The Landmarks Illinois COVID-19 Organization Relief Grant Program was created to provide monetary assistance to nonprofit organizations in the state of Illinois that have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are the 13 organizations awarded grants of $2,000 each in June 2020 through this one-time grant fund. (Photos courtesy of grant recipients)
Aurora Regional Fire Museum, Aurora
Housed in an 1894 fire house, the museum’s mission is to preserve the history of the Aurora Fire Department and fire service through collections and exhibits while educating visitors about fire safety and prevention. The museum first opened in 1968 and has been in its current location since 1988. The museum is open to the public and provides a variety of educational programs for groups of all ages and conducts group tours. The museum has been closed to the public since March 14, 2020. Combined with the loss of that revenue, the annual fundraiser has been cancelled and funding from the City of Aurora has been put on hold. Landmarks Illinois’ grant will be used to create a website and continue to pay staff during this time of closure.
Firehouse Community Arts Center of Chicago, Chicago
FCAC is located in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, and its mission is to interrupt the cycle of violence in the lives of youth and young adults through the power of the arts. FCAC offers multi-disciplinary cultural programming, mentorship, violence intervention and leadership development opportunities for disadvantaged youth through arts programming, life coaching and social and emotional learning. FCAC is located in a 100-year-old Chicago Firehouse that the organization purchased in 2007. The Landmarks Illinois grant funds will be directed toward its food assistance program. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, FCAC provided free breakfast and lunch to approximately 25-30 people a day. Since the outbreak, it has expanded its services to deliver food to approximately 150 local families and elderly residents. North Lawndale lies in the middle of a “food desert,” with the nearest supermarket a little over five miles away. This grant will subsidize the increased costs of food, food prep and containers for delivery. This would increase the organization’s reach of food delivery to another 20-25 families for four weeks, for a total of 600 families served.
Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, Chicago
SRBCC is the longest standing Latino cultural center in Chicago. Established in 1971, SRBCC’s mission is to preserve and promote appreciation of the culture and arts of Puerto Rico and Latin America, with an emphasis on its African heritage. SRBCC celebrates Afro-Puerto Rican and Afro-Latino cultural traditions through dance, music, theater and the visual arts. The Segundo Ruiz Belvis Building Cultural Center is an iconic and vibrant space located in the heart of Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood on the Northwest side. In 2007, SRBCC completed the purchase of the former Karlov Theater, a 13,000-square-foot retail and office building constructed in 1925. SRBCC engages in programs and events that benefit underrepresented youth, professional artists of color and their communities through paid opportunities in the arts, including entry-level and advanced music apprenticeships and internships for the youth. All programs are collaborative and cross-cultural, building greater impact than could be achieved by any one member or partner individually. SRBCC has also completed Stage 1 of a capital campaign, with the funds raised going toward the rehabilitation of the retail areas and the conversion of the former theater into a multipurpose room for performing and visual arts. The Landmarks Illinois grant will be used to cover operations and administrative expenses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Uptown United, Chicago
Uptown United is a community economic development organization serving the entire Uptown community in Chicago, located from Irving Park Road on the south to Foster Avenue on the north, Lake Michigan on the east and Ravenswood Avenue on the west. Uptown United is led by a volunteer board of directors with a mission to build a strong, unified business environment; facilitate economic development; and strengthen community-all to nurture a diverse, vibrant, thriving and strong Uptown. This mission is achieved through marketing, advocacy and technical assistance; facilitating economic development through smart urban planning, arts development and business attraction; and strengthen community through capacity building and placemaking efforts. With decreased revenue due to cancellation of major events during the pandemic, the Landmarks Illinois grant will be used to support staff costs and assist with an upcoming office move. The move involves a $200,000 renovation to a small property in the Uptown Square Landmark District.
