Felicia Solebo, of West Garfield Park, knows first-hand that a little help from a nonprofit can go a long way.

When she got out of prison in 1993, she went from one dead-end job to another, because no employee was willing to give her steady work. In 1999, she went to Bethel Employment and Training Services. Located at 4006 W. Lake St., the organization is a job center operated by West Garfield Park’s Bethel New Life church and community development organization. It not only helps residents find employment, but teaches them skills that will help them find jobs on their own. 

With Bethel’s help, Solebo was able to get an internship with the City of Chicago’s Green Corps landscaping training program, which led to a job at East Garfield Park-based Christy Webber Landscaping. She is still with the company, working with accounts payable. 

Now, Solebo is trying to lend a helping hand to low-income youth in the community she grew up in. For the past two years, her burgeoning Inner City Challenge nonprofit has focused on raising money for free school supply giveaways. Solebo said she is trying to raise the money to set up after-school programs that would include free tutoring and free meals. 

“A lot of the kids from the inner city are in dire need,” she said. “It’s a lot of crime, a lot of violence, a lot of child abuse. Those are some of the challenges they face in the community.”

Solebo called her nonprofit Inner City Challenge to emphasize the importance of addressing those challenges, she explained. 

Solebo sits on the board of the alumni organizations for her alma mater, the Marconi Elementary Community Academy, 230 N. Kolmar Ave. The school was closed from 2013.  

Last August, Solebo organized the school’s very first alumni reunion, where Inner City Challenge conducted its first school supplies giveaway. Solebo said that she paid for the supplies out of her own pocket.

During this year’s reunion, which was held at the school on Aug. 24, Inner City Challenge did another giveaway, but this time they were able to get support from the Chicago Park District, ComEd and individual donors. Solebo was also able to raise some funds through sales of reunion T-shirts.

“We try to save up money to try to do something for the community,” Solebo said. “We hope to eventually get a space where we can bring kids on the streets, kind of an after-school program. We can feed them and we can tutor them — stuff like that.”

And she hopes that this space will be in her former school building, which was purchased by 

Allison United Foundation for Better Living, a West Side nonprofit located a few blocks away from the school at 4540 W. Washington Blvd. Since the purchase, the nonprofit has been leasing space to other local nonprofits. Solebo said she is currently talking to Rev. David Todd Whittley, the organization’s president, to see if Inner City Challenge can be one of them.

In the meantime, she is open to donations. Solebo said that anyone interested can drop off donations at the Marconi building.

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...