Living Your Faith: The Secret Behind Family Empowerment Centers

Helping low-income urban families find long-term success can be challenging.


That’s probably why Scott and Natalie Manke felt such a strong calling to do so in Rogers Park 10 years ago.

The Mankes lived in the community for a year, to better understand its needs, before founding the faith-based Family Empowerment Centers (FEC) on Devon Ave. in 2003. After observing the initial success of FEC, others soon followed—like Director of Development and Donor Care Susan DeLano and her husband.

DeLano attributes FEC’s success to the credibility established by staff living in the same community with those they serve. “Our job is not to come and do for people, but rather to live life with our neighbors and point them to avenues of empowerment for themselves,” she says. “They trust us more when they see us invested in the community.”

FEC programs support and empower children and adults alike. This includes after-school programs with substantial academic enrichment and healthy snacks, ESL classes for adults, mentorships and guidance solving a variety of problems for anyone who crosses the FEC threshold.

They also make a little money go a long way. Just $10 a day funds a child in the Say Y.E.S! after-school program, which not only facilitates academic success, but also develops trust, the ability to make healthy choices and a vision of a successful future.

Strengthening marriages and helping adults find their true calling is also part of FEC’s mission. “At our core, FEC intentionally builds loving, safe relationships with our neighbors in the Rogers Park Community,” DeLano says. “It is truly a joy to do this, too.”

“Whether it’s a homeless person looking for a warm cup of coffee and a shower, or a struggling mother who needs help with kids, we know them by name,” DeLano says. “It is a privilege to be a part of their lives. We love to help empower them all. It’s a response to God’s love that we experience in life.”


ENVISION-Chicago from Thomas AP Clapper on Vimeo.

Upcoming Events at FEC:

Annual Banquet Benefit
Friday, May 31
Blanchard Alliance Church
1766 S. Blanchard Street, Wheaton

Family Fest Block Party
Saturday, June 22
Schreiber Park
1552 W. Schreiber Avenue, Chicago

For more information on upcoming events or to volunteer, email Susan DeLano at [email protected]