As a defensive lineman in the NFL, Israel Idonije didn’t let anything stand in his way of getting to the football. His relentless pursuit of quarterbacks and running backs helped him play more than a decade in the league, the majority of them with the Bears.
These days, Idonije has traded sports for service, spending his time working to make a difference in people’s lives. He’s not letting anything stand in his way of making that happen, either.
“Early on in my career, I made a commitment to community, using my platform – my gift – to really do what I could with what I had, with the kids in our community, which someone once did for me,” Idonije said. “And then to connect with some of the largest foundations, the biggest givers in the city – that was the heart of this vision.”
The vision Idonije mentions materialized five years ago as he was busy working with his own non-profit, IF Charities. The South Loop resident wondered how his charity, and others, could better impact as many people as possible.
"Business, manufacturing – there are hubs that allow these different sectors to come together, to share in ideas and concepts, to become more efficient," Idonije said. "The impact sector needs something like that."
Now, the impact sector has exactly that. This past March, Idonije helped open FBRK Impact House in downtown Chicago. The glistening, open-concept, 45,000-square-foot space gives anyone, including some of the city's biggest givers and funders, a place to collaborate when trying to make a difference.
"FBRK Impact House is Chicago's philanthropy hub," Idonije said. "At its bare bones, it's organizations and individuals that are focused on giving in the impact space. It's a space for them to kind of connect."
In the short time Impact House has been open, 15 of the city's most influential granting organizations -- or anchor residents -- have set up offices inside of it. The Field Foundation is one of them, led by its president and one of the co-creators of Impact House, Angelique Power.
"The idea of Impact House is that when we work together and we pool ideas and research, we’re able to hit a much larger group of non-profits than we could ever do alone," said Power. "And we make it easier for non-profits to find us and seek the relief and the funding they need."
At this current time in history, Power says a place like FBRK Impact House takes on added importance.
"We are at a moment of change, in our history, where the door has opened, uprisings are happening, and we’re all being asked to operate differently," Power said.
Power believes bringing together some of the city's most influential givers, and allowing them to work together to enact change, can help all of Chicago become a better place for its residents to live.
"If you are not well on the north side, I’m not well on the south side," Power explained. "If I’m not thriving on the south side, you’re not thriving on the north side. And so we all actually have to work together to find our way through this, for better health, for better wellness, and so by being able to do that collectively in the Impact House, we’re modeling a change that we need to see exponentially," she added.
Just like Power, Idonije believes Impact House can help strengthen all of Chicago. It already has, and it hasn't even been open six months.
"We’ve gotten to this point where the space is alive, there’s work being birthed from the space, and this is just the beginning," he said.