchronized first lighting, this group brought their entire block together in a way they had never experienced before.
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why does this matter?
Individuals who are proud of their community are often its best advocates. From initiating home upkeep to block beautification to social gatherings, proud residents can encourage residential stability and attract new buyers, significantly strengthening a neighborhood’s outlook.
By funding project ideas that exalt the good in a community, our grants initiative seeks to underscore this subtle component of neighborhood health.
The Solutionists' Circle
In January, we established a new giving community, The Solutionists’ Circle. Habitat for Humanity is widely known for building houses, but to truly achieve our vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, we know we must do more.

We must build sustainable and lasting partnerships to make significant investments in our work.
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why does this matter?
Habitat Chicago is committed to cultivating significant partnerships with donors so that, together, we can make impactful investments in our focus neighborhoods. Years of discriminatory disinvestments have put these neighborhoods at risk of decline, and we are at a pivotal moment to positively impact their trajectory.
The Solutionists’ Circle members, alongside thousands of other caring donors, are committed to our long-term vision of building strong and equitable neighborhoods.
Homeownership Beginnings
In February, we qualified and welcomed our seven newest homebuyers into the Affordable Homeownership Program. Commencing a 12-month journey to homeownership, these households commit to working alongside their future neighbors to complete homeownership success classes, skill-building construction hours, and preparatory steps for their affordable loans.
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why does this matter?
Our Affordable Homeownership Program, with its requirements, is not the easiest path to homeownership. Accordingly, the buyers who join our program are incredibly hard-working and disciplined, but above all, intentional about their vision of homeownership.

They want long-term stability, a maintained asset for generational transfer, and a connected community. By working towards these ends, our future homeowners are also working to benefit the neighborhood into which they move.
Neighborhood Grants Initiative:
Opening New Doors
In March, Bray Temple CME, a church located in Greater Grand Crossing, realized a long-lived hope of restoring the public face of its building with the installation of a set of warm, welcoming new doors. The church found the impetus to start this project through our Neighborhood Grants Initiative.
With a small grant secured, project group members then enthusiastically raised the balance of funds through peer donations, and doggedly worked through barrier after barrier to install the doors that reflect the beauty they see in their community.
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why does this matter?
When neighbors are invested in their community, their drive for continuous improvement can produce remarkable accomplishments—from the upkeep of individual buildings, to the care of community spaces, to advocating for institutional resources.

