The Pilsen community in Chicago has been a port of entry for new immigrants for over 130 years, first for Eastern Europeans and more recently, for working-class Hispanics. But through the waves of immigration there has been one constant: the ongoing need for rental housing for the community’s low-income residents. For over twenty years, The Resurrection Project (TRP), a community development organization founded by six churches, has invested in projects to make Pilsen a vibrant and healthy neighborhood. And since the beginning, Bank of America has been a partner in those efforts.
TRP has built affordable housing, promoted education, and supported immigrant reform. It has developed hundreds of affordable housing units, new community facilities, daycare centers, a charter school and an employment training facility. Its most recent project is a six-story dormitory called La Casa, a partnership with area colleges that provides housing for over 100 middle- and low-income college students.
TRP’s vision for change begins with relationships and expands from there. They have created “safe spaces” out of once-blighted blocks in Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards and Douglas Park. TRP even offers a home ownership workshop for first-time homebuyers, where financial services counselors educate families before they make one of the most important investments of their lives.
The Resurrection Project’s model is different from that of many organizations that try to address a broad range of needs in a community and end up spreading their resources too thin. Typically, TRP develops partnerships with other organizations so each can focus on what it does best. For example, for job training, they partner with Instituto del Progresso Latino, a job training organization, as a referral source for families in TRP housing.
Oralia Abeja, an elementary school teacher, first moved back to Pilsen fifteen years ago and settled with her four children in a rental apartment owned and operated by TRP. But her dream was to have a home of her own and, five years ago, with the help of TRP, she moved to a new house in Pilsen. Says Abeja, “At the beginning, I told everyone I was doing this because of my kids, but at the end of the day, it was for myself too. I wanted to be able to prove that I could buy my own house, that I could succeed, that I didn’t need to depend on anybody else.”
Bank of America has been involved with TRP since the early 1990’s, working closely with founder Raymundo and his staff. The relationship is multi-pronged, involving lending for affordable housing projects, funding for home ownership education and workforce development, and volunteering by Bank of America employees. Says Julie Chavez, Bank of America Community Relations Manager in Chicago, “Our long-term relationship with TRP is a great demonstration of how a corporate partner and a community partner can work together. We combine Bank of America’s resources—the funding, the financing, the expertise of our people—with the skills and the desire of the nonprofit organization.”
Today, Pilsen is thriving, with new restaurants, small businesses and storefronts opening up, and entrepreneurs taking notice of the neighborhood’s new buzz. Says Chavez, “The impact of TRP is tangible economic value: Pilsen is on the map. But they’re also building the spirit of the residents. Residents feel empowered.”
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