Can $86 Million Save a Neighborhood?

In 1999, Gary Comer, the billionaire founder of Lands’ End walked into an elementary school in a struggling neighborhood in Chicago and wrote the principal a check for $68,000. Comer and his foundation have invested $86 million into the neighborhood since then:

“Comer’s Pocket Town project has already yielded some clear successes. The youth center, for example, offers not only recreational activities for kids who don’t have many but also provides hundreds of year-round jobs for them. The center’s garden yields 6,000 pounds of vegetables annually. Perhaps most important, the center serves as a much-needed haven from the violence that continues to plague the area. In 2012, Greater Grand Crossing saw 36 homicides—and one shooting in Pocket Town itself. ‘Being here has changed me because I’ve learned how to be safe,’ says Demetrius Walker, 15, a youth center regular. ‘It keeps me out of the streets.'”

“Comer’s health initiatives have been a slam dunk too. This year, for instance, the clinic has vaccinated 700 youths—a third of whom would not have been able to return to classrooms otherwise.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to schools and housing, results have been mixed.”

Published: Jan 17, 2013
Length: 12 minutes (3,215 words)
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