25 years ago, a group of investors gathered to talk about a problem in Chicagoland that had long been overlooked in the banking world: underserved communities. This group decided that a community fund focused on investing in grassroots organizations and leaders who were addressing the direct needs of individuals, families, and communities based on locally determined priorities would be a great way to actually make investments have a social impact. Thus, CCLF came into existence. To celebrate CCLF’s 25 year anniversary, founder Sara Jo Light talked with CCLF staff about its past, present and future.
What potential opportunities did you imagine CCLF providing to Chicagoans?
I hoped it would allow new investors to support underserved areas of Chicago. I really believe we are all one big chain and that we are only as strong as our weakest link. I think we all have a responsibility to work together.
How has CCLF evolved over these last 25 years in your opinion? Are you pleased with the path it has taken?
I’m very pleased with what CCLF has done over these last 25 years. I’m proud at the geographic distribution of CCLF’s financing. The organization has worked hard to not just center on specific neighborhoods but pay attention to the broader needs of Chicagoland. Technical Assistance was not a part of the founders’ original plan for CCLF because we didn’t know it was a need in Chicago, so the reach and success of the trainings CCLF offers has been a great surprise. Many nonprofits don’t make it to a 25th Anniversary, so I’m proud to see CCLF hitting this benchmark.
What does it mean to you personally to know that what you helped start 25 years ago has produced over $150 MM in financing, 7,500 units of housing, 2,750 jobs and leveraged an additional $1.1 B?
I’m very proud of what CCLF has accomplished; its progress has been amazing. I didn’t expected job creation to be part of CCLF’s impact, or CCLF’s vast geographic distribution and never expected CCLF to grow this much in 25 years, but I am so pleased that it has.
How have you stayed involved with CCLF since its founding?
I was CCLF’s first Chairman and my spouse and I have remained individual investors since then. We plan to continue supporting CCLF!
What would you like to see from CCLF in these next 25 years?
I would like to see CCLF continue to grow, while staying true to its mission and continuing to seek opportunities as they arise in Chicagoland.