Come What May

Pase lo que pase

150 years of Erie Neighborhood House

2020 Annual Report


Dear Friends,

2020 was a challenging year to celebrate our 150th anniversary of service.

But it was perhaps the most fitting. Throughout Erie House's history, the only constant has been change. Quick adaptation is at the heart of who we are. We have never stopped evolving to meet the needs of our community, and 2020 was no different.

In a year that saw the coronavirus pandemic, economic devastation and social unrest hit Erie House families and communities the hardest, we were yet again called upon to stretch our resources farther than ever before.

Our team quickly gained new skills and pushed their creativity to reach our participants however they could, piloting new programming and providing resources and support based on the changing needs of our community. Erie House stood with our people through virtual and hybrid education, workshops, counseling, and legal services; direct financial assistance for those who needed it most; and a safe return for children and youth.

We're so grateful for our staff! Their hard work and resilience, along with your generosity and support, allowed Erie House to truly live into our vision — a home with no borders. Even while physically apart, our Erie House community remained connected.

The work never stops. Come what may, Erie House will be here for our community. Whatever happens. Pase lo que pase.

Thank you for celebrating our first 150 years with us. Now, we look forward to the next 150 years. We hope you’ll stand with us as we continue to grow and evolve into the future — our 151st year and beyond.

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Kirstin Chernawsky

Executive Director

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Nicolas Guzman

Board President

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About Erie Neighborhood House

Since 1870, Erie Neighborhood House has provided comprehensive support immigrant and low-income families in Chicago need to thrive.

Today, Erie House serves individuals and families of all backgrounds, primarily the Latinx immigrant community. Through education, legal services, health programs, and more, we empower the people we work alongside to build powerful communities.

Upward mobility through hard work alone is more difficult to achieve for many immigrant and working-class families. The community we serve faces limited access to affordable legal and citizenship support, high-quality early childhood education, adult education programs, and mental health services, all of which are necessary for families to thrive. We provide these essential services to our community.

Through our work, we empower the population we work alongside to build stronger communities, ultimately leading to a more just and inclusive society.

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion

Erie House believes in the importance of diversity, equity, access and inclusion. We stand in solidarity with those fighting against injustice, oppression, and systemic racism in all its forms. Our mission is to empower our community — Latinx immigrants and individuals and families of all backgrounds.

“All backgrounds” represents our commitment to inclusion across race, gender, age, religion, identity, ability and experience. We’re committed to working to unify our communities behind the shared goal of justice and equity.

Our Work

Erie House’s comprehensive services are available to people of all ages, from early childhood to late adulthood. These services are offered through 14 different programs across 7 departments, all of which are designed to empower our participants to build strong communities.

Our programs span a wide range of service areas, including:

Legal Services

Our in-house team of attorneys and legal representatives help clients navigate the US citizenship and immigration system, keeping families together, and allowing them to achieve a greater sense of security.

Mental Health & Community Wellness

Healthy communities are empowered communities. We make a healthy lifestyle more accessible with workshops, support groups, and counseling, all through a trauma-informed and culturally-sensitive lens.

Children & Youth

We work with young people from infancy through high school graduation to equip them with tools and resources to build a bright future, including educational programs and activities, mentoring, and family support.

Adult Education & Training

Through foundational academic and professional programs like English as a Second Language (ESL), civics education, workforce development, and more, we provide the tools adults need for long-term success.

Community Resources & Empowerment

We equip our community with the tools and information needed to thrive in the face of adversity, including “Know Your Rights” trainings and direct outreach.

150 Years of Erie Neighborhood House

We evolve.

We first opened our doors on December 4, 1870 as a “little Dutch church” serving the immigrant community in West Town. Over the years, Erie Chapel became Erie Chapel Institute, and eventually the Erie Neighborhood House we know today.

Now, we take a look back at a few of the most important chapters in our history.

Special thanks to Maureen Hellwig, author of “A Neighbor Among Neighbors,” a history of Erie House’s first 150 years, for her support in sharing our stories.

An incubator for growing organizations

Since the boom of the settlement house movement of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, Erie House has continued to not only provide the kinds of programs sister organizations of the era pioneered, but we have also made unique, innovative contributions to our neighbors.

A few examples of this have been a clinic (today Erie Family Health Centers), an affordable housing development program (Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp.), and a bilingual charter school for the community (Erie Elementary Charter School).

Critical access to technology in a fast-changing world

In March 1996, Erie House opened its Technology Center — a comprehensive computer laboratory dedicated to the computer and information literacy of West Town residents. At this time, most nonprofit staff were still getting used to having a “word processor” at their desk, and probably did not yet have an email address. The significance of having a computer lab and the internet available to Erie House’s low-income and immigrant neighbors was immense.