Our grants initiative celebrates and enables the creativity and energy of residents who, far and away, have the best motivation and ideas for strengthening their community.
Four-Home Dedication Celebration
In April, we held a home dedication for four Habitat Chicago homebuyers in West Pullman – Donshay, Joyce, Lisa, and Myeasha – celebrating their hard-earned accomplishments of becoming homeowners while surrounded by family, friends, and the community who helped build their new homes.
Buyers gave voice to not only their appreciation for arriving at this point in their journeys, but also to the immense potential of the future, knowing their status as homeowners strengthens their personal agency to shape both the welfare of their households and community.
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why does this matter?
By working in geographically-concentrated areas, our programs reinforce each other in strengthening the trajectory of a neighborhood. Central to these are our homebuilding and homeownership efforts.
Habitat Chicago seeks to maximize the impact of our multi-million-dollar, multi-year investments in our focus neighborhoods by building high-quality homes and fostering buyers’ intent to pursue long-term homeownership and strengthen their communities.
Habitat Chicago's Annual Benefit: Under One Roof
In May, we hosted our Annual Benefit, virtually bringing hundreds of Chicagoans together around the vital cause of affordable homeownership. Together, we raised over $240,000 to fund new home construction.
We also heard from a passionate line-up of speakers, including:
  • Habitat Chicago homeowners
  • Israel Idonije, humanitarian and former Chicago Bear
  • Nate Marshall, poet and West Pullman native
  • Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, City of Chicago
You can watch the full video recording of our Annual Benefit above.
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You can watch the full video recording of our Annual Benefit to the right.
why does this matter?
The diverse voices of our speakers and the unwavering generosity of our supporters demonstrate a key component of how Habitat Chicago operates: we bring people together to effect long-lasting change.
Our success and ability to build affordable homes that foster community hinge on the words, actions, and contributions of thousands of individuals from all walks of life. Thank you for your continued support.
program line-up
15:11 – Welcome - Samir Mayekar, Deputy Mayor for Economic and Neighborhood Development, City of Chicago 16:59 – Mission Video, Produced by Big Foot Media 24:10 – Performance of ‘When I say Chicago' – Nate Marshall, Poet 29:02 – Executive Remarks – Jen Parks, Executive Director, Habitat Chicago 40:22 – Keynote Address – Israel Idonije, Entrepreneur, Humanitarian, and former Chicago Bear 51:12 – Homeownership Panel – Habitat Chicago Homeowners Joyce and Tonya, moderated by Tammy Pearce, Vice Present, Habitat Chicago Board of Directors 1:06:13 – Celebration and Close – Mike Pfeffer, Vice President of Architecture, Related Midwest
Neighborhood Grants Initiative: Planters Everywhere
In June, with the help of Neighborhood Grants Initiative funding, the neighbors of Colonial Village in West Pullman ambitiously came together to coordinate a 16-block beautification effort by placing and planting commercial-sized planters at the entrance to every block in their community.
As one of 20 Neighborhood Grants Initiative projects funded for the year, this undertaking was all the more impressive as few neighbors knew each other at the project start. However, they recognized an opportunity to form ties through the shared goal of creating a welcoming environment and organized themselves energetically to produce stunning results.
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why does this matter?
Active residents – those who self-organize and always make efforts to involve others – often end up strengthening not just the project at hand, but also their neighbors' sense of place and care.
There are many ways to invest in neighborhood health, and top amongst these for us is to support active neighbors given their unparalleled ripple effects in their communities.
ReStore Highlights
We proudly operate ReStore Chicago, a 30,000 square-foot home improvement resale store. ReStore Chicago helps individuals access quality and affordable home goods to create a safe and warm home environment for themselves, while simultaneously fueling our mission and keeping useful products out of landfills.
ReStore accomplishments in fiscal year 2021 include:
  • 4,440 product donations made to ReStore
  • 991 tons of useful goods diverted from landfills
  • 11,343 volunteer hours invested by caring citizens
“I recently read a news story about a Chicago veteran who became a new homeowner thanks to Habitat for Humanity. Having six veterans in my family, this really touched me. In a small way, I feel like I contributed to this [home]ownership and I am very proud to volunteer at ReStore!”
– Anna Tobin, ReStore volunteer since June 2021
International Mission
While we work locally and autonomously in Chicago, we share the vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, with other Habitats working across the globe. Since 2012, we have been sister affiliates with Habitat Malawi. Through this relationship, we dedicate a percentage of our income to support their critical work, which provides housing to orphans and vulnerable groups, water and sanitation projects, and disaster relief and rehabilitation services.
In fiscal year 2021, we proudly contributed $42,000 to Habitat Malawi, funding nine housing projects.
“The toilet (we had) wasn’t built properly, and it leaked when it rained. Children would fall into the pit and there would be a terrible accident…The new toilet has really helped. We don’t have accidents anymore… We used to get sick a lot. Now we don’t. We haven’t had a case of cholera in a long time. And we make sure that the toilet is always clean to avoid the diseases we used to get with the old toilet.”
– Diana, beneficiary of Habitat Malawi’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Program
On the Horizon
Even as we look back on a year of investments, our direction is firmly facing forward. We are excited to continue building on our progress to date in support of the unsung neighborhoods and residents of our city who are both its heart and its potential.
Here’s some of the plans we have on the horizon for fiscal year 2022:
We’ll finish our most recent development in West Pullman and our first homes in Greater Grand Crossing, closing with affordable loans for approximately nine buyers.
We’ll equip three cohorts of Homebuyer University students to pursue successful homeownership.
We’ll expand our investments in community grantmaking to support enthusiastic community groups in West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing, and we’ll offer the program to Austin residents for the first time.
We’ll begin exploring service expansion into critical home repairs, rehab construction, and post-purchase owner support.
Contributions - $3,230,540
ReStore - $117,341
Program Revenue - $86,058
Total Revenue:
Programs - $2,023,754
Fundraising - $634,164
Management - $316,538
Total Expenses:
Our Supporters
We are thankful to all of you – our community of caring, dedicated individuals – who stand with us day in and day out, helping to hammer a nail, fund a clean-up project, or conduct an education workshop. Your belief in our mission is its power, and we have immense gratitude for you.
Thank you for your unwavering support this year.
We are incredibly proud of what we have accomplished together during these difficult times and look forward to another year of progress.
Photography/Video Credits: Big Foot Media, Collin Hadley, Mike Hari, Kristi Nishimura, Oomphotography, Sean O'Connor, Zoki Tasic, and Wayne Warren