Thirtieth Annual Staff Awards Focus on Justice
December 11, 2019 | Perspectives

Each winter, dating back to 1989, MacArthur has awarded special grants to Chicago-based nonprofit organizations based on staff nominations. A cross-Foundation committee of volunteers chooses the recipients based on a simple set of simple guidelines, which include: the organizations must have charitable status and have a physical presence in and serve the communities of the Chicago-area.

The primary purpose of these awards is to recognize organizations that normally would not fall under the Foundation’s grantmaking guidelines.

The primary purpose of these awards is to recognize organizations that normally would not fall under the Foundation’s grantmaking guidelines. An added benefit of this annual process is the opportunity it provides for staff who do not typically make grants to learn firsthand about this important role of the Foundation.

This year, we were particularly impressed by the range of activities carried out by nominated organizations, many of which offer support to traditionally underserved communities through programs providing education, training, artistic expression, and therapy.

The 2019 annual Staff Award recipients, which will each receive a grant of $50,000, are:

Free Write Arts & Literacy, which engages incarcerated and court-involved youth and young adults in the performing, visual, and literary arts so that they become the narrators of their own stories and the authors of their futures.


Photo courtesy of Bartek Kara's



The Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI), a collaborative of 17 local faith organizations. ICDI supports immigrants and asylum-seekers, including individuals and families, in a variety of ways as they seek lawful status or humanitarian protection in the United States.



We previously designated these grants Holiday Awards. This year, however, members of our committee wanted to acknowledge and respect that certain communities do not celebrate December holidays. So, using MacArthur’s Just Imperative lens, which is grounded in the values of inclusion, diversity, and equity, we decided to call these grants Annual Staff Awards. 

More than 40 organizations have received these staff-nominated awards over the years. Recent past winners include: A Long Walk Home, which uses art to empower young people and end violence against all girls and women, and My Block My Hood My City, which focuses on ensuring that all students graduate from high school and are equipped for college and career success by providing them with a firsthand look into different cultures, careers, people, and businesses.

MacArthur is proud to support each of these organizations for the work they do in Chicago-area communities and the impact they have on individuals who walk through their doors.

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