Preservation of Egyptian Theater, Inc., DeKalb
The Egyptian Theatre opened in 1929 as a movie palace and vaudeville house. Facing potential complete demolition in the mid 197os, the nonprofit organization Preservation of Egyptian Theatre, Inc. formed and took over ownership of the theater in 1978. The theater is currently used by many community organizations to host events, films and national touring acts averaging 180+ events each year that welcome more than 40,000 people. These events have come to a halt since mid-March due to the pandemic. More than 50 public and private events that have been canceled or postponed. With the recently released guidance from the State of Illinois, the venue cannot open until Phase 5. Efforts are being made to keep the limited full-time staff employed and continuing their mission so that they are prepared to reopen when possible. The Landmarks Illinois grant will be used to continue paying staff and assist with monthly utility bills to maintain the historic theater.
Elgin Area Historical Society/Elgin History Museum, Elgin
The Elgin History Museum inspires historical discovery by preserving Elgin’s heritage to create pride in the community and a sense of place. The museum is close to completing a $500K rehabilitation of the 1846 Nancy Kimball Cobblestone (NKC) House. The building is significant to the City of Elgin as a unique architectural type, the home of an early Elgin founder and a gateway property to the Near West Neighborhood. When completed, the Nancy Kimball Cobblestone House will operate as a community educational space with the museum sharing the use of the building with the library, city, neighborhood groups, schools and other small organizations. Due to the museum’s closure since March 14, there has been a loss of revenue. Board and staff are attending free webinars to learn new technology skills to create a video tour of the NKC House and finding ways to create public awareness and get the community excited about the project’s construction progress. The Landmarks Illinois grant will be used to purchase items such as a dedicated movie camera, tripod and editing software. These items would better document Elgin History Museum events and programming for use on the website, YouTube and social media.
Save the Lorraine Foundation, Hoopeston
The mission of the Save the Lorraine Foundation is the restoration and preservation of Hoopeston’s Lorraine Theatres. The historic Lorraine Theatre, built in 1921, was neglected for many years and the local bank foreclosed. A local woman with a keen memory of growing up going to the Lorraine, purchased both the Lorraine and the Little Lorraine theaters and donated them to the newly formed Save the Lorraine Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to restore pride in the financially depressed eastern Illinois town of Hoopeston by restoring and renovating the two Lorraine Theatres and bringing affordable entertainment to the area. The last event was held on March 14. The Landmarks Illinois grant funds will help to continue to pay the utilities and insurance.
Oak Park Art League, Oak Park
OPAL has maintained its century-long tradition as a local destination for arts awareness and learning, both for residents of Oak Park and the surrounding communities. OPAL has remained steadfast in its belief that everyone deserves access to a vibrant arts experience. This is demonstrated in efforts to seek subsidized access to arts education for residents of Hephzibah Children’s Association, Oak Park’s oldest social service agency providing care for children in need at low income levels. OPAL’s home is a carriage house gallery designed by E.E. Roberts, one of Oak Park’s most prolific architects at the turn of the 20th century. During the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, OPAL has lost revenue from tuition, artist fees, membership and rentals as well as its annual fundraiser being cancelled. In an effort to retain summer camps, a virtual learning platform is being considered, one that is found to benefit teachers and students alike. Resuming arts instruction would provide a much needed respite to students after such a difficult and stressful time in our modern history and would give instructors the opportunity to continue their passion of teaching. The Landmarks Illinois grant will help offset costs related to virtual learning as well as needed website upgrades.
Artists ReEnvisioning Tomorrow (ART Inc.), Peoria
In 2018, ART Inc. purchased the old Greeley school building that had been vacant for seven years. One year later, it reopened as the Romain Arts & Culture Center. ART Inc.’s mission is to inspire and empower the community through the arts. Their objective involves making arts education and culture affordable and accessible to all children and their families throughout the Peoria area regardless of their financial situation. The organization’s programs provide a window of opportunity by offering a safe, nurturing environment for the area youth. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ART Inc. has had to cancel all programs and rentals as the center is completely closed to the public. The rentals contribute to the monthly expenses and payroll. All Teaching Artists (contract employees) have been laid off, and the organization may have to lay off one full-time employee. ART Inc. will use the Landmarks Illinois grant funds toward payroll and taxes in order to relieve the strain caused by COVID-19.
