Our Food Pantry needs continue to grow: Please consider volunteering, donating food, or hosting a food drive. Our needs can be found here:

Onward House staff have been working hard to ensure we support our community:

  • Early Childhood & School Age Programs: On July 7, we reopened our classrooms. In September, our School Age program opened full-day to help students with their remote learning. Our teachers are using e-learning curriculum, and are supporting families via phone and video.
  • Computer Classes: When Northwest Housing CDC and First Midwest Bank needed computer training to help businesses prepare to apply for loans/grants assistance, they contacted Onward House. First Midwest Bank provided financial support to help us continue to close the digital divide and provide tailored computer training through platforms like Zoom and WhatsApp for those who need email addresses and basic computer skills to navigate an all-virtual world of assistance funds.
  • Food Pantry: In April, we saw the number of people coming to the food pantry double from 40 – 60 families to over 100 202 250 families. Those of us who are not high-risk for Covid-19 have taken shifts to pack and hand out food packages, diapers, and other necessities.
  • Cash Assistance: To date (August 2020) we have distributed $48,649.50 in cash assistance to help families struggling to pay rent and utility bills.
  • Restaurant Program: A grant from the Lavin Foundation has allowed us to partner with two restaurants: Las Americas Grill and Latin Patio to provide free meals to approximately 210 children and parents from Onward House through July and August. This grant provides income for the restaurants, as well as a hot, stress-free meal once a week for families.
  • The Bounce: We are working with a graduate of The Lab, JCK Boutique, to help them get back on their feet by reducing their rental costs by 78%. Currently, 5 businesses have had approved PPP loan grants through Onward House application assistance.

Direct Relief

While Onward House is financially stable at this moment, we know that the ripple effects of a financial hit will last the longest for our families with few resources. We have made hundreds of phone calls to collect data on needs, childcare arrangements, financial situations, technology needs, and providing referrals where necessary. Our recent survey data shows that:

  • 35% of the people we have been in contact with have been laid off or lost their jobs – they are cleaners, caregivers, food & restaurant workers, spa/salon workers, and factory workers.
  • Over half the 227 people we’ve surveyed reported difficulty paying for their expenses, including rent, utilities, and grocery bills.

Our friend, former staff, and board member, Linda, has started a campaign for direct financial support that will go towards our most vulnerable families, including those who do not qualify for other relief funds. We have also received emergency funds from the Chicago Community Trust’s COVID-19 Relief fund toward this effort. We have distributed approximately $23,000 to 26 families to pay their rent and utilities. If you’d like to donate to our direct-assistance fund, you can do so here. Of course you can always donate to Onward House and we will allocate it to programs that support our entire community.

In the coming months we will be working to expand our social services, access PPE, finalize a reopen plan, and continue to serve as a hub for support, services, information, and resources for 5,500 neighbors annually. Read our Thank you notes from those who have received services during the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 Update II

Since 1893, Onward Neighborhood House has been a trusted and critical resource for families in Chicago, specifically in Belmont Cragin and surrounding neighborhoods. It is our mission to improve lives and uplift communities through educational, economic and support services. While COVID-19 has thrown all of our lives into turmoil, our commitment to supporting our neighbors is unwavering.

To protect the health and safety of Onward Neighborhood House staff and participants, we have made the difficult decision to suspend all in-person programming starting Wednesday, March 18, and will reopen when most feasible or when the city and state governments have given clearance to do so. Our adult education program and The Lab are now taking place virtually.  We are working with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to find alternative methods for distributing food due to our partner, St Peter’s where the pantry is located, is currently closed. Our staff is doing a great job while working from home to ensure that the needs of our community are being met, especially in these challenging times.

