Eleanor Foundation awards $850,000 to Innovative Programs serving women in Chicago

Grants support Eleanor Network, providing job skills training and other programs to help working female heads-of-households achieve economic self-sufficiency


CHICAGO, IL – The Eleanor Foundation, a public grant-making fund focused on promoting the economic self-sufficiency of lower-income working women in Chicago, announced $850,000 in grants to 10 Chicago-area nonprofit organizations, to help suchwomen move toward economic independence.

The grants support the Eleanor Network, a collaborative system of nonprofit organizations throughout Chicago that have demonstrated ability to help working female heads-of-households with annual incomes between $10,000 and $40,000 move up into jobs that pay livable wages.

“Our new round of grants strengthens partnerships with programs that will diversify the job-training opportunities that the Eleanor Network offers to working female heads-of-households who live or work in Chicago,” said Deborah Harrington, Interim President and CEO of the Eleanor Foundation. “This brings the Foundation’s cumulative investment in the Eleanor Network to more than $6 million since 2006.”

With the Foundation’s new grant awards, its Eleanor Network now comprises 14 programs delivered by 17 nonprofit organizations. Services offered by the Foundation’s grantees focus on providing market-driven job-skills training, along with supportingprograms that provide access to affordable housing, reliable child care, and financial coaching.

“In addition to supporting job training programs in manufacturing and healthcare training, the Eleanor Network now includes programs that help working women prepare for careers in early childhood education and technology,” said Maricar Ramos, Program Officer at the Eleanor Foundation.

Low-wage working women face enormous challenges—especially in today’s job market—yet these households receive little attention from policymakers,” said Harrington. “That’s where our workcomes in. The programs that we fund provide women access to the vital support services they need to achieve economic self-sufficiency.”

Based on analysis of U.S. Census data, more than 330,000 households in the Chicago region are headed by single working women who are not economically self-sufficient, according to research commissioned by the Eleanor Foundation and conducted by Dr. Malcolm Bush of Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. Moreover, in metropolitan Chicago from 2000 to 2008 the number of women-led households grew more than double the rate of growth of households generally.

“Given the economic challenges that lie ahead, more women will be looking for opportunities to improve the quality of life for their families, “said Harrington. “That’s why the funding that Eleanor Foundation provides, together with the generous support of our donors, is vitally important.”

 New grants

Grants awarded in 2011 include:


Action Now Institute

A $100,000, two-year grant to support women participants in a Grow Your Own and Pre-Grow Your Own teacher training program, which helps prepare teacher candidates from within a school’s neighborhood for difficult-to-fill positions in schools with high teacher turnover. The program focuses on preparing candidates who reflect the race, ethnicities and cultures of communities with schools with critical needs for workforce stability.


The Cara Program/Self-Sufficiency Initiative

A $159,000, 14-month grant to help women advance in their entry-level jobs and build their financial assets. The program provides participating women with access to counseling, supportservices and education. In addition, Cara offers links to housing, credit counseling and childcare.


Chicago Career Tech (CCT)

A $50,000 one-year grant to Chicago Career Tech to promote high-quality, hands-on education and job training for women through its career retraining program. CCT’s mission is to leverage public/private partnerships to create a new corps of highly skilled Chicago professionals who utilize technology as a platform for new career opportunities.


Heartland Human Care Services

A $125,000, one-year renewal grant for the Imagine Dedicate Earn Achieve (IDEA) program, now in its seventh year as one of the hubs of the Eleanor Network. Heartland Human Care has increased this program’s focus on career development and skills training for women in conjunction with employer partners. IDEA provides individual consultation, courses and workshops to help employed women pursue financial literacy and savings, housing stability, and access to education and development toward career goals.


Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC)

A $65,000, one-year renewal grant to continue to support to JARC’s Women in Manufacturing program. This program provides women with vocational training for skilled, industrial jobs with its employer part­ners, helps women apply for public benefits, and pro­vides financial coaching.


Chicago Women in Trades (CWIT)

A $40,000, one-year renewal grant for CWIT’s Technical Opportunities Program, launched in 2009 as part of an Eleanor Foundation initiative. The program prepares single working women for jobs in welding and the building trades, through skills training and certification, apprenticeship placement, mentoring, and financial coaching.


Kinzie Industrial Development Corporation (KIDC)

A $100,000, one-year renewal grant for KIDC’s emergency medical technician (EMT) training program, now in its fourth year, in partnership with Superior Ambulance Service. KIDC provides hands-on EMT training, preparation for state certification exams, and job placement with Superior Ambulance, as well as other companies, upongraduation and certification. Women in the program also receive career coaching, and workshops on managing finances and improving credit scores.


St. Anthony Hospital

A $36,000 one-year renewal grant for the School-at-Work program (SAW), which helps women in the hospital’s entry-level jobs advance to more skilled, higher-paying jobs while addressing community healthcare needs. The program also includes a new six-month program designed to support improvements in patient satisfaction. The SAW program is co-funded by the St. Anthony Hospital Foundation and the Steans Family Foundation.


Youth Job Center of Evanston (YJC)

A $50,000 one-year renewal grant for YJC’s Women Investing in Learning and Livelihoods (WILL) program for young working women who aspire to advance their careers through education, career counseling, mentoring, and job placement. This program offers participants professional development, financial education and access to affordable childcare.


YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago

A $125,000 one-year grant for the YWCA’s Economic Empowerment Institute, which provides women with one-on-one career coaching, financial education and management, and technology training within the YWCA’s community technology centers.


The Eleanor Foundation’s network of programs includes grantee organizations whose work is supported by previous funding commitments. These additional grantees include the Center for New Horizons; the Center for Working Women at Housing Opportunities for Women; Mujer Avanzando (“Advancing Woman”) led by Instituto del Progreso Latino in collaboration with Mujeres Latinas en Acción and The Resurrection Project; and The Law Project. The Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing serves as a resource to the Eleanor Network.


About the Eleanor Foundation

The Eleanor Foundation invests in innovative programs that help working female heads-of-households in Chicagowith incomes of between $10,000 and $40,000 to achieve and maintain economic independence. A public grant-making fund, the Eleanor Foundation is building the Eleanor Network, a unique collaboration with nonprofit organizations and other partners to build and maintain programs that provide these women withaccess to job-skills training and career development services, along with access to affordable housing, dependable childcare, and financial coaching. The Eleanor Foundation also sponsors research on the needs of the women in its target population, which helps ensure that programs in the Eleanor Network deliver the services these women need. More information is available at www.eleanorfoundation.org.