Family Matters is a youth development and community leadership organization based in the North of Howard area of Rogers Park. The organization supports more than 130 youth in daily programming and their families, with an additional 300+ people participating in community collaborations. Family Matters’ programming is divided into three primary initiatives: Youth Development, including school year and summer academic support, teen leadership, and college- and career-readiness
programming; The Family Matters School; and Community Engagement, consisting of collaborative activities with families and members of the community beyond those involved in daily programming. Family Matters’ mission is to partner with youth, families, and communities to cultivate a way of living in the world that develops strong relationships, meaningful communication, and safe environments for courageous social change. They seek to build an equitable society for all. Ann Hinterman, Family Matters’ Director of Community Engagement and Grants Management, was selected to share her experience with the Neighborhood Power Project at the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan press conference.
Every day after the children of The Family Matters School finish their hot lunch, the cleanup process begins under the close supervision of Ethan (7) and Elijah (5), two of the self-appointed Family Matters Compost Captains. Ethan and Elijah carefully guide their classmates as to where to place various waste items (ketchup can be composted, the packets cannot!). Family Matters expanded our landfill-reduction efforts in partnership with the Neighborhood Power Project (NPP), a program created by Illinois Green and Elevate to give community buildings the resources and consulting needed to make sustainability retrofits to their facilities. Thanks to NPP, we received new waste bins and signage, which make dividing landfill, recycling, and compost items much clearer and more convenient for the members of our community.
Beyond providing the materials, NPP has offered an opportunity for the children to actively participate in sustainable operations while taking pride in the changes we’ve made to our building. The composting initiative led to an interactive lesson on vermicomposting in science class. The children saw which waste items, such as apple cores, broke down and which, such as plastic cups, remained intact. We see that the children are excited to share their newfound composting and recycling knowledge with their families — a kindergartner asked her grandmother where the compost bucket was after family dinner one evening. Now her grandmother is planning to begin composting at home! With the support of NPP, we have been able to see what climate action looks like when it’s led at the community level.
On Earth Day, I spoke about Family Matters’ experience with NPP at the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan press conference. NPP was featured in the Plan, and I was excited to offer testimony on the significant role that NPP has played in our building and, therefore, in the North of Howard community as a whole. I am grateful to Kyra Woods and the Climate Action Plan team for offering community nonprofits, including Family Matters, a platform to spotlight our sustainability work and demonstrate how the City sees community participation as a critical element to Plan's success.
I was honored to be included in the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan press conference. It was exciting to share our work with a wide audience, and was a meaningful opportunity to reflect on our experience with NPP. Given the gradual progress made throughout the program, I hadn’t stopped to think about how far we’ve come since 2020. We did a lot! Thanks to NPP’s financial support and the mentorship of so many NPP experts, we have been able to demonstrate that a small nonprofit organization like Family Matters can be a leader in the Chicago sustainability space.
The program has opened the doors to dream about future opportunities for our building that would have been out of reach before: insulating our office spaces, using rain gardens for flood management, rooftop solar… and much more! And if we can do all of this in a converted vintage three-flat — a building that is similar to 25% of Chicago’s housing stock — we have demonstrated that it is possible for similar buildings in communities across Chicago to undertake this work as well.
Everyone deserves beautiful spaces they can be proud of. Creating spaces that amplify the voices of our community members — their needs and desires and what brings them joy — is central to the mission of Family Matters. Every day, we create a space at Family Matters that centers the calls from our community, including as a leader in building climate justice for future generations.
The Neighborhood Power Project asked us and our community to dream about what we want our space to be. The results are evident the moment visitors walk through our door. We considered how warmer lighting temperature creates a welcoming and inclusive learning environment for the children and youth of Family Matters who may have sensory sensitivities. We installed filtered water dispensers to reduce our dependence on plastic bottles, and the children love showing visitors how to use the automatic dispenser. Our new electric boiler moves us one step closer to building electrification, and also makes our space more comfortable.
NPP allows us to address challenges in tandem — considering what is optimal from an energy-savings standpoint, and also what is optimal for the individuals who exist in this space every day. We are so grateful for all that NPP has accomplished with us so far, and we are looking forward to continuing our sustainability work!
Family Matters is a participant in the Neighborhood Power Project, a collaboration between Illinois Green Alliance, Environmental Defense Fund, and Elevate. The NPP supports nonprofit buildings in and around Chicago on their sustainability journey through pro-bono consulting, grant funds for sustainability upgrades, and support to share their projects with the community.
By bringing high performance upgrades to often overlooked buildings, the project helps reduce the energy burden on nonprofits, empowers organizations to serve as a resource for their constituents, and demonstrates the value in delivering climate action to every community.
Are you a community organization or nonprofit interested in making sustainable upgrades to your facility? Learn more about the Neighborhood Power Project and how to participate here.