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Quad Communities Heroes:
Shirley Newsome, Toni Preckwinkle

What a neighborhood can be is largely a function of what its residents and the people who work there do. On a day-to-day basis, their actions – organizing block clubs, mentoring the children of incarcerated parents, providing shelter to homeless people, tending a neighbor’s garden – may not be heroic in the popular sense.

But those actions, and countless others like them, are what make a place what it is. And the people – the community heroes – saluted by the New Communities Program lead agencies and their partners are the ones doing the heavy lifting, often with little acknowledgement or reward.

The community heroes for Quad Communities are Shirley Newsome and Toni Preckwinkle. Congratulations to them and all of the other community heroes for their commitment to improving Chicago neighborhoods.

Shirley Newsome

Photo: Alex Fledderjohn

Shirley Newsome

Shirley Newsome is a self-described “squeaky wheel.” For 18 years, she’s been the board chair of the Kenwood-Oakland Conservation Community Council, working to bring resources and attention to her underserved slice of the South Side.

“We have a community plan that incorporates all aspects of community engagement and development – crime and safety, recreation, housing, parks, schools, and more,” she says.

Over the years, as the council’s responsibilities and connections have grown, so have Newsome’s. She’s also the board chair of the Quad Communities Development Corporation and the vice-chair of the University of Chicago Charter School.

One thing that remains consistent, regardless of which hat she’s wearing, is her dedication and focus on what it takes to improve Kenwood-Oakland, from how local charter schools can be a factor in local education to serving on the working groups monitoring and advising the Chicago Housing Authority’s implementation of its Plan for Transformation. “The Conservation Council’s work more or less synchronizes with all the others – it’s all implementation of that plan and the Quality of Life planning process, all the factors to make this a better community overall,” she says.

Toni Preckwinkle

Photo: Courtesy 4th Ward alderman's office

Toni Preckwinkle

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle has been a dedicated community leader for more than two decades.

Currently in her fifth term as the 4th Ward's alderman, Preckwinkle has sponsored Living Wage and Affordable Housing ordinances, was a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to institute a more racially equitable map of Chicago's ward boundaries; and has sponsored an ordinance that limits the establishment of payday loan stores.

Always busy in her neighborhoods, Preckwinkle has sponsored social activities for seniors and health fairs and secured millions of dollars for the renovations of schools in her ward.

Yvette Kelly, NCP organizer in the Quad Communities, says that when she thinks of Preckwinkle’s impact, she thinks of her work to ensure that affordable housing is part of any new development – Preckwinkle has made possible the construction or rehabilitation of more than 1,500 units of low- and moderate-income housing.

A graduate of the University of Chicago, Preckwinkle served as a high school history teacher for a decade before becoming an alderman. She is a six-time recipient of the IVI-IPO Best Alderman Award and has been involved in many local organizations, from the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Health Center to the Nichols Park Advisory Council.

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