Community Economic Development

Bethel’s community economic development efforts are targeted to assure that the development of businesses and jobs for the West Side align with the economic growth, development and jobs of the Chicago region. We believe that it is essential that the economy of the West Side move from one of high levels of government support and low levels of sustainability into the mainstream regional economy, interconnected with the economy of the larger region and producing a net export economy for the West Side.

Success Stories

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  • Investing in Small Business

    Adolfo Vizcaino began his career working on air conditioning and heating systems, and quickly grew to love the work.

    As his skills continued to increase, the longtime West Side resident knew he wanted to go even further with his career – he wanted his own company.

    “My dream was to be able to wake up in the morning and work for my own business,” he says
    Today, Vizcaino is the Owner and President of Thermal Electric, Inc., an air conditioning and heating company located in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park neighborhood. The business has seven additional employees who reside in the community and a client base large enough to keep them all busy. As he has grown Thermal Electric, Inc., Bethel has been at his side, first with capacity-building support from our small business counselors, and second with a New Market Tax Credit loan. Unable to obtain traditional financing, Vizcaino used the loan to build a new landscaped parking lot for the business. This created much-needed storage space for vehicles and equipment, and helped the company operate more efficiently to increase profits. In addition, the landscaped lot transformed the physical appearance of the street corner where it is located.

    However, Vizcaino, who is passionate about the air conditioning and heating service fields, says the primary goal of his business is helping people.
    “This isn’t about the money. This is about being able to help my clients when they are too hot or too cold, just because their home equipment is not functioning. Seeing my customers smile when we fix their equipment is why I do what I do.”

    For years, Bethel has helped local businesses grow and create new jobs, even in a recession, thanks to its New Market Tax Credits. Through leveraging its investments, New Life Community Investments has made $9.9 M of investments on the West Side of Chicago since 2005.

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  • Investing in Parents

    After growing up in foster care, Darlene Williams says she had no blueprint for how to be a good parent when she gave birth to her daughter Kayla.

    “If you never had love, how do you know how to show love?” says the home health care worker who is working on her Associates degree. Driven by her desire to be a good parent, Williams became involved at Bethel’s Right Start for Families program, where she gained not only encouragement, but parenting skills that gave her confidence. Throughout her participation at Bethel, she has gained skill in personal finance management, day-to-day home management, food preparation, and a variety of educational activities to do with her daughter.

    “Now, I do things like take Kayla to the zoo and museums whenever I can, and I cook,” says Williams. “I even have the confidence that one day I will be a homeowner.”However, she says the most important thing she learned at Bethel is the intangible art of parenting, and the importance of showing love to her daughter.”Being a parent is about loving and nurturing your child, not just about buying things,” she says.


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  • From homeless to employed

    Alisa Richmond came to Bethel for the life skills she needed to learn. Her interviewing and resume skills landed her a landscape management job.

    When Alisa Richmond came to Bethel New Life looking for housing, she did not know that she would find a stable place to live, a job, and a group of people who still continue to support her.Bethel introduced Ms. Richmond to the Career Pipeline/Job Place Program where she learned interviewing skills, appropriate business dress, and how to write a resume. She then joined the Neighborhood Clean-Up program in December of 2009, which is a program that helps former offenders find and retain employment.


    That led Ms. Richmond to a job as a supervisor at a landscaping company.Ms. Richmond says that Bethel has provided motivation and encouragement. “They were always there to guide me.” She says that even though she has completed the program, she knows Bethel is still there for her, even if she just wants to talk.

    The guidance Ms. Richmond has received from Bethel has made a big difference in her life. “They made me feel more positive about myself,” she said. “It has made me a better person today.”

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  • Success in the landscaping business

    As a formerly incarcerated person, Earnest Roberts, Jr. knew that finding a job after serving time wouldn’t be easy.

    That’s why he decided to work for himself. He enrolled in Bethel’s program for entrepreneurs to pursue a dream of owning his own landscaping business.Mr. Roberts participated in Bethel’s financial education classes to prepare himself for the financial responsibility of managing his own business. He spent two years in landscape training at Chicago Christian Industrial League (CCIL). He also saved money to start his, Mr. Roberts founded Roberts Landscape and Snow Removal. He bought equipment and advertisement for the new business and is currently in the process of getting his minority license with the City of Chicago. He is also working on some local contracts in the Austin neighborhood.”Bethel’s program gave me hope,” Mr. Roberts said. “I want to give thanks to the people who took the time to help me and inspire me to help others.”
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  • Living independently

    Rosie Turner has lived in a beautifully furnished apartment at Beth-Anne Residences since 2005 and has been an active member of the Bethel community for even longer.

