Bank of America Neighborhood Builders makes $400,000 investment in Cradles to Crayons, Northern Illinois Food Bank

Cradles to Crayons and Northern Illinois Food Bank have been named the 2020 Bank of America Neighborhood Builders in Chicago. Neighborhood Builders is a signature philanthropic program that deploys capital and builds cross-sector partnerships to advance nonprofit leaders addressing economic mobility and social progress issues in communities across the country.

As an awardee, each organization receives a $200,000 grant, one year of leadership training for the executive director and an emerging leader, access to a network of peer organizations across the U.S., and the opportunity to access capital to expand their impact. Since 2004, Bank of America has invested over $260 million in 50 communities through Neighborhood Builders, partnering with more than 1,300 nonprofits and helping more than 2,600 nonprofit leaders strengthen their leadership skills.

The nonprofits were selected for their work in the Chicago area community to address issues fundamental to economic mobility. Cradles to Crayons provides children from birth through age 12, living in homeless or low-income situations, with the essential items they need to thrive - at home, at school and at play. Northern Illinois Food Bank leads the Northern Illinois community in solving hunger by providing nutritious meals to neighbors in need through innovative programs and partnerships.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for essential items for children spiked while health and safety protocols temporarily closed Cradles to Crayons donation drop boxes and limited in-person volunteer opportunities. Still, through the efforts of the mighty staff of 16, Cradles to Crayons reached more than 120,000 children in just six months -- twice the number of children it served in 2019, providing much needed items such as diapers, wipes, hygiene kits and school supplies free of charge. Grant opportunities such as Neighborhood Builders remain critical to fulfilling its mission, especially as the winter months near.

"During a time when access to local resources is more important than ever, this grant is instrumental to our efforts to reach children in underserved communities across Chicagoland,"" shared Cradles to Crayons Chicago. "We understand it's a challenging time to give, which is why we are so thankful for the support that comes with being a Bank of America Neighborhood Builder. Planning for our future will help ensure we're able to help Chicagoans weather any challenges that lie ahead."

Northern Illinois Food Bank is the source for providing nutritious food, innovative feeding programs, and hope, distributing more than 80 million meals last year - the equivalent of 220,000 meals daily.

The nonprofit Food Bank provides vital resources to Illinois residents of 13 Northern Illinois counties - a nearly 7,000 square mile area. Due to increased need stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, Northern Illinois Food Bank is acquiring and distributing more food than ever before, about 50% more every month compared to the same time last year. Meanwhile, Feeding America is projecting food insecurity to increase 63% in Northern Illinois due to the health and economic crisis.

"Many think of hunger as mostly an urban problem, but that couldn't be further from the truth," shared Julie Yurko, President and CEO of Northern Illinois Food Bank. "In the Chicago suburbs, one in nine people and one in six children are at risk of missing meals. Everybody needs help sometimes, and Bank of America's combination of funding and leadership development through the Neighborhood Builders program is amazing opportunity for our team to help more of our neighbors during this challenging year and beyond."

The Neighborhood Builders program is an opportunity to provide relevant skills development and topics to help nonprofit leaders address current and future community challenges. Each year, Bank of America refines the Neighborhood Builders Leadership Program to include topics ranging from strategic storytelling to human capital management, and highlights themes that are critical to moving the nonprofit sector forward within broader societal and economic context.

"After more than 15 years, it's phenomenal to see the impact Neighborhood Builders continues to have in our communities by empowering our nonprofit partners to plan strategically for growth and long-term sustainability," said Cara Pan, Chicago market executive, Bank of America. "And this year especially, as our community confronts challenges ranging from the health and humanitarian crisis brought on by the coronavirus to the need for progress on racial equality and economic opportunity, our Neighborhood Builders play an integral role shaping their communities and supporting their residents."

Since 2004, through its Neighborhood Builders program, Bank of America has partnered with 34 nonprofits in Chicago, investing $6.8 million to provide financial education and economic mobility opportunities within the Chicago area. The invitation-only program is highly competitive, and leading members of the community participated in a collaborative selection process to identify this year's awardees. Examples of the leadership training topics include human capital management, increasing financial sustainability, and storytelling. Neighborhood Builders is just one example of how Bank of America deploys capital in communities, builds cross-sector partnerships, and promotes socioeconomic progress as part of its approach to responsible growth.