At any given time in a typical year, the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club (HPNC) is serving around 200 local children, from babies to teens, with its classes, after-school programs, and camps. For the time being, however, the COVID-19 pandemic has put all usual activities on hold and HPNC has pivoted to providing emergency care for children of frontline healthcare workers at the nearby University of Chicago Medical Center.
“We only get paid when our programs are open and enrolled, so suspending them led to approximately 75 percent of our revenue suddenly being pulled out from under us,” HPNC Director of Development Sarah Diwan said. “And it placed us in a very tenuous spot. We’ve been applying for any and all potential sources of revenue to help make up for our losses.”
A grant from the University of Chicago will help HPNC do just that, Diwan said. Because of the organization’s affiliation with the Community Programs Accelerator (CPA) in the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, HPNC was eligible to receive up to $7,500 to help cover general operating costs or expenses associated with moving programming online. It was one of 79 South Side organizations to receive such a grant. The financial support for community-based nonprofits — the frontline human service providers in many neighborhoods — is one element of the University’s South Side COVID-19 Community Support Initiative launched on March 30. Given the urgency of the crisis, the grants were designed to help bridge the resource gap as public and private sector COVID-19 assistance becomes available.
Diwan and her team plan to use their grant in part to purchase laptops and tablets and help shift their programming to online platforms and to incorporate web-based tools into their programming structure permanently moving forward.
“Academic support to school age youth is core to our mission, but with the pivot to online learning, we suddenly found ourselves unable to provide needed help because our classrooms are simply not wired or outfitted for online learning,” Diwan said. “We see this as both emergency assistance to outfit our classrooms technologically and assistance to keep up with students’ educational needs once they come back.”
The organization will additionally work with UChicago student consultants from the CPA in the coming weeks to help HPNC staff members adjust to the new more technological programming approach.
Diwan says tracking butterfly life cycles in the HPNC garden will be just one way the new tablets will come in handy if the city and state determine it’s safe to reopen in time for summer camps.
Until then, Diwan says this kind of support from the University is helping her team get through a challenging time and hopes it will help HPNC come out stronger on the other side of this crisis.
“It really provides us with some optimism for the future, not only are we going to just barely make it, but we’ll actually be even better prepared to support the kids when they return,” she said.