Local Leader Receives Leaders For A New Chicago Award

Nedra Sims Fears is the Executive Director of the Greater Chatham Initiative. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GREATER CHATHAM INITIATIVE.
Nedra Sims Fears is the Executive Director of the Greater Chatham Initiative. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GREATER CHATHAM INITIATIVE.

Local Leader Receives Leaders For A New Chicago Award

By Tia Carol Jones

Nedra Sims Fears has been the Executive Director of Greater Chatham Initiative for eight years. Under her leadership, the organization has created the Mahalia Jackson Court, Mahalia’s Mile, Mahalia’s Gift Shop and Artists on the 9ine as ways to increase the Chatham community’s economic development opportunities.

As part of the Greater Chatham Initiative’s pillars, it aims to market Chatham, Greater Grand Crossing, Avalon Park, and Auburn Gresham so they can be seen as viable communities for Black families to live, work and play. The organization’s goal has been to promote and bring attention to the great things going on in the community. As a result, the community has stabilized, stopped losing population and has started to attract people to the neighborhood. Its fastest growing demographics are families who make $100,000 and people and families who make $150,000.

 Sims Fears is one of 10 leaders from organizations across the city of Chicago who have been chosen for the 2024 Leaders for a New Chicago Award. She was nominated by someone, which she said surprised her and felt it is an honor to be nominated and recognized by her peers.

“Our 2024 awardees are exceptional individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership,” said the Field Foundation Leadership Investment Program Officer analía rodríguez, who directs the Leaders for a New Chicago Award program and was a member of its inaugural 2019 cohort, in a release. “They represent a diversity of backgrounds, programs, and leadership journeys, as well as a shared love for their communities and Chicago.”

The Leaders for a New Chicago Award was established in 2019 by the Field Foundation of Illinois, in partnership with The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The goal of the award is to build a more inclusive city. The award recipients receive $25,000 and their organizations receive a $25,000 general operating grant.

“We are proud to recognize leaders from across the city with a wide variety of interests and backgrounds, who increasingly influence civic decisions, and apply their leadership skills to advance policies and practices that contribute to a more equitable Chicago. By supporting these leaders in their fields with a ‘no-strings-attached’ award, leaders can pursue their personal and professional goals however they wish as they continue to shape the future of our city,” Tara Magner, MacArthur Foundation Director, Chicago Commitment, said in a release.

Sims Fears said that being in the 2024 cohort is nice. It is nice to be in a peer group of people who are passionate about their work and are focused on making a difference in their communities. She hopes that working beside the other people in the cohort will enable them to collectively move the needle.

“I work with so many great colleagues that are doing such amazing work in Chicago and to be recognized by my peers really made me very humbled and hopeful that the work that I’m doing people are seeing. If they’re seeing me then they’re seeing Greater Chatham,” she said.

Sims Fears said it is great to be able to have the operating cost grant money and it will be used to further the organization’s work.

The Greater Chatham Initiative is also looking for young people, ages 18 to 29, for their beautification project on 79th Street. Those interested should contact Jeremy Jacobson by email at jeremy@greaterchathaminitiative.org by Friday, June 21st.

For more information about Greater Chatham Initiative, visit https://www.greaterchathaminitiative.org.

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