The Block Club Federation is a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Chicago, Illinois since 1990. We currently serve the Hermosa and Humboldt Park communities. BCF is a grassroots movement aimed at community revitalization. We are devoted to hearing, identifying and addressing the needs of the community. Our endeavors aim to assemble residents and coordinate their efforts toward neighborhood development. Our dedicated Executive Director works tirelessly with a resourceful Board of Directors to accomplish goals that benefit the entire community. Our projects have become a labor of love for residents and volunteers who continuously work to advocate our message and objective to improve our blocks. We believe a major component of community development involves creating and advancing programs for adolescents. In 2004, Block Club Federation implemented a critical out of school program with efforts to influence the lives of its young participants. Our after school programming includes Y-MAD (Youth Making a Difference) and YIPEE (Youth Innovative Program: Environmental Education). Most recently, our organization has expanded to include programming for middle aged youth through Humboldt Hoops. All of our programs and services are free of charge and designed to benefit the whole family. We are relentlessly seeking to improve and expand our programs to better serve our diverse population. As we move forward with our efforts, we build capacity to eventually bring successful after school programs to the neighborhood on a much larger scale.
Block Club Federation
History of Block Club Federation
Block Club Federation started as a small gathering in the late 1980’s. A group of proactive neighbors came together with hopes of tackling community issues and improving conditions on their block. This informal block club devised plans to host clean-ups and block parties. In addition, they launched a visible campaign to discourage drug and gang affiliations. Soon thereafter, more residents joined the labors, laying the groundwork for the organization we know today. Block Club Federation was founded in 1990 through the assistance of Youth Service Project. A decade later, we filed for independent 501C3 nonprofit status and officially opened our office doors in August of 2000. After school programming has augmented the ongoing development of block clubs and community causes. Our adolescent programming began in 2004 and expanded in 2007. Today, the organization serves thousands of residents through community outreach programming. We serve an incredible 250 adolescents in our programs and constantly look for ways and outlets to expand.
Advocacy has always been at the center of community development efforts of the Block Club Federation. The Humboldt Park Library serves as one of our greatest achievements. After burning down in 1989, the Chicago Public Library system decided not to replace the library. BCF vigorously advocated to rebuild the library for years. We held community meetings, budget hearings, rallies, and garnered support from residents, agencies and stakeholders. As a result, the library was restored completely in 1996, and we serve as the umbrella to the Friends Group (Friends of the Humboldt Park Library). In 2007, we began to lobby for the expansion of the library to meet its growing needs. By 2013, an expanded library was reopened as a safe learning environment for both adult and adolescent residents. We are extremely proud of our participation in creating Park 514 and Lowell School Lion’s Garden. These community landmarks started as dangerous empty lots that posed a hazard to our neighborhood. With the support of our local alderman, Chicago Park District and many foundations, we transformed these vacant lots into neighborhood attractions. We take pride in the responsibility of keeping these areas in excellent condition for residents who enjoy them. BCF forefronts a summer gardening program to maintain and beautify Park 514. We are pleased to say that the Lowell School Lion’s Garden is used as an outdoor classroom space. Without the sponsorship of BCF, these areas may still be a perilous place for our community or a breeding ground for violence. Lastly, we supported the Hispanic Housing Development Corporation to move its office to Humboldt Park. This move was accomplished in the 1990’s and it provided more housing services to our community.
As seen through our aforementioned accomplishments, the Block Club Federation has long fought for community development and preservation. Through our advocacy efforts, we have successfully built a library, park, garden, and initiated the move of Hispanic Housing to our community. The programs we offer have the common goal of community development through individual block action plans. When partnering with us, each block is given guidance on how to develop a plan of action that addresses both short and long term goals. To provide an example, the 1700 block of North Tripp Avenue serves as an extraordinary success story. The Block Club Federation met with residents and heard their grievances of rising violence, gang affiliation and drug activity. BCF constructed an action plan to combat their concerns. The plan included the implementation of speed humps in alleys and streets, visible lighting at local businesses, police blue light cameras and the replacement of deteriorating streets and sidewalks. With the leadership of BCF, this area has developed solid goals to soon create a campus park with a local high school and adjoining play lot. Block clubs around the neighborhood have aspirations, plans and strategies similar to the 1700 block of North Tripp. Block Club Federation gives residents an outlet to voice their concerns and the resources to transform their community. With our guidance, each block club gets closer to their desired goal to enhance and protect their surroundings for a safe, thriving, successful community.
