Dozens of youth organizations receive micro-grants from the city to expand programming on Chicago's West and South sides

Dozens of youth-based organizations received a micro-grant to aid them in expanding programming, including Operation Basketball

NBC Universal, Inc.

On the basketball court at Ellis Park in Bronzeville, Cordarro Harris and Zedrick Carter are ready to give back to Operation Basketball.

“I’m looking forward to helping others,” Harris said. “You know, just talk to people so they don’t feel alone.”

The two young teens have been part of the program for two years, using basketball as a gateway to build confidence and to learn life and career skills.

“It’s my escape from reality and like, just go out there and have fun even though you’re dealing with bad things in your life, you still got basketball to change anything in your life,” Carter said.

Operation Basketball is among dozens of youth-based organizations that received a micro-grant from the city as part of the My Chi My Future initiative.

The cofounder of Operation Basketball told NBC Chicago the $10,000 grant will help them expand their hoops therapy program to a second park, reaching even more teens and keeping them off the streets.

“What programming are we offering these kids?” said Mike Holder, Operation Basketball cofounder. “What are we doing to give them something to do so they don’t have that free time—it’s up to us adults and as a community to provide that assistance for them.”

A combined $600,000 was awarded to 63 groups on the West and South sides. While many programs and activities are available this summer to engage teens, Mary Long, the founder and president of Sacred Ground Ministries, said participation could be a problem for some groups.

“Because of the stipend that we offer them, we’re able to kinda overcome that challenge in some ways—not entirely, but it does help us to recruit and help kids to stay in the program,” Long said.

She started her organization in 2013 in honor of her son, who was shot and killed near Hirsch Metropolitan High School. Many of the children she serves attend that high school.

"For God to use what someone meant to destroy me and my family for his good it just gives me hope," she said.

From culinary classes in Greater Grand Crossing to farming in West Englewood with Martell Collins. His group, Wood St. Collective received a $5,000 grant.

“I feel like every day is always a blessing to help folks to be here in this community, to restore it, to empower folks here with job opportunities and a better food option,” Collins said.

Back on the basketball court, Harris and Carter are looking forward to heading off to college, for now, doing what they can to serve their community this summer.

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