When I was down in Chicago, one of the things we did was take tours of different Salvation Army facilities in the Chicagoland area. I took a tour of The Adele and Robert Stern Red Shield Corps Community Center because one of my co-workers was going to take the tour of a facility I wanted to see and there was no point doubling up and it was located in Englewood, which is a poorer section of Chicago. Since we were in downtown Chicago along the Magnificent Mile, I thought it might be worthwhile seeing a part of Chicago that isn’t on a lot of the tour companies itineraries.
The neighborhood houses surrounding the Center is around 40% boarded up. Commercially the percentage is higher It was a scene that could pass for Detroit. In case you didn’t realize you were in a violent neighborhood, the bullet holes in several of the buildings reminded you that you were.
Englewood has some of the highest crime rates in the state. Currently, many of its buildings are falling apart and 43% of
the residents live below the poverty line. Over 700 murders have occurred there in only 10 years. 98% of the students come from what is defined as “economically disadvantaged families.”
The Centre is focused on kids and is attached to Wentworth Elementary Schoolâ€Ž, a school that according to quite a few of the websites out there has horrible test scores despite a pretty low teacher to student ratio. The Red Shield Center and the Salvation Army is offering up music (band), fine arts, and gym classes at the Center in addition to being the Center for Head Start programs across the city.
In partnership with the Rush University Medical Center the Salvation Army is hosting Keep It Fit Chicago to combat obesity, heart disease, and diabetes through education and participation in their gym.
While the discussion on Head Start funding wasn’t that helpful to me, seeing how the Center does security, protects kids (and staff) and engaged the entire family was quite helpful. The Center is unlikely to solve all of the problems in Englewood but has thrown itself into solving some of them wholeheartedly which was interesting to see.
If you want to see some more photos of the Center and neighborhood, check out the photos on Flickr.