Today, we continue this commitment to technology access — including for our school-age participants during a remote school semester.

Expanding and adapting to better serve our community

Throughout our history, Erie House has supported immigrant and low-income families in Chicago. Today, we serve individuals and families of all backgrounds, and primarily the Latinx immigrant community.

In recent years, this has meant expanding to Little Village, a community in Chicago with a rich Mexican American identity. Our services have also evolved to incorporate more culturally-sensitive and bilingual programming, including legal services for citizenship and immigration clients, and mental health and restorative justice for survivors of trauma.

And amidst fast-growing concerns about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in recent years, Erie House now delivers “Know Your Rights” training and education so the people of our community know what to do to stay safe and protect their families if they’re ever confronted by officials.

150 years of empowering Chicago's immigrant community.

The history of Chicago is the history of Erie House. As the city and its people have evolved over the last 150 years, so have we. Since we opened our doors more than a century and a half ago, we’ve been committed to offering comprehensive support for immigrant and low-income families, helping them to thrive.

Erie Neighborhood House in 2020

We persevere.

In a year full of uncertainty, one thing remained absolutely true: we had to be there for our community in whatever way possible.

Erie House stood with our people through a challenging year with virtual and hybrid services, direct financial assistance, and a safe return for children and youth.

Adapting to reach our community virtually

On March 17, 2020, Erie House closed its doors for in-person services — but our work continued. Instead of waiting for a return to normalcy, our team immediately got to work adapting to a new normal. Programs and supporting staff quickly learned new skills and tools and found creative ways to continue to serve our participants, even if from a distance.

Remote consultations for immigration clients

Erie House's in-house attorneys and DOJ-accredited representatives provide access to low-cost, critical resources to foster security and reunification of immigrant families. Following the onset of the pandemic, the team continued to offer consultations over the phone to citizenship and immigration clients. We also hosted Citizenship workshops with the help of attorney and community volunteers to serve over 80 citizenship applicants.

In FY2020, our Legal Services team had a


approval rating of applications filed.

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One of our legal team's clients is Camila, an award-winning artist who moved to the United States from Ecuador when she was 9 years old. Our team helped her apply for DACA in 2014 and have supported her with renewals ever since. And when Camila married her high school sweetheart in early 2020, our team helped her apply for her Green Card.

Camila says "it takes the support of an entire community to have a success story like mine."

Virtual classes for adult learners

In our English as a Second Language (ESL), Adult Basic Education (ABE), and Community Literacy classes, students gain the skills they need to thrive in the classroom, in the workplace and in the community. These classes also help prepare our participants for naturalization exams and interviews on their paths to U.S. citizenship. In our online classes, we replicated the in-person class experience with video lessons and active conversations, and our students continued to be supportive and helpful to one another.

Tele-health counseling and support groups for survivors of trauma

In our Proyecto Cuídate community wellness and safety programs, we help individuals and families heal following trauma. Through counseling, case management, support services, and restorative practices, we build stronger, healthier families and communities.

In the midst of a pandemic with devastating effects on already at-risk communities, these services were critically important. So, the Proyecto Cuídate team provided one-on-one counseling through teletherapy and virtual support groups for youth to help our participants and clients navigate a stressful and traumatic time.

In FY2020, our Proyecto Cuídate clinicians provided


mental health sessions to survivors of domestic violence.

“It’s beautiful to see the way people connect with one another, even as they are struggling.”

Solomon Martinez

Youth Program Manager, Proyecto Cuídate

Tutoring, mentoring, and activities for children and youth

In Erie House's Expanded Learning Programs (ELP), students aged 5 through 18 have access to after-school and out-of-school activities and clubs designed to support academic, socio-emotional, and physical growth.

We’ve shared digital books as well as off-screen educational activities for students in first through third grades in our READS program, and now, tutors connect virtually with these students to help them improve their reading comprehension and build a lifelong love of reading.

In our TEAM program, mentors continued to check in with their youth mentees, even after in-person meetings ended in March. At the start of the new school year in September, the program began to hold meetings virtually over Zoom.

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Providing direct assistance for our participants

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, many of Erie House’s participants lost hours and wages. Some lost work entirely and were unsure of how they could provide for their families and pay their bills. Others continued to work, but were stressed about care for their children with schools closed. The government aid that was made available was helpful for those who could access it, but those benefits were not available to everyone, including many undocumented families like those we serve.

With these challenges in mind, immediately after suspending our in-person services, Erie House launched our Community Relief Fund. 100% of donations to this fund went directly to Erie House participants hit hardest by the pandemic, and every dollar supported our clients and community in meeting immediate needs like groceries, child care, safe transportation, rent, utilities, and more.

