Three Things to Know About the Comer Family Foundation

Before Gary Comer became the founder, president, and CEO of Lands’ End, he was a Chicago kid who grew up on the city’s South Side. Just a couple years before his death, Comer drove around his neighborhood and was appalled to find abandoned buildings, vacant lots, gang activity, and rampant poverty.

So back in 1999, he committed over $86 million to revitalizing his old stomping grounds, and his family has carried on his wishes of helping revitalize Chicago’s South Side.

Related - Comer Family Foundation: Chicago Grants

These are some of the ways the Comer Family Foundation is giving local nonprofits a boost. Although the foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals, perhaps you can get in touch with the staff if you work in one of the following nonprofit industries.

Charter Schools in Chicago

Comer’s education work focuses exclusively on the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood on the South Side. But this support is broad and encompasses academic support and college readiness, after-school enrichment, teen employment, housing, and healthcare within the sphere of education.

The foundation partnered with the Noble Network of Charter Schools to establish Gary Comer College Prep in 2008. The charter school expanded to include a middle school in 2011. Since its inception, 100 percent of graduates have gone on to college. The school works in conjunction with the Gary Comer Youth Center, which was founded in 2006 and offers extracurricular activities including sports and fitness, academic tutoring, performing and visual arts, health and wellness, urban agriculture, culinary arts, media and technology, civic engagement and leadership development, and teen employment.

Hospitals in Chicago

Healthcare on Chicago’s South Side is also a priority for the Comer Family Foundation. The foundation worked with University of Chicago Medicine to establish a mobile health care van and a new hospital, Comer Children’s Hospital on the South Side in 2005. Comer has since funded a Level 1 pediatric trauma center with 24/7 emergency services and a specialty care center that focuses on comprehensive outpatient services. Since 2008, the foundation has partnered with Health Management Associates to optimize a better plan to care for local pregnant women and children.

Cultural Institutions in Chicago

The Comer Family Foundation is best known in the city for its support of prominent institutions like the Smithsonian Photography Initiative, Art Institute Chicago, and the Field Museum of Natural History. Other Comer culture grantees include big names like the Steppenwolf Theater Company, Lyric Opera, of Chicago, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But as you scroll through Comer’s list of awardees, you won’t likely find tiny, grassroots nonprofits that put on local music, dance, and theater performances around the city.