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August 10, 2023, marks 7 years of SocialWorks – 7 years of impact, 7 years of learning, and 7 years of empowering youth through the arts, education, and civic engagement! Over these seven years, SocialWorks has created networks that continue to push positive change in the lives of our youth, volunteers, staff, and the board. While SocialWorks’ line of sight may not see every ripple, the organization hears of the waves. The people in neighboring states are looking to host an open mic because of the success of SocialWorks OpenMike, individuals returning to school, or even students looking to start new family traditions as young people continue to positively impact cousins, brothers, and sisters after being exposed to something new. With each passing year, SocialWorks strives to grow in scope and depth of impact.

As SocialWorks celebrates this 7-year milestone, let us take a moment to reflect on the 7 moments that made SocialWorks the organization that it is. Seven moments that share a little insight into the whole 2,555-day journey that has been one of resilience, innovation, and boundless compassion. Here’s to the past seven years of making a difference and the countless more ahead, filled with even more extraordinary accomplishments. As SocialWorks blows out the candles on this 7th birthday, know that Chicagoans and the communities it cultivates guide and motivate this organization to work towards a better, more inclusive, and compassionate tomorrow.

To help SocialWorks continue its mission, please consider donating $7 using the link below.

7 Moments for 7 Years of SocialWorks

  1. First SocialWorks Appearance & First Time Chance Wears a SocialWorks Shirt – September 2016

September 2016 SocialWorks made its first public appearance at Chance The Rapper’s Magnificent Coloring Day! SocialWorks set up an interactive zone that included human-sized chess, super shot basketball machines, a photo booth, a DJ, merchandise, and opportunities to talk to SocialWorks leadership about the plans for the future! A fun fact is SocialWorks received 2,500 emails that evening! It’s always been the welcoming and collaborative arms of Chicagoans that have helped SocialWorks reach new heights.

2. The New Chance Arts & Literature Fund is Announced & Public Fundraising Begins – March 2017

March 2017 marked the announcement of, arguably, SocialWorks’ biggest initiative – The New Chance Arts & Literature Fund. If you remember, this time was very tumultuous regarding Chicago politics. A lack of bipartisanship in Springfield, Illinois, caused a budget freeze that would negatively impact the resources and educational opportunities students would receive. So in March 2017, SocialWorks decided to step in and devise a plan to allow businesses, community members, and corporations to support Chicago Public School students by having contributions impact materials that directly relate to students’ success – materials, capital expenditures, and teacher development. This received overwhelming support from the community and helped SocialWorks raise $5.1 million for Chicago Public Schools in need.

3. 30k Backpacks Distributed at the Bud Billiken Parade & the #BBBash – August 2017

In August 2017, SocialWorks displayed the power of collaboration, volunteerism, and placing people over politics. The Bud Billiken parade is the largest African-American parade in the country and the largest African-American parade celebrating education! With that in mind, SocialWorks developed a partnership to distribute 30k backpacks to prepare students for school! This was not an easy task! We called on 30 volunteers to help prepare and distribute 18 pallets of backpacks. What’s not known is, the city of Chicago warned that if we passed out 30k backpacks we would be reprimanded for unsafe practices (this really happened! The city almost bullied SocialWorks into not passing out backpacks). After loading a Uhaul filled with backpacks we made the decision to proceed! Luckily we called the city’s bluff and city officials and police helped pass out backpacks that afternoon and after the parade ended!

4. First Kids of the Kingdom Gala – June 2019

Galas are non-profits’ bread and butter! It connects an organization’s network of supporters, provides culinary delights, gives individuals a reason to dress up, and most importantly, raises necessary funds for nonprofit organizations to continue their mission. So when SocialWorks needed $250k to expand Kids of the Kingdom initiative, it turned to host a gala. This is the first and only gala SocialWorks has ever hosted. Thanks to ConAgra, Val Warner, Northern Trust, Chicago Sky, and many other individuals and companies the 2019 gala was a success and added more possibilities to what SocialWorks could accomplish and how the city’s business community is willing to support.

5. SocialWorks Students Make History with Nike – February 2020

February 2020 marked the last month(s) before the pandemic but also marked a historic collaboration between SocialWorks students and Nike. In 2020 NBA announced the All-star game would be coming to Chicago and Chance would act as an ambassador. In celebration of these events, Nike collaborated with 6 SocialWorks students to create a custom shoe. This moment exposed the students to many photoshoots, design meetings, and activation requests! Additionally, our youngest student, only 12 years old at the time, is Nike’s youngest collaborator! For 6 students that grew up wearing Nikes, this moment is a collaboration that continues to push these students to new heights.

6. SocialWorks Feeds the Community – June 2020

June 2020 was a very trying time for the community. A full-blown pandemic was reshaping the globe and, yet again, years of ingrained racism was rearing its ugly head in unspeakable ways. Rightfully so, people were angry and had no idea how to express or move through channels of democracy to create change. This led to many institutions, out of fear, shutting down operations. One of those institutions was Chicago Public Schools, due to a decision made by the mayor at the time. The mayor announced that CPS’s summer feeding program would cease the first week of June because of “riots.” This decision could leave tens of thousands of youth, if not more, hungry. So SocialWorks and its partners sprung into action and throughout the month of June operated feeding pop-ups to meet the need. SocialWorks will always choose the community and the people that help make Chicago the best city in the world.

7. SocialWorks receives an ice cream flavor thanks to Chance the Rapper – November 2021

In November 2021 Chance The Rapper received a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor that benefits SocialWorks. This ice cream marked a continuation of public fundraising, community, and collaboration that has been prevalent throughout the years. Thank you to SocialWorks’ Founder, Chance The Rapper, for always creating avenues to include the Chicago community and SocialWorks.