New Life Centers believes in the power of play–it is one of the most effective ways to deal with trauma. They run a little league for 325 kids and a 16-inch softball street outreach league, which has developed into a 22- team gang intervention league. They also have basketball, boxing, and running programs. Overall, New Life Centers has over 2,500 participants in their sports programming and was recently awarded the ‘Courageous use of Sport’ award in the Beyond Sport Global Awards.
A team of 15 men and women respond to every shooting in Little Village within the first few minutes of the incident. The Victim Services team is immediately on the scene, going to the hospital, helping the victim, or assisting with funeral planning.
Before Covid-19, New Life Centers helped feed 100 families a week. Then in April, as the pandemic grew, various people heard about what they were doing, including Barack Obama, who highlighted their work on instagram, which helped raise their profile significantly. As a result, in partnership with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, by May 1st they were feeding about 1,000 families per week. By June 1st, it increased to 6,000 families a week, about 30,000 people. In the last seven months, they’ve helped feed over half a million people.
The work that Matt does is surely heroic, but he believes that the real heroes are the people on the ground–the outreach workers helping young people on the streets, working with the community to empower the next generation.