June Newsletter

A Note From Our Executive Director

Dear WSU Friends, 

I am the mother of a young black boy who turned 8 years old on May 31st. I cringe at the fact that he will be discriminated against solely because of the color of his skin and gender despite the passing of the Civil Rights Act over 50 years ago. I am saddened that my son’s birthday candles symbolize 8 black boys and men who have been victims of police brutality or structural racism over the past 65 years. I am reminded that their flames for life were blown out prematurely due to injustices perpetrated by systems that were put in place to serve and protect them.  

I am reminded of Tamir Rice and that turning 12 is a milestone for many black boys. I think about Emmett Till being lynched one month after his 14th birthday. I am reminded of Trayon Martin, Laquan McDonald, Jordan Davis, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and David McAtee. I call their names and call all of you to continue to work alongside me to eliminate the racial and health disparities that have plagued communities across our country.  West Side United is committed to working with our communities and multi sector partners to build a healthy, safe and peaceful reality for black and brown communities.

We acknowledge that our unity is the key ingredient for birthday cakes that have candles that exceed the lowest life expectancy and premature deaths that many endure at the hands of injustice. United We Stand for Justice, Peace, Economic Vitality, Equitable Education, Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods!

Be well,

Ayesha Jaco, Executive Director
West Side United 

Programatic Updates 
Health & Healthcare

West Side United partners with the American Medical Association to provide PPE for West Side Federally Qualified Health Centers and The Masks for Moms Initiative

The American Medical Association donated 7500 PPE to West Side United to support 5 Federally Qualified Health Centers. Access Community Health, Esperanza Health Center, UI Health Miles Square, Erie Neighborhood House & Community Health received PPE to distribute to their staff and clients. 

The American Medical Association provided an additional $10,000.00 to purchase cloth masks from a local vendor in Little Village. In March 2020, Novias Davila began making and distributing over 1000 cloth masks in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases. West Side United will donate 2,000 PPE to the Mask for Moms initiative. Learn more about the Masks for Moms below.


West Side United Community Advisory Council Members distributes PPE to residents in 4 West Side Communities

West Side United Community Advisory Council Members Keith Freeman (Chicago Homeless Coalition), Greg Van Hyfte (Yoga Care), Esteban Rodriguez (Northwest Side Housing Center) and Ed Boone (Lurie Children’s Hospital) distributed 10,000 PPE donated by the Willie Wilson Foundation to residents in the Near West Side, West Town, Belmont Cragin and West Humboldt Park.

Economic Vitality

West Side United provides $110k in Emergency Grants to 11 Small West Side Businesses from 2nd Cohort of Small Business Grantees in Partnership with JP Morgan Chase and ACCION Chicago

West Side United provided eleven $10,000 Micro Emergency Grants to businesses funded during the 2nd cycle of our Small Business Grant Pool awarded in December 2019.

One business owner expressed that the original grant funding received in December 2019 helped their business stay afloat.

“Had I not received the grant from WSU I would not be able to take care of my personal bills right now. That grant has allowed me to purchase everything I need to move my cooking classes online. I am able to absorb this hit to my income without having to scramble and find emergency money.”

The following businesses will receive additional funding to help offset reduced employee hours and income.

  • Amazing Edibles

  • Salsedo Press Inc

  • Metaphrasis Language and Cultural Solutions, LLC

  • Colemans barbque 2

  • It Takes A Village

  • DLV Printing Service, Inc.

  • Thomas Mechanical Corporation

  • Back of the Yards Coffee LLC, DBA Pilsen Coffeehouse

  • 6978 Soul Food

  • La Chilangueda

  • Twenty Eleven Construction Inc


Tenisha Jones, WSU Senior Director of Strategy and Operations featured panelist in LIFT-Chicago’s #Disrupt Poverty Virtual Summit

The #DISRUPTPoverty Summit hosted by LIFT-Chicago took place on May 20th. It was a virtual convening focused on changing the narrative around poverty alleviation and lifting up disruptive approaches to fighting poverty. Tenisha Jones, Senior Director of Strategy and Operations, said it was an enriching experience speaking on a panel in a room with the city's top community leaders. 

