Eleanor Foundation Awards $1.2 Million to Innovative Programs Serving Women in Chicago

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Grants support job skills training and other programs to help female heads-of-households achieve economic self-sufficiency

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The number of single working mothers in Chicago has grown 44 percent since 2000, mirroring a national trend. And these women face enormous challenges—especially in today’s job market.

The Eleanor Foundation, a research-driven grant-maker focused on promoting the economic self-sufficiency of female heads-of-households, today announced $1,271,000 in grants to eleven Chicago-area nonprofit organizations offering programs that help women advance in the workplace and achieve sustained economic independence.

The grants support and develop the Eleanor Network, a citywide system of organizations and programs with which the Eleanor Foundation is collaborating in order to address the needs of female heads-of-households with incomes between $10,000 and $40,000.

"More than 330,000 households in the Chicago region are headed by working women who earn less than a livable wage, making an average income of $19,000 per year," said Rosanna A. Márquez, president and CEO of the Eleanor Foundation, citing research commissioned by the foundation and conducted by Dr. Malcolm Bush of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. "The programs in the Eleanor Network deliver critical services that help these women to secure and grow in jobs that earn a livable wage while strengthening their families' economic self-sufficiency."

Services offered by grantee partners in the Eleanor Network include market-driven job skills training, access to safe and affordable housing, reliable child care, and financial coaching. The Eleanor Foundation has now invested more than $5 million in the Network since establishing it in 2006.

"The number of single working mothers in Chicago has grown 44 percent since 2000, mirroring a national trend. And these women face enormous challenges—especially in today’s job market," said Márquez. "These new awards expand the Eleanor Network to help even more hard-working women obtain the vital support services they need to achieve economic self-sufficiency."

In metropolitan Chicago and nationwide, the number of households in which a woman is the primary or sole wage-earner is increasing faster than the general population—but these women-led households receive little attention from policymakers. "$19,000 is barely half the amount necessary to meet a family's basic needs for housing, food, transportation and clothing in the Chicago market, let alone cover the cost of health care or build savings as insulation against unexpected events such as job loss or illness," said Márquez. "But only six percent of these women receive any form of public assistance."

"The mission of the Eleanor Foundation since 2002 has been to address the needs of this target population," said Marquez. "We fund programs that have proven successful in delivering services that help these women not only achieve economic success but sustain it."

New grants
The Eleanor Foundation is providing $1,271,000 to eleven Chicago-area nonprofit organizations that are part of the expanding the Eleanor Network. Its 2011 grants include:

Centers for New Horizons (Centers) (Bronzeville)
A $160,000 two-year grant to pilot the Women Employed Project, a new program that prepares local teachers’ assistants for positions as early childhood development teachers. Centers works with area childcare centers and its own early education programs to launch women in teaching careers, providing increased economic stability to women-led households and building capacity to provide high-quality childhood education for working families.

Chicago Women in Trades (Citywide)
A $40,000 one-year grant to expand the Technical Opportunities Program first funded by the Eleanor Foundation in 2009. The program prepares single working women for jobs in the building trades, through skills training, apprenticeship placement and mentoring.

Heartland Human Care Services (Citywide)
A $250,000, one-year renewal grant for the IDEA program, now in its sixth year as an employer-centered hub of the Eleanor Network. In 2011, Heartland Human Care will increase its focus on career development and skills training for women in conjunction with employer partners.

Housing Opportunities for Women (HOW) (Rogers Park)
A $200,000 two-year renewal grant for the Center for Working Women, launched in 2007 as an Eleanor Network hub. The Center provides one-on-one career coaching, housing and childcare support. It also offers workshops to foster networks among women and facilitate their connections to other community resources.

Instituto Progresso del Latino (Pilsen/Little Village)
A $250,000 three-year renewal grant for Mujer Avanzando, a community partnership launched as an Eleanor Network hub in 2007. Now in its fourth year, this partnership integrates Instituto’s career planning and skills training in healthcare and manufacturing with Mujers Latinos en Accion’s leadership development training and the Resurrection Project’s asset development services and affordable housing opportunities.

Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) (Ravenswood)
A $55,000 one-year renewal grant to continue support to JARC’s Women in Manufacturing program. This program provides women vocational training for skilled, industrial jobs with its employer part¬ners, helps women apply for public benefits, and pro¬vides financial coaching through its Center for Working Families.

Kinzie Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC) (Citywide)
A $100,000 one-year renewal grant for KIDC’s emergency medical technician (EMT) training program, now in its third year in a partnership with Superior Ambulance. KIDC provides hands-on job training, state certification, and placement upon graduation, as well as workshops for women on managing finances and improving their credit scores.

The Law Project (Citywide)
An $80,000 two-year grant to The Law Project for its Choose-to-Own program. Choose-to-Own helps women with City of Chicago Housing Choice vouchers to apply their subsidies toward conventional home mortgages and draft wills to protect their new assets.

Restaurant Opportunities Chicago (Citywide)
A $50,000 one-year renewal grant for the Career Ladders for Women program, which helps women advance to "front-of-house" hospitality jobs that offer higher wages than back-of-the-house positions.

St. Anthony Hospital (North Lawndale)
A $36,000 one-year renewal grant for the School-at-Work program (SAW), which helps lower-paid women qualify for promotions to high-skilled, higher-paying jobs while addressing community healthcare needs. The SAW program is co-funded by the St. Anthony Hospital Foundation and the Steans Family Foundation.

Youth Job Center of Evanston (YJC) (Rogers Park)
A $50,000 one-year renewal grant for YJC's Women Investing in Learning and Livelihoods program for young working mothers interested in healthcare and manufacturing careers. Now in its second year, this program offers participants professional development, mentoring, financial education and access to affordable childcare.

About the Eleanor Foundation
The Eleanor Foundation invests in innovative programs that help working female heads-of-households in Chicago with incomes of between $10,000 and $40,000 to achieve and maintain economic independence. A research-driven public grant-making fund, the Eleanor Foundation is building the Eleanor Network, a unique collaboration with direct service organizations and other partners to build and maintain programs that provide these women with access to job-skills training and career development services, along with access to affordable housing, dependable childcare, and financial coaching. The Eleanor Foundation also sponsors research on the needs of the women in our target population, which helps us ensure that programs in the Eleanor Network deliver the services that these women need. More information is at http://www.eleanorfoundation.org.

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