SECC grant helps fund neighborhood beautification projects

Contributing Writer

A Hyde Park community organization is now able to provide larger grants to beautification projects focused on improving the quality of life in five South Side neighborhoods thanks to a local fund.

The South East Chicago Commission has doled out nearly $500,000 since 1999 through its Neighborhood Enhancement Grant Program, which was designed to enhance the Hyde Park, Woodlawn, Kenwood, Washington Park, and Oakland neighborhoods.

“The South East Chicago Commission has a lot of programs but this is one of my favorites,” said Diane Burnham, senior program manager for community and economic development for the SECC.

In 2016, the Elizabeth Louise Smith Fund at the Chicago Community Trust aided the SECC when it matched (dollar for dollar) all monies raised for the program. Additionally, the SECC began partnerships in 2016 with the nonprofit Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference and Hyde Park Bank. By doing so, the SECC was able to grow its partnership to help create quality neighborhood projects for neighborhoods, such as Hyde Park.

A total of $16,000 was committed to 2016 projects, which included $6,000 that was raised at the SECC’s annual fundraiser “A Night at the Theatre,” according to Burnham.

“This year our goal is to raise $10,000, which means with the matching grant, we would have $20,000 available to fund projects,” contends Burnham. “The more money we raise the more we can do to help beautify our neighborhoods.”

The event this year starts at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, at the Court Theater, 5535 S. Ellis Ave. And a reception prior to the performance runs from 5:15 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. at the Smart Museum, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave.

Tickets can be purchased to see “Harvey,” a comedy about a pleasant man with an invisible, 6’3 rabbit, at the SECC headquarters, 1511 E. 53rd St., or at for $75.

Burnham said she expects winning projects for this year to be announced by July.

As far as 2016, the five projects completed were the 62nd Street Garden, William Hill Garden/Gallery and Blacks in Green in Woodlawn; Cornell Park Advisory Council and the Chicago Public Arts Group in Hyde Park.