published August 15, 2011
Home Court creates strong team in EGP
Breakthrough’s HomeCourt is well underway in East Garfield Park. The Friday night sessions feature four-on-four basketball games in a block party-type setting. “For the third straight year, our basketball league is running at capacity, and our overall attendance for the event is consistently over 300 this year,” said Sports Coordinator, Rusty Funk.
Home Court is part of Hoops In The Hood, a city-wide program spearheaded by LISC Chicago. LISC provides funding and other resources to help struggling neighborhoods carry out comprehensive plans to become healthy, vibrant communities. Hoops In The Hood currently has leagues in 12 Chicago neighborhoods, as part of broader initiatives to foster stability and economic growth. “Hoops targets the hottest blocks on the hottest nights,” says LISC Senior Program Officer, Keri Blackwell, referring to the violence that often escalates as the temperatures rise in summer months. “Community residents have made it clear that theirs kids – and safety – is a priority. We want to help then find ways to reclaim public spaces instead of feeling like they need to hide kids inside.”
According to Rusty, Home Court has helped spur dramatic improvements in safety over the past three years. “But we still need prayers for that,” he says. “We want God to move in our hearts, and we want everyone to feel His love.”
The community has shown their support by volunteering, more this year than ever before. “Every Friday night parents volunteer to help in any way they can…setting up, grilling, handling registration,” says Rusty. “Home Court is a very big event, and it is only possible because the neighborhood has helped it grow.”
Volunteer groups and sponsors, many from the West Side, have also been instrumental in the growing success of Home Court. “We were very excited to have Bulls Guard Kyle Korver and other volunteers from Soul City Church this past Friday,” says Rusty. "Kyle signed autographs for all of our players, and his presence brought so much value, dignity and pride to our kids! Afterwards, they could not stop talking about how proud they were that he came to ‘their court’ and watched them hoop! We’re also thankful to Klayton and Kyle Korver for their donation of shoes that we’ve been using as awesome raffle prizes for the kids!”
Partnership on all levels has been key to the success of Home Court – and to the larger goal of bringing positive, lasting change to East Garfield Park. Because LISC values the expertise of local organizations “on the ground," Breakthrough was able to tailor Home Court to fit the needs and desires of the East Garfield community. Breakthrough’s organization and management of the six week event is just one initiative of many in a comprehensive plan by the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance.
“The growing success in this neighborhood is a direct result of organizations like Breakthrough who are willing to work together,” says Keri. “Breakthrough is an active participant in the neighborhood and very willing to participate in conversations about community development. Breakthrough is a remarkable organization with amazing, inspiring people.”
Home Court’s regular season will wrap up on Friday, August 12th, when coaches will select an All Star Team from each age division to represent Breakthrough and East Garfield Park at the LISC’s annual Hoops in the Hood Tournament on August 20th. The Home Court high school team took first place in the tournament and plan to defend their title this summer.