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The Two-Minute Guide to Nonprofits Worthy of Your Money

Our communities need support more than ever. And by “support,” we mean cash. Here are five groups that totally deserve a slice of your paycheck.

Photo: Colin Boyle/My Block, My Hood, My City

1 For urban explorers

My Block, My Hood, My City

Coronavirus quarantine has shown us how stifling it feels to never, ever leave our streets. (Or, let’s be real, our apartments.) That’s doubly true for kids in underresourced communities, even in non-COVID times. The organizers of My Block, My Hood, My City believe one of the first steps toward breaking cycles of trauma and poverty is to expose kids to all parts of Chicago. The nonprofit does so by taking Black and Latino teens on “explorations,” introducing them to new neighborhoods, cultural institutions, and workplaces. Last year, for example, teens toured Google’s Fulton Market office and attended a Bears game. Since COVID hit, the kids have pivoted from urban exploration to delivering safety kits to senior citizens, and they threw a block party (pictured) where they gave out school supplies. If that doesn’t warm your cold, dead hearts, we simply don’t know what will. formyblock.org

2 For LGBTQ allies

Brave Space Alliance

If your gay friends have ever side-eyed you for referring to getting plastered on Pride weekend as “allyship,” now’s your chance to actually step up. The Black trans Chicagoans who created and run Brave Space Alliance understand the barriers that people like them encounter on the South Side because they’ve experienced them. The organization’s programs are manifold: It provides aid for HIV-positive Chicagoans, support groups for trans and nonbinary people, stable housing opportunities, pop-up career counseling, and a food pantry with free groceries. Brave Space Alliance summarizes its ethos in four words: “for us, by us.” Is that also what FUBU stands for? Yes. Is that clothing brand still around? Not relevant to this blurb. bravespacealliance.org

3 For symphonyheads

The People’s Music School

Classical music ain’t a cheap or approachable hobby, which is why the audiences at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra are so dang white. The People’s Music School seeks to interrupt the baked-in classism of classical music by providing tuition-free music education for low-income kids and teenagers. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s easy, though: These Bachs-in-training have weekly private lessons, music theory classes, ensemble rehearsals, and more. For the Uptown-based organization, learning to play an instrument is about not just musical education but also social, emotional, and intellectual development. Because all Americans — regardless of race or class or gender — should have the opportunity to be a band geek. peoplesmusicschool.com

4 For food snobs

Growing Home

Want to interrupt institutionalized loops of poverty and brag to your friends about only eating locally sourced radicchio? Growing Home might be your new favorite organization. The Englewood-based nonprofit runs two USDA-certified organic urban farms on the South Side, all sold super locally. But even better than its beets is its mission: Growing Home hires people who face obstacles to traditional employment, like homelessness, addiction, and criminal records. Working the farms helps folks hone their management, communication, and leadership skills. Not to mention their ability to tell a summer squash from a winter one. growinghomeinc.org

5 For wellness nuts

Healthy Hood Chicago

Ready to learn a day-ruining fact? The life expectancy gap between the most and least affluent Chicagoans is — wait for it — 30 years. Healthy Hood, however, believes that gap can shrink through diet and exercise. The Pilsen-based group offers a slate of $5 workout classes to make fitness accessible to anyone who wants it. But the group’s commitment to bridging the socioeconomic gaps plaguing the health sector doesn’t stop there. When COVID hit last spring, Healthy Hood partnered with other nonprofits to launch We Got Us, which provides free testing and care packages to communities of color disproportionately ravaged by the virus. Consider funneling a donation to Healthy Hood the next time you pony up for your gym membership. healthyhoodchi.com

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