    “I don’t know any place I would rather be.”Ms. Turner came to Bethel in 1985 when she got a job providing in-home care to seniors. Later, she was later promoted to supervisor. Now that she is retired, she volunteers with energy wherever she is“I enjoy being around people and being useful,” she said. Ms. Turner certainly is useful; she volunteers at her church, coordinates trips for seniors, and spends time with the seniors in Adult Day Health Care. She enjoys living in a beautiful apartment with friendly neighbors and staff.”I’ve never had a time of loneliness or sadness,” she said. “Living here is great.”


The Bethel Christmas Store

Watch ourBethel Christmas Store video on YouTube.

The Christmas Store at Bethel New Life gives West Side families the chance to participate in both giving and receiving. Churches and businesses donate thousands of gifts. Hundreds of volunteers help out. Over three days,we sell the gifts to families in the community at an affordable price: $1, $5, or $10.
At the store, families spend cash and “Bethel Bucks” they’ve earned by participating in our programs, completing a financial literacy course, taking positive parenting classes, earning A’s and B’s on a report card, and more. Cash proceeds are used every year to support one of Bethel’seducation programs.

To sign-up a volunteer group from your church or business and/or round up gifts, contact Sara Spoonheim at or 773-473-7870 x146. And join us at our kick-off meeting each September to learn about the upcoming store.

“Parents, we discovered, would much rather work and earn and purchase presents for their children than they would stand in free toy lines with their proof of poverty… Everyone in a community, no matter how destitute, has something of value to exchange. And in the process of exchange, human worth is reinforced.” -Robert Lupton, And You Call Yourself a Christian

Read the article that inspired the Bethel Christmas Store.

Here’s a story from a family that volunteered from St. Charles, Illinois.

If you’ve never been to Bethel New Life in Chicago, you must add it to your list of things to do. Our family got the opportunity to go with other families from Bethlehem Lutheran to help out at the Bethel Christmas Store. It was an awesome experience! The building was much bigger than I had anticipated and everyone there was SO friendly. This is what my kids had to say about it:

Adam, 12: “When we went to Bethel, I didn’t know what to expect. I helped Mrs. Hildebrandt wrap presents. All the people that we wrapped presents for were so thankful and happy with what they had bought.”

Abby, 13: “I worked in the childcare area with kids ranging anywhere from babies on up to 12-years-old. Some of the stories they told made me realize just how lucky I am. I also enjoyed seeing them laugh and have fun. We ran around and played duck, duck, goose hundreds of times! Seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces was the best part for me.”

Curt and I worked in the store itself as personal shoppers. Curt was in charge of gift cards where the shoppers were allowed to buy one at a major discount. I helped people pick out clothes and gifts for their family. I loved doing this as I got to chat with people and hear about their families.

It is an amazing program that Bethel offers and we were so glad to be a part of it. To be able to spend a little bit of our Christmas vacation helping out those less fortunate was so rewarding. We will definitely be going back! —Gail Walker


Donate Online

Note: Per my email May 10th, please check out ProPayas an alternative to Network for Good. It is essentially Network for Good + Paypal + Square for $50/year vs. $50 per month that we’re paying now. Hopefully it’s a good option for us.

If not, we’ll stick with Network for Good. You’ll need to work with them for a custom donate page that matches the new template. They charge for the work (you can bill us) and it takes several days to complete.

Either way, see current text and settings on our website.


Buying2Give is an innovative organization that seeks to make everyday purchases less focused on profit, and more focused on the needs of communities.

Bethel’s partnership with Buying2Give generates revenue for our programs every time online shoppers purchase products on To do this, make your purchases through Bethel’s Buying2Give page.

How does it work?

1. Visit Bethel’s Buying2Give page.
2. Add your purchases to the shopping cart and proceed to the Amazon checkout.
3. When you finalize your purchase, 4% of proceeds from the sale will be invested in Bethel New Life.

Special Event/Office Space

Since 1995, Bethel has rented office and retail space to local businesses, promoting wealth creation and retention in the community. We also offer meeting and special event space for community members, organizations, schools, and churches.


