On June 11, SOS Illinois gathered Roosevelt Square Community Center funders, civic leaders, SOS Illinois Board Members, community advocates, staff, children, and families at 13th Street and Blue Island Avenue for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of construction for the project. Roosevelt Square Community Center funders held shovels decorated by children as they broke ground on land that will soon provide much-needed programs and services to children and families in the care of SOS Illinois, as well as to community residents living in nearby neighborhoods.
The Roosevelt Square Community Center
This center, an 11,000 square foot space, will serve the children and families at our Roosevelt Square Village and surrounding communities. Programs will include academic, therapeutic, social, and recreational support; multi-use spaces for community member to connect to public resources and engage in training, activities, and events; as well as a signature culinary kitchen providing food and nutrition education, and jobs-skills training for the hospitality industry. In addition to the over one hundred children and families cared for by SOS Illinois, more than 5,000 people from the surrounding neighborhoods will be served by the center.
Voices of the Community
SOS Illinois CEO, Tim McCormick, thanked attendees for joining the organization at the future site of the community center. He started the event by sharing, “We all can make a difference by bringing ourselves together to make a difference.” With that, he introduced “Chicago Fire” Actor, David Eigenberg, who reiterated this notion, offering in remarks, “It is the essence of being human: the reaching out, and sharing with each other, bringing each one of us along to the next step, and learning and teaching.”
SOS Illinois assembled an array of community voices who shared the impact the center would have on their lives. Community voices included: Elizabeth Hope, SOS Illinois Foster Parent; Karen Felix, SOS Illinois Program Director for the Roosevelt Square Village; Mary Baggett, ABLA President; Raymond Wilson, SOS Illinois Child Welfare Specialist; Michelle Morris, SOS Illinois Alumnus; and Ted Selogie – Swissôtel Chicago General Manager. Each spoke to the immense change this center will bring to the community.
Juan Moreno, President and Founder of JGMA and Community Center Architect, spoke of the impossibility of discussing the subject of this groundbreaking without making reference to his mother for her inspiration for a better life, and starting an architecture firm, “for the purpose of making a difference in people’s lives.” Moreno continued, “SOS [Illinois], they have a legacy, not just for their buildings, but buildings that make a difference in people’s lives, buildings that instigate change . . . so this center is going to break ground in many different ways.”
Tim thanked our Board of Directors for their leadership and dedication to the organization. Tim first recognized former Board President, Don Biernacki, who led the Board during the opening of the Roosevelt Square Village homes and helped guide the foundation of the Community Center project. Tim then introduced current SOS Illinois Board President, Jim Wolfe, who spoke of the collective effort of partners, community leaders, individuals, and our Board leadership. He further remarked, “This community has welcomed us, and we look forward to offering the residents a place that can be the hub of family reunification, academic, social, civic, and recreational activities.”
Also recognized at the event was the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) for their support of our Village and the center. CHA CEO Eugene Jones, Jr. said, “CHA will continue to fulfill its commitment across this beautiful City . . . to provide more opportunities and affordable housing, and that’s what we are going to do with our community partners.”
Tim then thanked our elected officials for their support with the project and introduced 25th Ward Alderman Byron-Sigcho Lopez who shared a personal story of when he came to the community, “I was seventeen years old, a teenager, without a family, so I know the importance of having support systems, to have organizations like SOS [Illinois], to have the beautiful community around us, to make sure our children, our future, have a chance . . . The fact that we have so many people around us that are eager to work together to tackle the many challenges we have as a city is encouraging.”
28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin followed, sharing, “While we may be divided by Loomis, by wards, this is still one community; and so we want everyone to participate in the things that are going on in both our wards. I think overall [this benefits] the community residents and that is the way it is supposed to be.”
The notion of a community being drawn together through the construction of this center was reiterated in our partners who have supported the Community Center project from the very beginning. Tim introduced Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Wintrust, Matt Doubleday, who shared, “[SOS Illinois] is building communities and strengthening families, and providing children with all the tools and the environment they need to be successful. On the surface this sounds like a pretty easy thing to do, but their execution of it is what makes this really exceptional; and this is something that all of us, regardless of what our roles are in the community or with our businesses, can learn from.”
Tim then introduced Zaidy Cardenas, Executive Director of Maestro Cares Foundation. Zaidy shared, “Maestro Cares Foundation has partnered with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois because we believe in their mission to create stable loving families . . . Both foundations care deeply for the children we serve. And the construction of this new facility here in Chicago demonstrates our dedication to the children and our commitment to providing healthy and safe environments to live, learn, and play. Together we are changing lives and building dreams.”
Raphael Rodriguez with Goya Foods was pleased to offer a few remarks to close out our speaking component. “At Goya, we believe in bringing people together, and we usually do it through food; and this is what we will do again this time. We are very happy to be a part of this project.”
The Groundbreaking Ceremony
Following the ceremony remarks, SOS Illinois gathered an array of supporters to break ground at the site. Tim shared that the shovels for the event were specially made for each of our partners by the children at our Roosevelt Square Village. On every shovel, there was a different drawing depicting a service or program that will make the community center so important to our families and the surrounding community, such as financial education, therapeutic services, computer labs, the culinary kitchen, and more. SOS Illinois was delighted to offer these shovels as a keepsake to each participant for their care and dedication to our mission and this project.
Gathered for the photo were: Ted Selogie, Swissôtel Chicago; Mike Sabal, S. Mechanical; David Eigenberg, Actor, “Chicago Fire”; Colin Samson, Norman Mechanical; Rama Dandamudi, SOS Illinois Board Member, Snaidero Chicago; Bert Brandt, Lendlease; Frank Gurtz, Gurtz Electric; Alderman Jason Ervin, 28th Ward; Raphael Rodriguez, Goya Foods; Eugene Jones, Jr., CHA; Henry Cardenas, Maestro Cares Foundation; Tim McCormick, SOS Illinois; Jim Wolfe, SOS Illinois Board President and Knight Engineering; Matt Doubleday, Wintrust; Mary Baggett, ALBA President; Juan Moreno, JGMA; Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, 25th Ward; Joe and Cheryl Skender, Skender Foundation; Don Biernacki, SOS Illinois Board Member, Former Board President and Related Midwest; Dave Hoffman, SOS Illinois Board Member & Project Manager; Delphine Rankin, SOS Illinois; Michelle Morris, SOS Illinois Alumnus; Devin Cronin, All-Tech; and Dan Heyn, Sub-Zero.
Before guests enjoyed refreshments, as well as a culinary demonstration offered by our corporate partner, Swissôtel Chicago and Chef Dan McGee, together, the group dug their shovels into the earth where only months from now a state-of-the-art community center will provide groundbreaking services. As one, our supporters, leaders, Board Members, staff, children, and families moved the dirt, thus raising their voices to share that as a united community, together, we are breaking new ground.
Ways to Support the Community Center Project
Through the generous commitment of time, resources, and financial support of many, SOS Illinois is determined to raise the necessary investments to build the Community Center and provide a beacon for the Village residents and surrounding neighborhoods. For ways to invest or learn more about the Community Center, visit here.