Though held virtually instead of within the majestic Wintrust Grand Banking Hall as in previous years, the Make It Better Foundation 2021 Philanthropy Awards succeeded in promoting charitable recognition and knowledge through awards, heartfelt stories, speeches and presentations. Founder and chief visionary officer of Make It Better Media Group Susan B. Noyes, introduced this year’s program, as well as the celebration and awards sponsors including Wintrust Community Banks, William Blair, Forefront, CBS 2 Chicago, Catchafire and Northwestern Kellogg Center for Nonprofit Management.
Executive Director of the Make It Better Foundation Sharon Krone thanked all the semi-finalists — Big Shoulders Fund, LINK Unlimited Scholars, Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center, Sarah’s Circle, CASA Lake County, and Cradles to Crayons Chicago.
Returning to host again, the Master of Ceremonies for the event was CBS 2 Chicago’s anchor and reporter Suzanne Le Mignot, who first introduced the Human Service and Empowerment Award.
Human Service and Empowerment Award: Breakthrough
Founded in 1992 by Arloa Sutter, who began serving coffee to adults experiencing homelessness, Breakthrough is located on the Westside of Chicago in Garfield Park. The group began a mission of care based on the core values of God, people, relationships, redemption, structure, collaboration, community and racial justice. Breakthrough programs touch the community through education and youth development, economic opportunity, housing, health & wellness, violence prevention and spiritual formation.
“We believe at Breakthrough that when systems are equitable and people are skilled and connected to resources and have access to what is needed to live healthy lives, communities can thrive,” said Executive Director Yolanda Fields in her acceptance speech.
Education Award: Chicago Fire Foundation
The second award category was for education. Le Mignot introduced the winner of this award as a first of its kind to serve at-risk black and brown youth through soccer to teach social and emotional learning traits to students who then apply the skills to academics to reach continued educational success.
“It’s part of our DNA to give back. And we continue to use our platform to improve the lives of our youth. Several studies identify third grade as the critical year for predicting how students perform academically in the future. The P.L.A.Y.S, Participate, Learn, Achieve Youth Soccer was designed for students in grades 3 through 5 to engage them during this period,” said Executive Director Jessica Yavitz. “We’re excited to say that we’ll be expanding our P.L.A.Y.S. program into 50 Chicago public schools this spring.”
Social Services Award: Night Ministry
The social services award recognizes the best in programs that elevate the human spirit and bring assistance, comfort and healing,” said Le Mignot. “Their programs also take into account the overall social wellbeing of fellow residents in and around Chicago. They provide food, housing and unemployment assistance.”
Since 1976, The Night Ministry has been working towards safety, better health, security and housing for Chicago’s homeless. They provide assistance and work tirelessly to improve the lives of adults and youth who struggle with homelessness, poverty and loneliness.
“16,000 youths between the ages of 14 and 24 are on the streets of our city on their own. The Night Ministry’s youth housing programs intervene in the lives of young people experiencing homelessness providing safe shelter and support to help them locate longer term, more stable housing,” said President & CEO of The Night Ministry Paul W. Hamann. “As we look towards the future, The Night Ministry does so with hope. Thanks so funding such as this from the Make It Better foundation, we are eager to deepen our relationships with the communities in which we serve, to broaden our serves which we provide, and better meet the mental health needs of our clients, to widen the continuum of of housing services we offer and work to do so with an anti-racist lense.”
More From Better:
- The 2021 Better Guide to Giving
- Family Philanthropy: Expert Financial Tips to Help You Align Your Money with Mission in 2021
- Get Involved: 25 Chicago Housing Nonprofits
Richard Wright is a writer from Marin whose work has appeared in San Francisco Magazine, SOMA, 944, The Olympian and numerous online publications. He has an MFA from St. Mary’s College of California in creative writing and lives in Sausalito with his wife, Stephanie.