2016 Catalyst Grants

SCE is thrilled to announce our 2016 Catalyst award recipients! This year, 20 changemakers topped the list of organizations that caught our attention, impressed and intrigued us. As part of a special discretionary program, we make unexpected, one-time grants to support efforts that we admire.

Click here to view the complete list of Catalyst Grant recipients.

Almost Home Kids (
Almost Home Kids provides transitional care in a home-like setting to children with complicated health needs, and trains their families to address these needs. Almost Home Kids is a short-term community-based pediatric healthcare facility that brings together medical professionals, recreational volunteers, community providers, sponsors, donors, friends, corporate and civic partners to provide respite care, transitional care, transportation, physical therapy, caregiver resources, medical education and more.

Canine Therapy Corps (
Canine Therapy Corps provides interactive, animal-assisted therapy programs to a variety of populations throughout Chicago, from children undergoing cancer treatments to adults recuperating from spinal cord injuries.

The Cara Program, CleanSlate (
Cleanslate, a social enterprise of The Cara Program in Chicago, provides paid transitional neighborhood beautification jobs which have a dual purpose – invigorating communities and providing a platform to help individuals build the skills to secure lasting careers. In FY15 Cleanslate generated $1.6M in income and created 275 jobs.

Chicago Media Project (
The Chicago Media Project supports and amplifies social impact films through a community model of philanthropy. The four main program areas include film funding, community events, support of new media platforms and member events. The main annual event is Good Pitch Chicago, which brings together documentary filmmakers with foundations, NGOs, philanthropists, policy makers, brands and media around leading social issues to forge coalitions that support social justice filmmaking. Since 2008 the events have raised over $8,000,000 for 200 documentaries.

Embarc, Inc. (
Embarc is a three-year program that provides community-driven, experienced-based learning opportunities to low-income Chicago Public High School students to inspire and prepare them for college and career success. Embarc provides these experiences by partnering with businesses and cultural institutions throughout the city.

Feeding America, Backpack Program (
Feeding America’s Backpack program provides 450,000 children on the National School Lunch or Breakfast Program with bags of easy-to-prepare food to take home on the weekends.

Family Matters (
Family Matters offers a safe space to neighborhood residents and families seeking to promote positive change in the North of Howard neighborhood in Chicago. Here, parents, children, and youth partner with staff and volunteers to further their education, build leadership skills, and strengthen the community.

GirlForward (
GirlForward provides adolescent refugee girls with individual mentorship, educational programs and leadership opportunities. The organization pairs refugees ranging in age from 12 to 21 with American mentors and hosts a summer camp to prepare teens for their first year of high school in the United States. The organization serves over 100 refugee girls annually through programs in Chicago, IL and Austin, TX.

The Health Wagon (
The Health Wagon’s mission is to provide quality health care to the medically underserved people in the mountains of Appalachia. HW’s average patient is 38-years-old; 98% of patients are uninsured and 70% have an income of less than $20,000 annually, despite working multiple jobs. These patients make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. The mobile health clinic fills that gap by bringing healthcare to them.

Jovenes Unidos (
Padres & Jovenes Unidos is a multi-issue organization in Colorado led by people of color who work for educational equity, racial justice, immigrant rights and quality healthcare for all. Jovenes Unidos, the youth initiative of Padres Unidos, emerged as young people became active in reforming their schools. Jovenes Unidos led the drive to end the school-to-jail pipeline by advocating for and passing a law to formerly change the state discipline code. It has also created a data driven report card for Denver Public School as call to action. In just six years, Jovenes Unidos has cut suspension rates for students of color in half.

Lava Mae (
Lava Mae is taking “radical hospitality” to the street, and bringing humanity, innovation, and collaboration to the way services are provided to those experiencing homelessness in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Founded in 2014, Lava Mae retrofits former public transit busses with two full private bathrooms and offers hot showers, clean toilets, shampoo, soap and towels free of charge to the homeless. To-date, Lava Mae has provided 2,300 San Franciscans with 14,000+ showers on their mobile units, inspired replication of their hygiene services, and dramatically raised awareness about the lack of showers among the broader community across the U.S. and around the globe.

Library for All (
Library For All is a nonprofit organization focused on building a digital library to deliver quality educational materials in developing countries. Started in 2012, LFA has partnered with schools, NGOs and governments in Haiti, Mongolia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Cambodia to customize the Library according to their users’ specific needs. LFA is a recipient of the 2016 Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellowship and was featured at Chicago Ideas Week.

Operation Gratitude (
Operation Gratitude annually sends over 200,000 care packages filled with food, entertainment, hygiene, and handmade items, plus personal letters of appreciation to Veterans, First Responders, new recruits, Wounded Heroes and their care givers, and U.S. service members deployed overseas to boost morale and support. Each package contains donated product valued from $45-100, and costs the organization $15 to assemble and ship.

Project C.U.R.E. (
Project C.U.R.E. delivers medical supplies to resource-limited communities across the globe. In 2015, Project C.U.R.E. delivered 145 containers valued at $53.4, million to 47 countries. The C.U.R.E. Kits program sends suitcase-sized, pre-packed kits of basic medical supplies that can be checked as luggage. Valued at $2,000, contents include exam supplies, wound care, personal hygiene items and other critical supplies often lacking in clinics in developing countries but are essential for medical care. Each kit costs $200 to send.

Recipe for Change (
Recipe for Change is a program designed to give dignity and opportunity to the inmates of Cook County Jail through an introduction to healthy food, good nutrition and the art of quality cooking. More than a traditional cooking class, these students, who are detainees, are challenged to meet the expectations of the best and most rigorous culinary arts school. Recipe for Change aims to give inmates a sense of work ethic, patience, and the motivation to be a better person when they are back outside in the world.

Resource Center Chicago, City Farm Program (
The Resource Center is a not-for-profit environmental education organization that strives to improve the quality of life in Chicago by finding new life in underused and overlooked resources. City Farm transforms vacant city land into fertile, productive farmland. It integrates education, land reuse, local investment and jobs, community beautification and healthier agriculture and eating.

Simple Good (
The Simple Good uses arts and discussion to bring together low-income youth around the positive concept of ‘good’. The Simple Good partners with schools to develop public art projects and youth art programming, with the goal to share the message that no matter where you go in the world, good means the same to all of us – and that is what connects us as human beings.

TASC Inc. (
TASC (Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities) works to decrease the number of people who go through the criminal justice system. TASC places people with substance abuse or mental health problems into rehabilitative programs across Illinois and provides monitoring and recovery support for sustained success. Through direct services and public policy, the organization advocates for effective and cost-saving solutions that allow individuals, families, and communities to thrive.

University of Illinois Hospital, Baby Cuddling Program (
Research has shown that infants who are held demonstrate greater growth, physiological stability, and have shorter hospital stays than infants who are not. Since critically ill newborns are frequently hospitalized for an extended period of time, parents find themselves emotionally and physically torn between their desires to visit with their infants and other life responsibilities. The Cuddle Program uses extensively trained volunteers to support the families of infants by providing comfort to their hospitalized infant. Through training, Cuddlers learn to handle, hold, rock, and cuddle stable infants-as an extension of the parents’ role-as they convalesce from premature birth or other illnesses.

Urban Initiatives (
Urban Initiatives engages kids through sports and team membership with the goal of building accountability for their actions in academics, nutrition, physical fitness and personal contact. Their flagship program Work to Play provides children in grades K-4 with the opportunity to join a soccer team, regardless of skill level. Ongoing team participation depends on meeting academic and behavioral standards, as measured by their teachers on a weekly basis.