We also hosted food and supply drives to ensure our people were able to access basic needs like meals for their families and diapers for their little ones.

Erie House has provided assistance to 300 families through our Community Relief Fund — and that number continues to grow.


Ensuring a full count in the 2020 Census

Census data is used to allocate budget and resources to communities, which is why it’s so important for everyone to participate in the census. Leading up to the closure, the Erie House Health & Leadership Programs (HLP) outreach team was hard at work knocking on doors and educating hard-to-reach communities about the necessity — and safety — of participating in the census.

Our team reached more than

340,000 people

to encourage them to participate in the 2020 Census.

“If we don't count them now, we will be losing a lot of funding for our kids for ten years.”

Elva Serna

Program Manager, Health & Leadership Programs

Then, beginning in March, much of this community outreach work shifted to online platforms and phone-banking, and later socially-distanced tabling events and car caravans in hard-to-count areas like Berwyn and Cicero.

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Supporting our families through programs for children and youth

When Chicago schools closed for students, it was necessary to prevent further spread of COVID-19. But it was also a major challenge for the families in our programs due to gaps in access to daytime child care and reliable technology for remote learning.

After carefully planning, preparing our spaces for social distancing, and re-certifying our programs, we were able to safely welcome a limited number of early childhood and school-age students back for in-person programming in August 2020.

And when the remote CPS semester began in September, we were ready to provide a space for our school-age kiddos to spend their days learning in safe pods. It was important for us to ensure our students had a place with reliable Wi-Fi and all the tools and technology they needed to be successful throughout the school year.

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Erie House being here and open for our students has been so important for families like Maria's. She needed support for herself and her daughters to ensure family safety.

Maria knows her girls — Elizabeth, Stephanie, and Camilla — are safe at Erie House during the day while she works and studies for the GED.

Maria says her daughters "don't get sad about what's going on because they have friends to play with and their teachers are very caring."

Give to Erie Neighborhood House

When you give to Erie House, you support programs and services that strengthen communities and help to build a more just and inclusive society.

Thank you to our supporters.

We're so grateful for every individual and organization that helps make our work possible. Hear from a few of them about why they choose to support Erie House:

"I grew up half a block away from Erie Neighborhood House! Erie House was the only place my parents would let me go to after school. I recall a family near our house losing their home to a fire in the winter and the only presents they opened for Christmas were from Erie House. They were also given groceries for their holiday dinner. How does one forget something like that?

I am a firm believer that education from the earliest possible age enables progress. Erie House’s programs deliver enrichment of the mind and spirit. Erie House programs are also about empowering the individual at every age: from pre-school, to school age to adult programs. I give to Erie House because every dollar that I contribute goes towards programs and communities I value and care about."

Librada Killian

Board Member

"We’ve always felt that the mission of Erie is reflected in the staff and the people served by Erie House’s various programs. Early childhood education is of particular importance to us and my wife Barb has served as a volunteer for many years in Erie House’s ECP classrooms. The infectious dedication of Erie House’s staff and the love and joy reflected by the people Erie House serves inspire generosity and support for the organization. It’s always been very important to us to share our blessings in support of the work Erie House does. We actively introduce others to Erie House and feel the organization sells itself and inspires giving."

Dan Hartnett

Board Member

"Growing up in Chicago, being an immigrant, coming from a family of immigrants, I have always paid attention when topics of immigration are in the news. From an early age I always heard about Erie House or La Casa Erie as an advocate organization for immigrant rights. Knowing that Erie House has existed for 150 years gives me great hope for our city of Chicago as they have welcomed immigrants with open arms. Erie House has changed with the times but in ways that have always helped immigrants succeed and thrive, regardless of where they come from. It is organizations like Erie House that have helped many immigrant families like mine when help was needed."

Diana Marquez

Erie Associate Board Member

"I sit on the board of the Henry Nias Foundation, a New York-based entity. In early spring 2020, with Covid wreaking havoc on people's livelihoods, our board president decided all directors could give out an emergency donation. I found Erie House searching online, and realized its values align greatly with my own. Erie House has exactly the type of mission I want to support."

Catherine Edelman

West Town Community Member and
Community Relief Fund donor

"It is organizations like Erie House that have helped many immigrant families like mine when help was needed."

"My parents came to Chicago from Puerto Rico when they were kids and I was born and raised in Chicago. I was the first member of my family to go to and graduate from college. I attribute the education and foundation that I got to my experience being in the Early Childhood program at Erie House at Erie House. Settlement houses like Erie House and Grand St. Settlement help generations of families like mine unlock and achieve opportunity and success."