While we are forced to be physically distanced from the families we serve, we are focusing our energy on creative solutions to attempt to support them remotely. Some of the ways we are providing critical resources to our community include:

  • After a brief pause in service, our Food Pantry will be open for food package pickup Thursdays from 4 PM – 6 PM.
  • Coordinating the distribution of diapers and wipes to the community. We are currently providing other resources and referrals to other support networks as necessary.
  • All staff members are working to provide resources to our community. Our Early Childhood Education teachers are calling all parents in our programs to share home-learning guidance and lesson plans. They are supporting parents with methods for ensuring that their children have consistent schedules, regular educational engagement, and more. Our Family Support Workers have been contacting families regularly to provide much-needed resources and supplies as well as lending an ear to discuss their concerns.
  • We are collecting and sharing information regarding unemployment and job opportunities. For example, Walmart is hiring for many positions and is offering a $300 signing bonus. We are doing all we can to help our families maintain financial stability.

Onward Neighborhood House relies on the support of our generous funders, and thanks to the grants and donations already received this fiscal year, a successful gala held in February, and a committed contract from the State of Illinois for our Early Childhood Education program, we are currently financially solvent. We will continue to pursue our diverse revenue streams, but do not yet know what to expect for the remainder of our fiscal year (June 30).

While we may not be physically present in our community, our dedication to our mission has proven to be steadfast through a number of local and national crises. Onward Neighborhood House responded to our community’s greatest needs in times of war, the Great Chicago Fire, the Great Depression, and countless other frightening moments. Our work will certainly not stop now.

Our community, much like the city, country, and world, is concerned about the future. We have seen, however, that the residents of Belmont Cragin are resilient – they have overcome great challenges in order to build better lives for themselves and their families, and they will do so again. We will be there to help them every step of the way.

QUESTIONS? Contact Nikki Way, Director of Development at

Desde 1893, Onward Neighborhood House ha sido un recurso crítico y confiable para las familias en Chicago, específicamente en Belmont Cragin y los vecindarios circundantes. Nuestra misión es mejorar las vidas y elevar las comunidades a través de servicios educativos, económicos y de apoyo.  Si bien COVID-19 ha puesto todas nuestras vidas en crisis, nuestro compromiso de apoyar a nuestros vecinos es inquebrantable.

Para proteger la salud y la seguridad del personal y los participantes de Onward Neighborhood House hemos tomado la difícil decisión de suspender toda la programación en persona a partir del miércoles 18 de marzo, y volveremos a abrir cuando sea más factible o cuando los gobiernos de la ciudad y el estado hayan autorizado a hacerlo. Nuestro programa de educación para adultos y The Lab ahora se llevan a cabo virtualmente. Estamos trabajando con el depósito de alimentos de Greater Chicago para encontrar métodos alternativos para distribuir alimentos, debido a nuestro colaborador principal, La Iglesia de San Pedro (St. Peter’s Church), está cerrado actualmente y es donde se encuentra la despensa. Nuestro personal está haciendo un gran trabajo mientras trabaja desde su hogar para garantizar que se satisfagan las necesidades de nuestra comunidad, especialmente en estos tiempos difíciles.

Si bien nos vemos obligados a distanciarnos físicamente de las familias a las que servimos, estamos enfocando nuestra energía en soluciones creativas para intentar apoyarlos de forma remota. Algunas de las formas en que estamos proporcionando recursos críticos a nuestra comunidad incluyen:

  • Coordinar la distribución de pañales y toallitas a la comunidad. Actualmente estamos proporcionando otros recursos y referencias a otras redes de soporte según sea necesario. 
  • Todos los miembros del personal están trabajando para proporcionar recursos a nuestra comunidad. Nuestras maestras de Educación de la Primera Infancia están llamando a todos los padres en nuestros programas para compartir la guía de aprendizaje en el hogar y los planes de enseñanza. Están apoyando a los padres como métodos para asegurar que sus hijos tengan horarios consistentes, participación educativa regular y más. Nuestros trabajadores de apoyo familiar se han puesto en contacto regularmente con las familias para proporcionarles los recursos y suministros que tanto necesitan, así como para prestarles atención para analizar sus inquietudes.
  • Estamos recopilando y compartiendo información sobre desempleo y oportunidades de trabajo. Por ejemplo, Walmart está contratando para muchos puestos y ofrece un bono de $300 al momento de ser contratado. Estamos haciendo todo lo posible para ayudar a nuestras familias a mantener la estabilidad financiera.