Quincy Preserves, Quincy
Quincy Preserves, Inc., fosters awareness of and promotes appreciation for the historic architecture of Quincy and Adams County and encourages active membership involvement in the recognizing, protecting, maintaining and displaying of these structures. Quincy Preserves provides financial assistance for preservation and restoration work through its grants and facade programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Quincy Preserves to cancel two events this year, which usually generate $15,000 in revenue. The organization will use its grant from Landmarks Illinois to continue its scholarship program awarded to two area high school students to encourage an awareness of historic preservation among young people. The applicants have to write a short paper on a historic building or place of their choosing. The recipients are then highlighted in the organization’s newsletter, on its Facebook page and and on the organization’s website. In addition, its membership picnic is usually in June, at which time it highlights the students and have them read selections from their paper. Quincy Preserves hope to host a similar event later in 2020.
Salem Community Activities Center, Salem
Since its begining in 1981, Salem Community Activities Center, housed in a former school building, has become a vital part of Salem and the surrounding area. With the support of the community, fundraisers and grants, it has refurbished all of the common areas and rooms on the first floor and most of the rooms on the second floor. The gym, cafe and other various rooms are used almost every day for a large number of activities. In addition to providing space for social gatherings, meetings, wedding receptions and athletic events, the center assists various nonprofit organizations such as the Salem Ministerial Alliance Food Pantry (food storage & give away), American Red Cross (blood drives), Hungry Hearts (food for children) and the local Boy and Girl Scout troops with a location to hold their meetings. This space is provided at no cost to the organizations and is made possible through donations, fundraisers and grants. Due to COVID-19, the Activities Center has been closed to the general public with no rental income. The building remains open for humanitarian efforts. Salem Community Activities Center will use the Landmarks Illinois grant to help with operating costs.
Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, Springfield
The Enos Park neighborhood is located just north of downtown Springfield and encompasses 36 square blocks of residential and business properties. Once known as the “Jewel of Springfield,” Enos Park, decades ago, was a diverse community of rich and influential leaders, as well as many working-class families. Today, Enos Park is one of the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse neighborhoods in the city. Its tree-lined streets are filled with unique examples of Victorian, Italianate and Queen Anne-style homes that date back into the early 19th century. As the neighborhood transformed, some areas within the Enos Park neighborhood had become blighted, with many structures being condemned and demolished. In 1989, a group of concerned citizens formed the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association (EPNIA). In 2010 Enos Park Development (EPD) was created to serve as a land bank to help distressed properties find new owners. Currently, EPD has acquired more than 150 properties and sold upward of 50 houses at nominal cost to buyers who commit to rehabbing the properties according to neighborhood design standards and making them single-family, owner-occupied homes. EPNIA/EPD is comprised entirely of volunteers, and the only source of income to support the land bank is generated by four units of affordable housing that are rented to clients of the SIU School of Medicine’s Access to Care program. Three of the four tenants are currently out of work due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, creating additional financial stress for the organization. The Landmarks Illinois grant funds will be used to make loan payments on the properties.
McHenry County Historical Society & Museum, Union
During its 56-year history, the McHenry County Historical Society and Museum (MCHS) has advocated for and saved historically significant properties to ensure they are not destroyed. It has a Historic Sites Committee that evaluates and plaques structures. It also maintains an extensive resource list online and a research library to aid people researching their property. MCHS has spearheaded several efforts, with the help of Landmarks Illinois, to save historically significant buildings and sites. MCHS has successfully applied for the federal payroll protection program, enabling the organization to retain staff. However, it has also taken a significant financial hit with the museum shuttered since mid-March and several fundraisers cancelled. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, MCHS has launched an online COVID history project and developed take-home education kits. MCHS has also been exploring offering web-based lectures via Zoom, either live-streamed or pre-recorded podcasts. Additionally, the organization hopes to launch a COVID video project specifically for teens to participate in. With the Landmarks Illinois grant, MCHS will purchase supplies for the free kits as well as the necessary software licensing and technical support to allow them to take that added step to keep members, and the public at large, connected to historical preservation and the vital role history plays in all of our lives.