"I truly enjoyed speaking at the #DISRUPTPoverty Virtual Summit, which brought together leaders from across all sectors to tackle the issues that face low-income community members in Chicago, discuss Chicago's systemic challenges, their effects on the city's vulnerable populations, and explore solutions to create long term impact for the future of the city," she said. 

The #DISRUPTPoverty Summit is an inclusive and cross-sectoral thought partnership gathering that will change the future of shared learning in the anti-poverty space, bringing together community members and leaders across sectors to make transformative change in Chicago with less barriers.


West Side United expands Series of Racial Equity Rapid Response Team COVID-19 Community Townhall Series in partnership with Garfield Park Community Council and Puerto Rican Cultural Center

This May, West Side United collaborated with community leaders in West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park to host two COVID-19 Town Halls. The Town Halls highlighted neighborhood-specific COVID-19 data, COVID-19 facts, and local organizations and resources that are available to the community including food and mutual aid. WSU is planning on collaborating with more neighborhood leaders to host additional Town Hall meetings in other West Side communities.

If you are interested in getting involved in planning a town hall for your community, please contact Rachael Wilson at

WSU Announcements

West Side United Convenes Live Healthy Chicago initiative funded by Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation

A $5 million donation from the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation will accelerate efforts to decrease the COVID-19 death rates in Chicago’s predominately black and Latino communities, which have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic compared to white Chicagoans, while also strengthening longer-term efforts to address the root causes of this health inequity. 

The gift will fund the efforts of Live Healthy Chicago, a Chicago collaborative that assists older adults and other high-risk populations in the city who are experiencing disparities in COVID-19’s impact. Live Healthy Chicago was launched in April by local organizations West Side United, Rush University Medical Center, the MAAFA Redemption Project, My Block My Hood My City and Forty Acres Fresh Market (See below for details about these organizations).

Live Healthy Chicago's efforts complement, and will be coordinated with, the work done by Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot's Racial Equity Rapid Response Team (RERRT). The City of Chicago created the RERRT in partnership with West Side United in response to data showing that black and Latino Chicagoans die from COVID-19 at a much higher rate than white Chicagoans. 

"The Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation's investment in Live Healthy Chicago accelerates our work to not just fight this virus, but also to address the underlying reasons why it is taking so many black and brown lives,” said Ayesha Jaco, executive director, West Side United. 

Learn more below:

Ayesha Jaco, Executive Director of West Side United appointed to Choose Chicago Board by Mayor’s Office

Ayesha Jaco was appointed to the Choose Chicago Board by the Mayor’s Office. the Board of Directors serves as a primary source of communication, decision-making, initiative leadership, management, and execution to better serve the Chicago tourism industry. 

“I’m honored to have been appointed to Choose Chicago’s Board of Directors,” said Ayesha Jaco, Executive Director of West Side United. “Now more than ever our entire community needs to collaborate on, not only a safe and responsible way to reopen our businesses, but an inclusive way as all of Chicago faces this moment together.”

Jaco will serve a 3-year term with alongside 3 other leaders appointed by the Mayor’s Office. Congratulations to Blanca Soto, Executive Director, Little Village Chamber of Commerce, James Rondeau, President & Eloise W. Martin Director, The Art Institute of Chicago and Liz Lombardo Stark, Director of Marketing & PR Gibson’s Restaurant Group. See the full list of board members below.

West Side United Joins Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Initiative


WSU is partnering with local organizations in West Garfield Park under the name Rite to Wellness to address health and wellness needs in West Garfield Park. We have developed a short survey for residents of West Garfield to better understand community needs. If you are a West Garfield Resident, please help us by taking five minutes to complete the survey.


Survey Link:

COVID-19 Resources

West Side United has been compiling resources to support residents during the coronavirus crisis. You can access different resources at

For more updates on West Side United, follow us!

About West Side United

 West Side United seeks to improve neighborhood health by addressing inequality in healthcare, education, economic vitality and the physical environment using a cross-sector, place-based strategy. Partners include healthcare providers including AMITA Health, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, Rush University Medical Center, Sinai Health System, and UI Health, community organizations, residents, the faith-based community, business, government, and others working together to coordinate investments and share outcomes. 

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