Onward Neighborhood House cuenta con el apoyo de nuestros generosos patrocinadores y estamos actualmente solvente financieramente gracias a las subvenciones y donaciones ya recibidas este año fiscal, una exitosa gala celebrada en febrero, y un contrato comprometido de Estado de Illinois para nuestro programa de Educación de la Primera Infancia. Continuaremos buscando nuestros diversos flujos de ingresos, pero aún no sabemos qué esperar para el resto de nuestro año fiscal que finaliza el 30 de junio.

Si bien es posible que no estemos físicamente presentes en nuestra comunidad, nuestra dedicación a nuestra misión ha demostrado ser firme a través de una serie de crisis locales y nacionales. Onward Neighborhood House respondió a las mayores necesidades de nuestra comunidad en tiempos de guerra, el Gran Incendio de Chicago, la Gran Depresión y muchos otros momentos aterradores. Nuestro trabajo ciertamente no se detendrá ahora.

Nuestra comunidad, al igual que la ciudad, el país y el mundo, está preocupado por el futuro. Sin embargo, hemos visto que los residentes de Belmont Cragin son resistentes: han superado grandes desafíos para construir mejores vidas para ellos y sus familias, y lo volverán a hacer. Estaremos allí para ayudarlos en cada paso del camino.

Onward House Launches Retail Accelerator

Onward Neighborhood House will host a grand opening of its first-ever retail accelerator store, “The Bounce,” in Logan Square, available to recent graduates of its Business Incubator. The two woman- and minority-owned businesses to immediately occupy the space are Casa Brow, providing semi-permanent makeup and microblading, from Hermosa resident, Vanessa Puente; and Namaslay Yoga, from Pilsen resident, Hayde Canales. The Bounce has space for up to five businesses, available at a low rental fee.

Onward House’s adult education programs aim to build sustainable wealth, create jobs for entrepreneurs in underserved communities. Participants in its Business Incubator, now in its second year, consistently identified one shared barrier to success: the lack of accessible, affordable retail space in high-traffic areas. This was the inspiration to open The Bounce.

The entrepreneurs who participate in our Business Incubator program have outstanding ideas, products and services – all rooted in what the community needs and wants,” says Mario García, Onward House’s Executive Director. “For years we’ve had an eCommerce class to help our students sell online, but now we have an option for the critical brick-and-mortar retail experience.”

Hayde Canales, owner of Namaslay Yoga, says: “When I host small groups, people always ask if I have a studio location. Thanks to The Bounce, I can finally say that I do.”

Onward House will host a grand opening with to celebrate the launch of The Bounce on Saturday, September 28, with a short program at 3pm at 3633-37 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago. The opening will host a pop-up market several other entrepreneur graduates from The Lab including: A’s Make-Up offering mini makeup sessions; Holistic Choices Center providing chair massage; Reflections of Lola selling tea, incense, jewelry, and clothing; Ylianna Luna Photography providing portrait sessions; EZ for BZ Alterations; JCKs International Bridal Boutique; and Esquilin Maintenance and Repair highlighting their renovation work on the space.

The next Entrepreneurship cohort at The Lab begins Tuesday, October 15, 2019. Reach out to Sophia (Cabido) Negron for an interview or visit to learn more.

Onward Wins 2018 Acting Up Award!


Onward Neighborhood House Selected as 2018 “Acting Up” Award Recipient

We are pleased to announce that Onward Neighborhood House has been selected as a recipient of The Chicago Community Trust Acting Up awards. 

Onward will use this grant to hold our first ever Belmont Cragin Art Walk; designed to connect our families and members of the greater Belmont Cragin area to art, music, and businesses within the community. The event is scheduled for a Friday in October.
Continue reading “Onward Wins 2018 Acting Up Award!”