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published September 09, 2013

Breakthrough celebrates FamilyPlex groundbreaking

The East Garfield Park neighborhood has waited decades for someone to invest in the 13 empty lots at the corner of Kedzie and Carroll avenues.

Breakthrough filled that void with the announcement that the construction of the Breakthrough FamilyPlex will begin this fall: giving the Breakthrough Youth Network a new home and community resources such as a medical clinic and fitness center.

On Aug. 24, Breakthrough hosted a groundbreaking ceremony and neighborhood block party where 1,500 neighborhood residents as well as local dignitaries, project partners and individual donors were invited to an interactive tour of the grounds, dedication ceremony, raffles, dance party, and activities for kids.

All attendees also received a printed photo of themselves from a live photo booth and the first 150 neighborhood attendees took home a fitness kit and children’s educational game.The intent was for local residents to become a part of the FamilyPlex process and learn about the new jobs that will be created because of the FamilyPlex as well as the opportunities they’ll have once it opens.

“I personally enjoyed watching people from very different walks of life navigate the event together,” said Bill Curry, chief program officer of the Breakthrough Youth Network. “I saw so many smiles from people who were merely hanging out on a huge vacant plot of land in East Garfield Park. That doesn't happen often...usually our vacant lands attract struggle, violence and hopelessness.”

Yolanda Fields, chief program officer of the Breakthrough Adult Support Network, made the official dedication of the land that morning.
“We dedicate this land to [God] today,” she said. “We pray this will usher forth a new day in East Garfield Park … that it’s one more piece in the universal body of Christ that will bring forth [His] kingdom on earth.”

James Rousseau, president of Affinity Solutions of Allstate Insurance Company, spoke to why Allstate Insurance Company helped to fund the project.

“Chicago is our hometown,” Rousseau said. “Our roots run deep and so does our commitment. People will tell you you can’t make a difference. Things like [the FamilyPlex] defy that.”

President/CEO of the McCormick Foundation David Hiller shared similar sentiments.

“We partnered with Breakthrough all these years because we love working with people who care, have passion and get things done,” he said.

Also in attendance were 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin and 10th District State Representative Derrick Smith.

“I like that [Breakthrough’s] leadership live in the community,” Ervin said. “I commend them for not just talking the talk, but walking the walk. I refuse to believe that our children can’t dream big. Facilities like this will help them get there.”

Wilonda Cannon, a local mother and advocate resident of East Garfield Park showed her excitement and appreciation of Breakthrough to the crowd.

“They embrace my family,” she said. “We can make our community better. It does my heart so well when my boys come home and say ‘I learned this today.’ Breakthrough allows them to do that, and I don’t have to go outside my community to get it.”

Curry and Breakthrough’s Founder and Executive Director Arloa Sutter dreamt of a sanctuary for the children of East Garfield Park when Breakthrough came to East Garfield Park in 2000. The community has longed for a safe place for their kids to play and learn.

“On this day, we got to see a glimpse of the future...a piece of land that attracts perseverance, hope, and success,” Curry said. “There are many mountains to climb in the coming years, but at this party, we put on our boots as co-climbers and said ‘Yes, we will be a part of a team that promotes a new normal: an East Garfield Park where success becomes the norm and families prosper.’"

Story by Associate Director of Communications and Marketing Jamie Lynn Ferguson