Robert Cordero

Executive Director, Grand St. Settlement (New York City) and former Erie House participant

"The infectious dedication of Erie House’s staff and the love and joy reflected by the people Erie House serves inspire generosity and support for the organization."

"Both Erie House and the AMA are long-standing organizations rooted in Chicago and committed to improving the community we call home. At AMA, we look to eliminate health inequities and improve health outcomes. Erie House’s work or its community is an ideal place for the AMA to make that investment. We love that the Erie House team cares so much and does so much for our community."

Sheri Seery, Director of Social Responsibility and Business Operations

American Medical Association

"Despite a challenging year, Erie Neighborhood House demonstrated their deep commitment to supporting residents with culturally affirming mental health services through Proyecto Cuídate and raising funds to provide direct relief to communities that have been profoundly impacted by the pandemic. We value Erie Neighborhood House’s important work and look forward to co-creating our shared vision of improving health outcomes in our region."

Jackie Rodriguez, Communications Officer

Healthy Communities Foundation

"JBCC has been working in Chicago since 1906, and we’ve been able to watch the city grow as we’ve grown. As we work in the city’s communities, we see the families and struggles of everyday life and believe we should be putting as much effort into these communities as we would our own. Erie House represents every single goal we have. We volunteer at the Holidays with Heart event every year and we are always excited to get out there and help."

Tara Szwabowski, Assistant Secretary and Philanthropy Chair

John Burns Construction Company

"As a supporter of Erie Neighborhood House, we have seen firsthand the impact they bring to the communities they serve. This year, in particular, they provided urgent and community-focused resources to those hit hardest by COVID while still operating their foundational programs and services. The Chicago Blackhawks Foundation is proud to partner with Erie Neighborhood House as we both work to empower communities and increase support and opportunity for the children and families in need across Chicago."

Sara Guderyahn, Executive Director

Chicago Blackhawks Foundation

"As a supporter of Erie Neighborhood House, we have seen firsthand the impact they bring to the communities they serve."

Financial Highlights

Where Funds Come From


62% - Government Fees/Grants

19% - Private Contributions

9% - Program Fees & Other

8% - Special Events

2% - Miscellaneous

How Funds Are Used


87% - Programs

8% - Fundraising

5% - Management & General

Erie House Board of Directors

Nicolas Guzman

Faegre Drinker, LLP

Craig Castelli

Vice President
Caber Hill Advisors

Heather Mejia


Carlos Ramirez

Illinois Department of Transportation

Jose Paz

Associate Board President
Monroe Capital LLC

Beth Benjamin

CIBC Bank USA (Retired)

Elizabeth Binkley


Lory Carbajal Van Ness

The Coca-Cola Company

Adriana Cuellar

Parent Policy Committee President

Frances Delgado

Resource Development Committee Chair
Teamsters Local 705

Lavine Douglas

Motorola Solutions

Ashley Galston

K&L Gates LLP

Amanda Gomez


Dan Hartnett

Executive Committee Member-at-Large
Commscope, Inc. (Retired)

Kahlil Hogan

Operations Committee Chair

Risa Josias

BMO Financial Group

Stephanie Kanter

Programs Committee Chair
Candidate for Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, 2021

Librada Killian

JP Morgan Chase & Co

Lou Leonardi


Monique Mervin

The University of Chicago Law School

Edgar Montalvo

Kirkuk Global LLC

Nadine O'Malley


Oswaldo Ortega


Patricia Perez

Executive Committee Member-at-Large
Kirkland & Ellis

Sandy Pundmann

Deloitte & Touche, LLP

Asael Reyes

Youth Representative

Maria Rochas

Program Representative, YOU

Gail Taggart

Executive Committee Member-at-Large
L3 Hospitality Group

Chris Terzich

Government & Oversight Committee Chair

Honorary Life Trustees

Charles W. Armstrong*

Phyllis Armstrong*

Elmera Brooks

Elizabeth S. Bryan

May R. Burns*

Ann S. Carton

R. Gerald Fox

Steve Fox

Robert A. Gielow*

Elizabeth S. Graham*

John R. Hall

Mark A. Jolicoeur

John D. Leslie

Marie Leslie

James J. McClure, Jr.*

Lynn McClure*

Victor "Sy" Nelson

Jack O'Kieffe

Bertha H. Pepe

Donald E. Quinn

Lois Quinn

Sarah Rios*

Rev. Paul Rutgers*

Rose Ann Savino

Marjorie G. Schuham

John Van Pelt

Harry Vincent*

Nancy Vincent

Carol Wiley

Robert Wiley*

Richard Wiley

Kathy Wiley

*Indicates deceased member

Download the Erie House 2020 Annual Report PDF