Meet Our Team
Magdalena Martinez is a community activist and organizer in Humboldt Park. She has volunteered her time to the community for over 25 years and is a retired School Community Representative with the Chicago Public Schools. Maggie began her community work with Neighborhood Housing Services and then joined Youth Service Project through which she participated in leadership workshops at DePaul University in 1988. Given the difficulties in our community, Maggie and close neighbors founded the Block Club Federation in 1989. Today, Maggie serves as pro bono Executive Director and president of the Block Club Federation. In addition, Maggie serves as the District Advisory Council Chair for the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) in the 14th District, treasurer of the Humboldt Park Advisory Council, and is on the board of Providence Family Services. Maggie motivates both youths and adults with a call to action to serve our community.
Carlos holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish from Claremont McKenna College and has volunteered for the Block Club Federation since 1999. In January 2004 Carlos joined our staff to assist our Executive Director and today serves as the Director of Youth Programs. In his role, Carlos focuses on program management, grant writing, and compliance for our YIPEE Summer Programs and Youth Making a Difference program. Through his leadership the Block Club Federation has been able to expand programming, increase our impact, and secure Federal funds for our work. In 2008 Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Carlos at the City of Chicago address for his commitment to our community and in 2012 Carlos was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Argentina where he is currently teaching at a university.
Elizabeth “Liz” Rios serves on our Board of Directors as Vice President and provides strategic assistance to the Block Club Federation in terms of neighborhood issues, relations with the Chicago Police Department and with the Community Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS). Her role as Community Organizer for CAPS has allowed the Block Club Federation to participate in programming across our city as we seek to broaden our impact and share best practices. A native of Humboldt Park, Liz has assisted the Block Club Federation since its founding, and in 2008 she began an expanded role and now regularly volunteers at our office on her spare time. She was elected Vice President of the Board in 2012 where she is currently serving her first two-year term. Her current focus on the board is networking and fundraising.
Malani Garcia has worked for the Block Club Federation as the founding site coordinator of YIPEE Summer in 2007. Now as YIPEE Program Director, Malani manages the Humboldt Park site, provides assistance to our Hermosa site, and serves as a liaison to our partner YouthWorks. A Humboldt Park resident currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Social Work at Northeastern Illinois University, Malani has been dedicated to improving the lives of our YIPEE participants and children in the community at large by providing a nurturing environment and structured activities. During the school year, Malani coordinates an after school program at Drummond Elementary and is also active in the Children’s Ministry of New Life Covenant Church. As YIPEE continues to grow, she has provided unbridled support and training for new coordinators and volunteers and also volunteers at Block Club Federation events throughout the year, giving her the opportunity to connect to our participants outside of summer programming.
Melissa Garcia is Program Coordinator for The Social, our new after-school program at Lowell Elementary School. Melissa comes to us with years of experience as the Children’s Director at New Life Covenant Ministries. She also served as the founding site coordinator of YIPEE Summer in 2007, and led the Hermosa site from 2009 – 2011. Melissa graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education and continues to dedicate her time and creative energy to the youth of the Humboldt Park community.
Jeannet Marrero is the newest member of our team and joined us in 2013 as Technical Assistant. Jeannet is responsible for day-to-day administrative tasks during our summer program that include organizing our field trips, attendance, and communication with stakeholders, and assisting our sites. Jeannet has also served as coordinator of our Spring and Winter programs and assists with community events and fundraisers. Having grown up in Humboldt Park, Jeannet is also a teacher’s assistant at Lowell Elementary where she works with special needs students. With a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies, Jeannet continues to give back to our community and hopes to inspire youth to be successful no matter the circumstances.
Fernando is the Special Projects Manager at BUILD, Inc. and serves as the lead staff for the youth leadership group Youth Making A Difference (YMAD). He provides training, lectures, and sessions on team‐building, social/community topics, and leadership development to YMAD. He holds certifications for Advanced Youth Development and Youth Practitioner from Chicago Area Project. BUILD, Inc. has partnered with the Block Club Federation since 2009 to provide facilitation and additional resources for YMAD.
oseph Quinones is the Assistant Program Coordinator for The Social, our new after-school program at Lowell Elementary School. He also coordinates the Leadership Development Workshop aspect of the after-school program. Joseph comes to us with years of experience as the Youth Pastor of New Life Covenant Ministries. He is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s at West Coast Bible College and Seminary and completed three years of Chicago Master’s Commission.