A growing partnership focused on sustainable communities: Wintrust and the Chicago Urban League

A growing partnership focused on sustainable communities: Wintrust and the Chicago Urban League


February 08, 2021

A growing partnership focused on sustainable communities: Wintrust and the Chicago Urban League

A growing partnership focused on sustainable communities: Wintrust and the Chicago Urban League


February 08, 2021

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Our relationship with the Chicago Urban League began in 2012 with an event donation, but just as the nonprofit’s contributions are multifaceted, Wintrust’s support has been as well. This year, the partnership is expanding further to increase support for the Black community, including homebuyers and small business owners.

The Chicago Urban League serves more than 15,000 people annually throughout Chicagoland, with the primary footprint in the Bronzeville neighborhood and surrounding South Side area. The nonprofit’s programming helps people find jobs, secure affordable housing, expand education, and grow businesses. Through research, advocacy, innovation, and collaborative community, corporate, and civic relationships, the Chicago Urban League’s work supports strong, sustainable communities.

The focus on partnerships is critical for the Chicago Urban League. The organization says they cannot achieve equity for Black families and communities without support from organizations, institutions, and individuals who are willing to open doors and provide opportunities. That’s the focus that brought Wintrust and the Chicago Urban League together.

Wintrust is a funding and program partner. We’ve helped build the pipeline of Black business and civic leaders in Chicago by sponsoring employees in the Chicago Urban League’s IMPACT Leadership Development Program. Joseph Gregoire, senior vice president at Wintrust, is also a longtime board member. In 2020, we featured the Chicago Urban League on our Mural Building and accompanying billboard on the Kennedy Expressway. The exposure helped raise awareness for the Chicago Urban League's important work toward racial justice.

“Wintrust has been a longtime supporter of the Chicago Urban League and our mission,” said Chicago Urban League President & CEO Karen Freeman-Wilson. “Over the past year, that partnership grew even stronger as Wintrust stepped up to support our work in new ways, as concerns about COVID-19 and social justice gripped our city and our country.”

Wintrust also supports bringing economic empowerment to Black families and communities by working closely with the Chicago Urban League’s Housing & Financial Empowerment Center. The center partners with lenders to educate and prepare people to be financially ready for homeownership. Wintrust loan officers have led educational workshops, using Money Smart curriculum, about what to look for in a lender, what lenders look for in a borrower, and the nuances that are considered throughout the process. There are plans to expand the educational offerings in 2021 to also include Money Smart modules that are aimed at general financial literacy, to help provide more holistic financial empowerment, and also small business topics. There is also talk of expanding small business support with possible mentorships. 

Wintrust’s biggest contribution to the Chicago Urban League’s efforts is through our Homebuyer Grant Program, which offers $2,000 to qualifying borrowers to help cover down payment and closing costs. The grants are available for Wintrust customers and non-customers. The Chicago Urban League credits this kind of programming as being an integral part of the affordability and sustainability of homeownership in low-to-moderate income areas.

From July 2020 to January 2021, there have been more than $1.8 million in mortgages in African American, low-to-moderate income communities, with more than $16,000 in down payment assistance grants awarded. In calendar year 2020, there were more than $2.8 million in closed loans made possible by Wintrust’s sponsorship.

“We are incredibly grateful to count Wintrust as a partner, and we look forward to continuing to expand our relationship,” said Freeman-Wilson.

This year, the Chicago Urban League will begin offering Freddie Mac’s renovation program, which provides financial assistance to help homeowners make home improvements. We’re working to become part of that programming as well. Another key focus for the Chicago Urban League in 2021 will be working to close the racial wealth gap, which connects directly to our commitment to increase financial empowerment, financial literacy, and financial mobility in the communities we serve. Wintrust remains committed to supporting the nonprofit’s well-rounded work to strengthen communities and promote racial equity.

To learn more about the work the Chicago Urban League is doing in our area, visit chiul.org.

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