Hope comes to the west side of Chicago

by Jacqueline Rachev

 

Today, across the city of Chicago, we are facing some tough challenges. Many of our neighborhoods aren’t safe. Gangs, drugs and crime are chronic problems. For many people, unemployment and a shortage of jobs remain major hurdles to success. Many families struggle to put food on their tables. Chicago’s west side is one of those areas in need.

But The Salvation Army is bringing hope.

We’re on the frontlines, addressing these issues head-on with programs to prevent violence, offer safe havens for youth, provide substance abuse rehabilitation and help families in crisis achieve sufficiency. We are answering these challenges with a new Freedom Center campus, which will house:

  • a new corps community center,
  • the Pathway Forward community-based corrections program,
  • the Harbor Light Center rehabilitation program,
  • a transitional jobs program, and
  • the Mobile Feeding and Outreach program.

“This entire campus is expected to serve 24,000 people every year,” said Captain Nancy Powers, Harbor Light corps officer. “The corps community center will serve approximately 22,000 people from this area, and the Harbor Light Center and Pathway Forward programs will serve thousands of people from across the city, and even throughout the state.”

The corps community center will offer a wide variety of programs for youth, seniors and families in West Humboldt Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. Youth will be able to take advantage of after-school programs in a safe place, including sports, tutoring and character-building classes. Families facing crisis can access social services such as a food pantry, emergency assistance and job training.

“This community has embraced The Salvation Army,” said 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., acknowledging the support from community groups. “I’d like to thank them for having the foresight to accept The Salvation Army so they can directly tackle the challenges here in the neighborhood and give the neighborhood a new opportunity.”

“We need more things like this in the community,” said resident Patrick Adams. “Without The Salvation Army, a lot of people would have nowhere to go.”

Business leaders also are welcoming the Army. Paul and Joan Rubschlager, former owners of Rubschlager Baking Corporation located a few blocks from the Freedom Center campus, are lead donors for the project.

“Although we no longer own the business, the neighborhood remains important to us,” they said. “Every service that the Freedom Center will provide—alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation, community corrections and transition, a community center—addresses a need in this neighborhood.”

The Rubschlagers chose to provide funding for the Freedom Center’s kitchen and dining areas because they have been involved in the food industry nearly all their lives. “The kitchen will be a key component and center of activity for this new facility,” they said.

Speaking at an event where the Rubschlagers received an award for their philanthropic efforts, Joan stressed the importance of the project. “The neighborhood needs this. I’m certain it’s going to transform the neighborhood.”

The Freedom Center is slated to open this fall.

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