Susan Alitto says that it takes a village not only to raise a child, but also to age in a vibrant and healthy way. Alitto is the founder of Chicago Hyde Park Village (CHPV), a membership-based nonprofit that uses a “neighbors helping neighbors” approach to offer services and social opportunities that help seniors stay active, engaged, and independent. Its more than 160 members look to CHPV for everything from household help to transportation to doctors’ appointments to dinners, book clubs, and yoga classes.
CHPV began receiving support as an associate member of the Community Programs Accelerator in 2014. “Each year, we learn more and benefit more,” Alitto says. For example, students from the Harris School of Public Policy benchmarked and analyzed subsidized membership programs at similar organizations to help CHPV build its own plan to provide memberships to low-income seniors.
“Without the Accelerator, we would not be anywhere near where we are now. They not only gave us resources and help, they gave us the courage to try things.”
The Accelerator has also facilitated connections between CHPV and other nonprofits. “We’re neighbors helping neighbors, but we’re also organizations helping organizations — sharing resources and collaboration,” she says. With the encouragement of Accelerator staff, CHPV has even developed relationships with medical centers all over the city. “I wouldn’t have dared to ask some of those organizations to work with us if the Accelerator staff hadn’t said ‘go for it,’ but I discovered that our University connection gives us real credibility in the community,” Alitto says.