A West Side nonprofit recently received a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant. The Bloc, a nonprofit based in West Humboldt Park, leverages the sport of boxing to provide mentoring and support services for youth in a variety of West Side neighborhoods.
The nonprofit was one of only four in the state to receive the grant. The winners were selected based on the number of votes they garnered.
Jamyle Cannon, the Bloc’s executive director, explained in the organization’s newsletter that he founded the nonprofit in 2016, in order to reach “kids who liked to fight” and were less likely to join youth mentoring programs.
The Bloc originally operated out of North Lawndale’s Theodore Herzl Elementary School, 3711 W. Douglas Ave. Earlier this year, a foundation requesting anonymity bought the former Mission of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church building in West Humboldt Park, at 1345 N. Karlov Ave., so that the Bloc could have space for its gym and offices, according to a report by Block Club Chicago.
The Bloc postponed its plans to open the space in March due to the pandemic, transitioned to providing online services and took other steps to mitigate any risk of infection. The Bloc pivoted toward virtual training in the spring and a hybrid model — a mix of in-person instruction and virtual instruction — during the summer. The nonprofit also launched a food pantry for residents.
“In times of uncertainty, it is important for The Bloc to be a consistent source of good in our kids’ lives,” Cannon wrote at the time. “We are taking precautions to increase spacing between participants, limit contact, and disinfect surfaces so we can remain a safe haven for West Side youth.”
In July, the Bloc was among around 2,000 nonprofits throughout the United States to apply for the State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant. In the application, Cannon argued that the grant will do more than simply improve the building.
“By providing a sense of belonging, supporting youth fitness and promoting the holistic development of our youth, the grant will create a foundation for individual success and community development,” he wrote.
According to State Farm, the State Farm Review Committee looked at all applications and selected 200 finalists. The 40 winners were selected based on online votes.
Winners were announced on Nov. 4. Annette Martinez, State Farm’s senior vice president, stated that she looked forward to seeing the grants bear fruit.
“State Farm is proud to support the good neighbors who will be implementing the winning projects in their communities,” she said. “We look forward to seeing the impact of these grants.”
Cannon didn’t respond to a request for comment by deadline. But, in the organization’s newsletter, he thanked everyone who voted for the nonprofit.
“With these resources, we can engage youth in a program that will impact the educational, social, and life outcomes for our entire community,” he wrote. “I am continually humbled by the strength of our network and your commitment to driving outcomes for West Side youth. I can’t thank you enough.”