Project H.O.O.D. Raises $1 Million For New Community Center During Organization’s Annual Gala

Project H.O.O.D. Victim Advocate and Case Manager Chantrel Lee delivers a moving speech as she’s backed up by several FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) team members.

Project H.O.O.D. brought in more than $1 million at its annual fundraising gala on Friday, September 29, 2023 at the Aon Grand Ballroom at Chicago’s Navy Pier. The theme of the evening was “Every Person Empowered,” as the organization raised money for its efforts in ending the cycle of poverty, violence, and incarceration.

The night kicked off with a cocktail reception, where guests mixed, mingled, and got a sneak peek of auction items. Such items included a Chicago Cubs Dream Day package and autographed Dansby Swanson jersey, a Grand Luxxe five-night stay in Mexico, and a seven-night stay in Tuscany.

Donations given throughout the evening will largely support the construction of the Robert R. McCormick Leadership & Economic Opportunity Center, an 85,000-square-foot community center in Chicago’s Woodlawn area. The site will feature a trauma counseling center, a WellNow urgent care, a music and arts theater, two gyms, a swimming pool, three new restaurants, a WinTrust bank, and more.

WGN Radio 720 host John Williams served as emcee of the evening, as he ushered in remarks from several high-powered individuals and donors. Guests got the opportunity to hear directly from Project H.O.O.D. Youth Programs participant Maleiah Francis, who spoke about how the organization has impacted her family.

Project H.O.O.D. Youth Programs participant Maleiah Francis speaks about how the organization has directly impacted her family.

While its after-school program and summer camp has provided an enjoyable outlet for Francis and her friends, Project H.O.O.D. was also around when tragedy struck. On June 25, 2023, Francis’ older brother was shot and killed. She credited Project H.O.O.D. founder and New Beginnings Church Senior Pastor Corey Brooks and his organization for helping to pick up the pieces.

“From the time it happened, Pastor Brooks and Project H.O.O.D. has been right by our side. The love and support that has been given to my family is unmatched and appreciated,” Francis said.

Project H.O.O.D. Victim Advocate and Case Manager Chantrel Lee also took the stage with several FLIP (Flatlining Violence Inspires Peace) team members to deliver a moving speech about the work being done in their community.

“This is not an easy task for our FLIP Team or Violence Impact Team. Every day they are outside in their neighborhoods, monitoring and mediating conflicts in order to ensure peace and safety for everyone around,” Lee said.

She continued, “I am inspired by one word: purpose. When we gather outside, I have a purpose. I have concrete tools to inspire community members to change their lives and real resources to aid the people around me.”

The gala hit a high note during the live auction, which helped to bring in more than $1 million by the end of the evening. Additional funding came from donation cards and mobile bidding.

Guests try their hand at outbidding other donors during the evening’s live auction.

Pastor Brooks closed the night by thanking guests for their generosity and encouraging them to keep pushing forward.

“Tonight is not just a celebration of what Project H.O.O.D. is doing. Tonight is a celebration that all of us can accomplish our purpose, our passion, our vision, our dream, if we’ll be courageous,” Brooks said. “If we’ll be relentless. If we be determined — even in the face of naysayers, even in the face of haters.

“There is absolutely nothing you cannot accomplish if you put everything into it.”

Project H.O.O.D. is one of 13 Chicago organizations that make up Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), a coalition of community non-profit organizations focused on gun violence prevention across 27 Chicago neighborhoods.

Those interested in donating to Project H.O.O.D. can do so here.

Project H.O.O.D. founder and New Beginnings Church Senior Pastor Corey Brooks rounds out the evening with closing remarks and thanks guests for their generosity.