Planning a special event? Contact Bethel at or 773-473-7870 x185.
The Chapel (1140 N. Lamon, Chicago, IL 60651)
The historic St. Anne’s Hospital Chapel is available for weddings, celebrations, church services, memorials, and more. The Chapel was designed by Hugh Garden and built in the classic prairie style of the architect’s mentor, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright.

Chapel Features:

• 2,500 square feet
• Stage and dressing area
• Seats up to 200 people auditorium-style or 100 banquet-style
• Heated and air-conditioned
• Handicap accessible
• On-site security & facilities management
• Spacious lobby for receptions
• Tables and chairs available at no extra charge
Amberg Hall (1140 N. Lamon, Chicago, IL 60651)
Amberg Hall is an expansive space, often used for wedding receptions and other large scale events. The elevated stage is ideal for presentations and theatrical productions. With plenty of storage and an attached kitchen, this space will satisfy all of your needs. Host your next event or meeting in Amberg Hall.

Amberg Hall Features:

• 4,000 square feet
• A warming kitchen and stage
• Seats up to 250 people auditorium-style or 168 banquet-style
• Heated and air-conditioned
• Handicap accessible
• On-site security & facilities management
• Spacious lobby for receptions
• Tables and chairs available at no extra charge

Both the Chapel and Amberg Hall are popular rental spaces for:

• Weddings and receptions
• Holiday parties
• Theatrical and musical productions
• Family reunions
• Fashion shows
• Quinceañeras
• Graduation celebrations
• Baby showers
• Workshops
• Bridal showers
• Organizational meetings
• Anniversary celebrations
• Birthday parties
• Repasts
• Weekday business events


Looking for office or retail space? Contact Bethel at or 773-473-7870 x189.

Bethel Commercial Center (310 N. Pulaski, Chicago, IL 60624)

Call us to learn about renting retail or office space at our award-winning environmental building. The 23,000 square foot complex houses ground floor retail space, a full service bank, daycare center, offices and more.

The Center’s sustainable design includes a rooftop garden to reduce stormwater runoff, solar panels that produce energy, and high-efficiency heating. A bridge also connects the property directly to the Green Line “El” stop at Pulaski.

In 2010 the Bethel Commercial Center was one of 11 properties in the Americas that received the Urban Land Institute Award for Excellence. It joins Millennium Park as one of only five Chicago developments to receive the prestigious award in the past decade.

Small Business Center(1140 N. Lamon, Chicago, IL 60651)
Bethel’s Small Business Center has incubated several West Side businesses and nonprofits. We understand the importance of planting your roots in the community and want to make that choice easy.

Office Space Features:

• Secure offices
• Receptionist on-site from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Discounted rates on our rental halls for building tenants
• On-site building supervisor
• Centralized mail and parcel collection and distribution
• Lobby directory listing
• Elevator accessibility
• Multi-purpose area
• Affordable


Over the past three decades,we have learned a lot about what it takes to build vibrant communities and to help create opportunities to bring individuals and families out of poverty. We are conducting community-level research and evaluation of impacts to better inform the field and to share the lessons we have learned.

Advocacy Efforts

Bethel New Life works for changes that will make it possible for entire communities to achieve economic self-sufficiency. Our understanding of the struggles of low-income communities,our community-based research,and our knowledge of best practices make us a powerful advocate for public policy and legislative initiatives to create greater impact and more investment in communities of concentrated poverty. Bethel’s advocacy efforts align with our investments in systems and policy changes in economic development and education. Current efforts include:

• Impact of West Side School Closings
• Chicago State Anchor Institution
• Strengthening West Side Manufacturing
• Building the Community Capacity to Absorb Investment Capital
• Workforce Development and 21st Century Jobs

Reports & Publications

Bethel New Life issues research reports and policy briefs based on its findings, often in collaboration with partner organizations and academic institutions. Bethel shares the data and outcomes widely.

Bethel Business Accelerator (West Side Business Sector White Paper 2014)

Bethel Business Accelerator:  Assessment and Growth Planning Toolkit

“Manufacturing on Chicago’s West Side” by Jesse Mudrick, Lori R. Vallelunga, Ph.D., Edward A. Coleman, and Eric Courts, Bethel New Life

Beyond Dollars and Cents: Non-Financial Impacts and Implications of the Foreclosure Crisis for Low-Income Minority Communities” by Daniel G. Cooper, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University