Benefit Chicago on Wednesday announced the recipients of its first round of loans, which total $12 million. The six organizations receiving loans are: AutonomyWorks, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), Garfield Produce Company, IFF, the Southwest Corridor Collaborative of LISC Chicago, and Sweet Beginnings, the for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network.
The Chicago Community Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Calvert Foundation collaborated to form Benefit Chicago, which aims to expand the pool of loans and investments available to mission-driven for- and non-profit entities. Individuals, corporations and institutions are able to purchase community investment notes through the Calvert Foundation. The proceeds from those sales support Benefit Chicago’s investment. The MacArthur Foundation has committed $50 million of its assets to the fund, and the Chicago Community Trust has purchased a $15 million community investment note to support the program. A press release from Benefit Chicago stated an additional $12 million in notes have been purchased by individual and institutional investors so far.
Recipients of the programs initial loans have a variety of goals. AutonomyWorks is a for-profit social enterprise that provides employment opportunities for adults with autism. CNI focuses on comprehensive revitalization work in Chicago’s economically challenged neighborhoods. The Garfield Produce Company is an indoor, vertical hydroponic vegetable farm located in Chicago’s Garfield Park area. IFF is a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant and developer that finances non-profit sponsored community facilities projects ranging from affordable housing and schools to community centers and commercial buildings. LISC Chicago is a community development intermediary that raises funds that are invested through community-based organizations in Chicago. The sixth recipient, Sweet Beginnings, is a for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network. It produces a line of honey-based products called “beelove” and provides job training for community residents who have a difficult time finding employment due to former incarceration or other circumstances.
The borrowers announced on Wednesday are the first recipients of Benefit Chicago’s loans, but the program aims to make loans to a number of other organizations in the future. Executive Director William Towns stated benefit Chicago has already raised $77 million of its anticipated $100 million fund and continues to seek large and small investors and donors.
More information on the Benefit Chicago program is available at www.BenefitChi.org.