The Community First® awards recognize outstanding achievements of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s (FHLBank Chicago) member institutions and their local partners as they work together to strengthen their communities through affordable housing and economic development initiatives. Award winners select a nonprofit organization to receive up to $10,000.
Nicole Robbins is the executive director of the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation (MLKEDC) and a graduate of Marquette University’s Associates in Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) program, which aims to increase minority representation in real estate development, construction management, and property management. Town Bank, located in Hartland, Wisconsin, nominated Ms. Robbins for the award, recognizing her as “an effective mentor and coach” who is “constantly working to help small businesses and emerging leaders find success,” in the Milwaukee area. Ms. Robbins spearheads MLKEDC’s MLK Homes initiative, which acquires and rehabilitates existing properties before selling them to neighborhood owner-occupants. In addition, she often provides legal assistance to her fellow ACRE graduates, and supports small business and entrepreneurship through a leadership role with the Greater Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce.
The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) provides legal assistance to over 13,000 immigrants annually, primarily in Illinois, and works with a network of pro bono legal professionals to help immigrants obtain employment authorization, financial stability, temporary legal status, and citizenship. BMO Harris Bank N.A., of Chicago, Illinois, nominated NIJC because of its commitment to seek justice for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers for the past 30 years. In partnership with NIJC, attorneys from BMO Harris Bank N.A. provide pro bono legal representation to low-income immigrants at no cost, and offer clinics on the immigration legal system and immigrants’ rights. This partnership enables NIJC to expand the reach of their programming.
Kathleen (Kathy) Shubert has worked with Mid Central Community Action for 20 years. Over the course of her career, Ms. Shubert has provided financial coaching and housing counseling to over 3,000 individuals. In 2014, she partnered with Heartland Bank and Trust Company, located in Bloomington, Illinois, to introduce the Money Matters financial education course, which has taught over 1,200 Illinois residents how to build credit, reduce debt, and increase savings and net worth. Heartland Bank and Trust Company nominated Ms. Shubert for the award, describing her as welcoming, tenacious, and dedicated. Additionally, she “continues to have a genuine passion and a fierce advocacy spirit for the individuals and families she serves.”
Project or Program
In partnership with the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago, Accion Chicago opened The Hatchery in Chicago’s East Garfield Park neighborhood in 2018. The Hatchery, a $34 million food and beverage manufacturing incubator, provides leasable, cutting-edge kitchen facilities and robust business education to food and beverage entrepreneurs. Located formerly on vacant land that used to be a food desert, The Hatchery offers an innovative ecosystem that cultivates local job opportunities and accelerates local economic growth; Accion Chicago projects that 900 jobs over the next five years will be created. IFF, located in Chicago, Illinois, nominated The Hatchery for the award and also supported the project by providing debt, facilitating the use of new market tax credits and philanthropic donations, and overseeing design and construction.
“The ongoing work our member institutions are accomplishing with their local partners makes a positive and long-lasting impact in their communities,” said Katie Naftzger, Community Investment Officer, FHLBank Chicago. “We are proud to play a role in these remarkable efforts through our community investment programs and we are delighted to honor these organizations and individuals with a Community First Award.”
About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago
To learn more about FHLBank Chicago and its full range of community investment products and programs, please visit fhlbc.com or @FHLBC. “Community First” is a registered trademark of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago.