Skip to content

Neighbors We Love in the Community

A group of Chicagoans look at the model of the Obama Presidential Center

The city of Chicago carries a long and storied tradition of community engagement, from Jane Addams to Ida B. Wells and Harold Washington. It was that tradition which helped draw President Obama to Chicago in the first place. And it is that tradition that guides our relationship with our community.

In the summer of 2022, we teamed up with Local Lunchbox, a healthy food program that connects small food businesses with community organizations, to serve meals to Chicagoans 18 and under. The program, created in partnership with the Shah Family Foundation, is entirely funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. We’ve distributed close to 100,000 meals—and we’re just getting started! Take a closer look at the program and how kids benefited from it:

Inaugural Local Lunchbox program feeds Chicago youth

Neighbors Who Inspire Us

From artists to organizers, tennis pros to professors, dancers to carpenters, here are a few of the neighbors who inspire us.

Community Leadership Corps: Meet Dejah Powell and Black & Well

Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps participant Dejah Powell started Black & Well with her two best friends to integrate wellness into the black community in Chicago and create a space to talk about health issues together as a community.

Brian Wallach, Sandra Abrevaya and I Am Als

Brian Wallach and Sandra Abrevaya met on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign. When Brian was unexpectedly diagnosed with ALS, they put the skills they learned from their time serving in the Obama administration to use—they created a patient-led, patient-

Jahkil Jackson and Project I Am

Jahkil Jackson is the founder of Project I Am, an organization that supports people experiencing homelessness, while spreading awareness about the issue. So far, Jahkil and Project I Am have distributed nearly 7,000 “blessing bags” to those in need and re

Active Community Leader: Jahmal Cole

Take a closer look at the organization providing Coronavirus prevention supplies to seniors in Chicago.

Brenda Palms Barber and Sweet Beginnings

Brenda Palms Barber is the founder of Sweet Beginnings, an organization in the heart of the North Lawndale community whose mission is to hire men and women returning from prison and give them the marketable skills and confidence they need to re-enter the

Dr. Lamenta "Sweetie" Conway and I Am Abel Foundation

Dr. Conway is the founder of the I Am Abel Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is dedicated to empowering and uplifting Chicago’s youth and providing them with mentoring opportunities and meaningful exposure to careers in medicine, STEM, b

MBKA Community Competition Award Winner: Youth Guidance and THRIVE Chicago

The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance creates a network of support and resources for boys and young men of color across the United States and Puerto Rico. Youth Guidance’s counselors are building trusting, caring, and authentic relationships with youth in the

Candice Washington and Brown Books and Paintbrushes

Candice Washington created Brown Books and Paintbrushes to empower, develop, and educate young children through art, literacy, and cultural programming. Her own love for literacy was inspired by authors like Toni Morrison.

Michael Airhart and Taste for the Homeless

“I show up with love, I show up with hugs, I show up with understanding…” Chicago native Michael Airhart extends a listening ear, a warm meal, and other items to people experiencing homelessness across the city—because everyone deserves a chance to get ba

Devshi Mehrotra and Compileher

Computer science education should be as accessible as possible. Through CompileHer, Devshi Mehrotra and her team are bringing that mission to life by teaching computer science to girls across the city, showing them that whatever impact they want to have o

Connie Spreen and Blackstone Bicycle Works

Welcome to Blackstone Bicycle Works—a community bike shop and hands-on youth education program for young people ages eight to eighteen on Chicago’s South Side. See how Connie Spreen is empowering the next generation of leaders, then learn more about the p

100 Years of Timuel Black

Chicago legend and icon, Timuel Black, turned 100 on December 7, 2018. He has been instrumental in making the city of Chicago and our world a better place, and we could not be more grateful.

Jonny Boucher and Sip of Hope

After losing 16 people in his life to suicide, Jonny Boucher dedicated himself to creating a new kind of café—a space where people could grab a cup of coffee and also know they're not alone. Sip of Hope is located in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chica

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Antonio Davis

Using his artwork as a celebration of the human spirit and as an example of the positivity that can arise from adversity, Antonio Davis inspires children in his community to contribute in unique, meaningful ways.

Active Community Leader: Berto Aguayo

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Emile Cambry

Emile was a college professor in Chicago when he noticed that a lot of his students weren’t getting jobs and opportunities. What started off as a side project to teach middle and high school students mobile app development is now a thriving entrepreneursh

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Erika Allen

Erika and the Growing Power team in Chicago are working to create a true City in a Garden: a "beautiful space where everyone is well cared for." Young adults learn about farming, culinary arts, and science at Growing Power in Chicago.

