Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories that DePaul University’s News Now graduate journalism students are producing on Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.
By Len Kody
The Resurrection Project in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood has moved beyond its focus on real estate development to a holistic approach that includes education initiatives and a satellite office in suburban Melrose Park.
“Not [only] brick and mortar” investment, said Pilsen-area tour guide Alex Morales-Aponte, “but human capital” is the new priority for The Resurrection Project’s development efforts.
Morales-Aponte spoke to a journalism class at DePaul University on Sept. 27 about the changing and growing mission of The Resurrection Project in Chicago. He is an authority on the Pilsen neighborhood. The formation and development of The Resurrection Project is intimately entwined with Pilsen’s rich, proud history.
“Pilsen’s history of activism provided the model” for The Resurrection Project, Morales-Aponte said.
The Resurrection Project is a faith-based organization founded in 1990 by a coalition of six Catholic parishes in the Pilsen community. Pilsen has been a largely Hispanic area since the 1950′s. And Pilsen’s Catholic parishes have played a major role in grass roots community organizing since the civil rights movement of the 1960′s.
Latinos are very Catholic, Morales-Aponte explained, smiling a little, as he commented on the unique culture in Pilsen that gave rise to The Resurrection Project.
The current financial and housing crises defines The Resurrection Project’s mission today.
That mission is to help people avoid foreclosure and “keep people in their homes,” Morales-Aponte said.
It is a mission that The Resurrection Project is executing on a grander scale than anything it has done in the past. The opening of TRP’s satellite office in Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in suburban Melrose Park is a milestone because it is an example of The Resurrection Project’s new, broader and more holistic vision that extends beyond the boundaries of the Pilsen neighborhood, and even beyond the municipal boundaries of the city of Chicago.
By tapping the resources of regional institutions with access to federal funds, like the Chicago Neighborhood Stabilization Program, The Resurrection Project helped 592 families avoid foreclosure in 2009. In Melrose Park alone, they helped families save over 50 homes from foreclosure.
But The Resurrection Project’s most ambitious plans do not only concern real estate. To that end, it has made preventative healthcare and education an important part of its agenda.
The Elev8 initiative is a school-community partnership that provides kids with a structured learning environment during out-of-school hours and an on-site, school-based health center for students.
And the SmartChicago initiative seeks to bridge the digital divide by extending Internet access to youth, seniors and entire families.