News / 1.2.19

Epstein Community Foundation Grants

The ECF celebrates 10 years with four holidays grants!

In celebration of the Epstein Community Foundation’s (ECF) 10th anniversary, we are excited to announce that we awarded four $5,000 grants this holiday season!

We received 17 excellent applications, which made the decision process very difficult. The following is the list of recipients:

El Paseo Community Garden is a community space and organization located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. The property is protected by the non-profit urban land trust, Neighborspace, which also provides fiscal support and non-profit status to El Paseo. Since its founding in 2009, the garden has tripled in property size and offers a variety of community events. It not only has private and communal vegetable beds, but also maintains a prairie, open green space, community BBQ area, and is developing their newest addition: a permaculture food forest. Their events aim to serve a diverse crowd from the neighboring children that use the space as their backyard to the seniors that reside in the adjacent senior apartments. Besides the weekly bee workshops, kids garden days, and fitness events, every month a special event is planned such as outdoor movie nights, educational workshops, volunteer days, communal dinners, Harvesting Health Festival, or Halloween Fright Night. In 2018, construction of the permaculture food forest and pollinator habitat was started, and garden leaders collaborated with Horizon Science Academy, winners of last year’s Epstein Foundation grant, to build five solar panel systems to power five different community gardens. In 2019, El Paseo leaders would like to design and construct a children’s play area and outdoor classroom in collaboration with a group of architecture students from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

The Kusanya Cafe is a non-profit community cafe run by and for the greater Englewood community. We seek to provide a gathering place for neighbors, host a diverse array of resident-led community events, and provide a place for local artists and entrepreneurs to collaborate and showcase their work. The cafe provides quality food options for our neighbors who have limited choices in our community. The cafe exclusively hires locally, creating opportunity for people who are unemployed or underemployed and provides extensive training and mentorship, and supports our apprentices (program participants) in moving into career path of their choice. We also have begun roasting coffee with the hopes of providing more jobs and industry to our community. Their next project is an Outdoor Concert Park and Garden which will accommodate larger events featuring local artists, makers, and community organizations. The lot will house a large stage (to be used for concerts, community yoga, and storytelling events), a shipping container pop-up store (that can be utilized by residents to share their goods with a larger audience, or to kickstart local entrepreneurship), rentable garden plots for residents to grown their own produce, and a fire pit for neighbors to gather for stories and celebrations.


Youth & Opportunity United (Y.O.U.) offers free, high quality out-of-school time (OST) programs and integrated mental health services at eleven school-based sites in Evanston and Niles Townships. These sites are the highest needs schools in these communities, with low income populations of 40% or greater. Our programs are trauma-informed, relationship-based, and offer innovative and accessible socio-emotional supports for underserved, low-income, and minority youth. Y.O.U. has been serving the community since 1971, and in 2016 adopted a strategic goal to close the opportunity gap by preparing youth for post-secondary and life success. The grant will go to purchase equipment for our state-of-the-art Makerspace in our youth center/headquarters. The lab serves 250 students annually through both daily programming and special events such as Code-a-Thons and LEGO Robotics workshops. Makerspaces are a unique way to engage youth in STEAM learning through interactive, independent play and creation. Students in our Makerspace design and build items in our 3D printer, experiment with music and design software on Macbooks, and increase technological literacy through coding events and one-time workshops. Makerspace programming is designed to meet the specific needs of these youth by teaching practical, engaging skills and promoting aspiration-setting and academic motivation.

Chicago Mobile Makers is a nonprofit organization in Chicago that offers free and low-cost youth workshops encompassing design, architecture, digital fabrication, basic construction and place-making in Chicago communities. In the last year, we engaged more than 100 youth, held 25 workshops, and served eight different neighborhoods. The Chicago Mobile Makerspace will be a 12’ retrofitted step van. Once the van is retrofitted it will be a first of its kind in Chicago. The van will become a classroom, tool shop, design studio, gallery, community gathering space and provides plenty of storage for tools, writing and drawing utensils, laptops and larger machinery like laser cutters and 3D printers. There is some desk space inside, but the Makerspace is made to spill out and activate unused space. Workshops can be held anywhere from an empty parking lot to a summer street festival. Mobility and accessibility are integral to the success of our mission. We must be the ones traveling to provide students with this unique programming.

Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word about the grants!

The Epstein Community Foundation, founded in 2008, is devoted to empowering people to improve their lives through a commitment to developing partnerships with communities.