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Center for Working Families puts people and jobs together

When Erin Green lost her job as an office manager at a local non-profit she called Kimberly Dean, her former case manager, now on staff at the Abraham Lincoln Centre’s Center for Working Families – that was on a Monday. By Wednesday, Ms. Dean was able to arrange for Ms. Green to interview at a doctor’s office the same week. The following week Ms. Green was hired and for the past month she has been working as a part-time administrative assistant for a psychologist at Michael Reese Hospital.

Operating since the beginning of January and marking its grand opening March 2nd, the Abraham Lincoln Centre’s Center for Working Families provides employment assistance and tax preparation services and is already producing results for Green and other residents like her in Chicago’s North Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, and Grand Boulevard neighborhoods.

CWF - Green and Dean

Erin Green (left) got a job quickly thanks to Kimberly Dean and the new Center for Working Families at the Abraham Lincoln Centre.

Photo: Kathryn Hayes

“The Center for Working Families is a tremendous resource for families in the Mid-South area looking to better their lives. It provides residents with the opportunity to find jobs, to move up the career ladder if they already are working, and to maximize the dollars they earn by applying for income tax credits and working with a financial counselor to save for the future.” said Zirl Smith, CEO & President of the Abraham Lincoln Centre.

Economic independence

“Many people in our community are working hard to get ahead and provide for their families. The Abraham Lincoln Centre has long been a place where residents have looked for support – whether they need daycare services, after school programs, computer training or the like. We are excited that with the opening of the Center for Working Families, the community has access to a wide variety of employment and financial assistance programs supporting their efforts to achieve economic independence and professional advancement,” said Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward).

Abe Lincoln Center

The Center for Working Families is at the Abraham Lincoln Centre, 3858 S. Cottage Grove Ave.

Photo: Eric Young Smith

The Abraham Lincoln Centre’s Center for Working Families, located at 3858 S. Cottage Grove, offers a broad spectrum of employment assistance, including help with resume preparation, licensing, certification and training opportunities, job placement assistance, executive search services, career advancement coaching, adult education, and special employment services for young adults.

Working with its community partners, the Center is able to provide specialized programming. The non-profit Center for Economic Progress offers on-site tax preparation several nights a week during the tax season. Clean Slate, organized by the non-profit Cara Program, includes five weeks of classroom training in life skills and job readiness. Then program participants move into internships where they work for Clean Slate to carryout beautification and recycling activities within neighborhood business districts, on corridors such as Drexel Boulevard and Cottage Grove Avenue.

Range of programs

Meanwhile, a partnership with Jobs for Youth offers job readiness training, GED programs, and job placement designed specifically for young people between the ages of 17 and 24. Project Match, another partner of the Center, also provides technical assistance and ongoing data management oversight of the employment center. Beginning in the Spring, the Center will be staffed with a full-time financial coach to provide one-on-one counseling and money management assistance.

“It was partnerships – with funders, with other community service providers, with local employers, and with residents who are determined to improve their lives and their neighborhood – that were critical to the launching of this project and ensuring its early success,” said Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, NCP Director, Quad Communities Development Commission (QCDC), a non-profit which is working to spur comprehensive community development in the Quad Communities.

So far, Abraham Lincoln Centre’s Center for Working Families has officially enrolled forty clients, placing three in employment, three in Clean Slate internships, three in GED programs, and one person in community service.

The Center is funded with support from the Partnership for New Communities, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, LISC/Chicago, and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Changing community

“The Quad Communities is a neighborhood in rapid flux and it is important to take steps – at this critical moment – to ensure that this change provides for a balanced and thriving community,” said Maria Hibbs, Executive Director of the Partnership for New Communities. “Preparing residents for and helping them to secure good, long-term employment is fundamental to our continuing effort to build healthy neighborhoods and a strong city.”

The Partnership for New Communities is a collaboration of businesses, foundations, universities, the faith community and government formed to support the transformation of Chicago's public housing and provide new economic opportunity for residents. To date, it has provided $1.4 million to improve CHA residents' access to economic and job opportunities, including support for the Clean Slate Cottage Grove corridor project.

“We applaud the efforts of local residents, like those who have taken part in the New Communities Program planning process, to identify the needs in the community and go about addressing those needs,” said Andrew Mooney, Senior Program Director of LISC/Chicago. “QCDC and its partners are seeking out retail and commercial development, using arts and culture to strengthen ties and growth, encouraging innovative educational opportunities, and through the Center for Working Families – supporting economic self-sufficiency and achievement.”

The Quad Communities Development Corporation is one of fourteen groups in sixteen neighborhoods undertaking comprehensive community development through the New Communities Program, a grassroots planning process organized by LISC/Chicago and supported by a major grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“In order to compete in the global economy, Illinois residents must be able to reach their full professional potential and local companies must have the workers to grow their business. We are proud to support projects like the Center for Working Families that are providing a critical link between employees and employers and helping both contribute to the development and success of their communities,” said Jack Lavin, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which provided funding support for the partnership between the Center and Jobs for Youth.

Abraham Lincoln Centre’s Center for Working Families, located at 3858 South Cottage Grove, is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30am to 5:00 pm for drop-in appointments. For more info, call (773) 373-2445 or go online at:

The Abraham Lincoln Centre (ALC) was founded as a settlement house in 1905 under the auspices of the All Souls Church. The Centre quickly became the home to a variety of social, intellectual and cultural activities, currently with thirty programs at thirty sites, serving residents of North Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas, Grand Boulevard, and neighboring communities on Chicago’s South Side.