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Kamau Murray

Founded by Kamau Murray, the XS Tennis & Education Foundation is the first of its kind on the South Side of Chicago. Serving thousands of kids over its eight-year history, Kamau and his staff develop student athletes with potential to earn athletic schola

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Margot and Ayisha Strotter

Many communities across the country don't have a place where people can go grab an affordable healthy meal. This mother and daughter decided to fix that problem in their neighborhood.

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Mike Reynolds

Michael Reynolds used to be a union carpenter. Now he's contributing to his community by spending his retirement as a volunteer at Sweet Water Foundation. "Our young people only need someone to embrace them and let them know their capabilities."

Active Citizenship in Chicago: Tanji Harper and the Happiness Club

Using her love of dance and music to make a positive difference in the lives of others, Tanji Harper started The Happiness Club — a performance group and arts and education program — for Chicago-area youth of all ages.

Help Build the Obama Presidential Center

We believe the Obama Presidential Center should be built by a team that looks like the Center’s surrounding community, and we’re working hard to make sure that happens. We hope you’ll join us.

A young woman in a blue blazer smiles while writing on a piece of paper.

Every community deserves a gathering place.

“The vision for this isn’t just about the Obama Presidential Center,” Mrs. Obama said at the 2019 Obama Foundation Summit. “It’s about the South Side of Chicago. It’s about our neighborhood and community.”

Places have a lasting effect on our lives. And every community deserves a space that lifts up young people, that is vibrant and alive, and inspires everyone who visits. While children can play in Maggie Daley park, tourists can stroll down Navy Pier, and young professionals can jog on the 606, the South Side hasn’t benefited from the same type of investment in public architecture. The Obama Presidential Center is an opportunity to change that. It’s a chance to work hand-in-hand with our neighbors to create a world-class gathering place for the South Side.

Free, public areas will make the Obama Presidential Center a welcome space to catch up with an old friend or wind down with a good book. A new branch of the Chicago Public Library will offer young people a place to learn about history, while leadership trainings hosted in the Forum building will help them make it. And a playground and outdoor space unlike any in Chicago will offer children a chance to get active and let their imaginations soar.

And we’re building the Obama Presidential Center for our community, with our community—a place with global reach and local roots. Since we first announced the Center, we’ve sought out feedback from our neighbors to help shape the Center’s design, location, and architecture. And we’ve partnered with the Lakeside Alliance, a joint venture of five construction firms, four of which are local and minority-owned, to help construct it.

Chicago’s South Side has always been full of potential. It’s time it was met with opportunity.

When we first started thinking about what the Obama Presidential Center could be, one thing was clear: It should invest back into the community that gave President and Mrs. Obama so much. With the help of our community, we can write a new chapter for the South Side of Chicago—one that focuses on the region’s strengths rather than its deficits.

Through our commitment to working with local and diverse vendors and the economic activity the Center will bring to the South Side of Chicago, we can help drive an economic revival that’s bigger than one project or one neighborhood, tying together every part of the regional economy.

Officer Shelton is a close friend of Pastor Tracey, and recruited her to serve as the vice chair of the CAPS office faith base.

Our investment in the community has already begun. To date, we’ve spent nearly $18 million with diverse vendors on the creation of the Obama Presidential Center, with $16 million invested in Chicago-based businesses. When the Obama Presidential Center doors open, it’s projected to generate over $3 billion of new economic activity over ten years across the city.

A man with dark skin tone smiles with his hands in his pockets while wearing a "15" year Obama Alumni shirt. A woman with dark skin tone smiles with her arm on the man beside her, while wearing an Obama HOPE shirt.

The Obama Foundation Shop

Browse t-shirts, mugs, and vintage gear — all for a good cause!

Shop now

Latest Obama Presidential Center updates

Get a behind-the-scenes look into how we're building the new Obama Presidential Center, set to open in 2026.

Learn more
OFM061918QL 00-12

The Chicago Community conversation

It was a big day for us at the Foundation as we hosted our first-ever Chicago Community Conversation to bring together people doing incredible work for communities throughout the City.

Learn more
President Obama and Mrs. Obama look at the model of the Obama Presidential Center.

Stay Connected To Our Chicago Programs & Obama Presidential Center

There are many exciting things happening at the Obama Foundation—across the country and the world, but some of the most important work is happening right here in Chicago. Sign up to receive our bi-weekly newsletter focusing on all things Chicago.

Sign up