Neighborhood Enhancement Since 1999


Shirley J. Newsome Beautification Program​

The SJN Beautification Program includes multiple initiatives seeking to improve quality of life and vibrancy within our local communities.  The program is designed to enhance the physical attractiveness of Near Southside Chicago neighborhoods including Hyde Park-South Kenwood, North Kenwood-Oakland, Woodlawn, and Washington Park. 

The program’s legacy initiative is the Neighborhood Enhancement Grant administered by the South East Chicago Commission (SECC). The SECC awards grants to neighborhood organizations that support beautification projects to enhance the quality of life in our neighborhoods and allow us to work together as community partners for the improvement of all our areas. Since 1999, more than $1,000,000 in grants have been awarded to over 200 community and faith-based organizations, block clubs, neighborhood schools, and park advisory councils to support neighborhood enhancement projects.

The South East Chicago Commission (SECC) proudly presents the SJN Beautification Program as tribute to Shirley J. Newsome.


The SECC provided grant assistance to neighborhood block groups, community organizations, school groups, park advisory councils and other organized groups with their beautification projects. Proposed projects must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Highly visible from the street
  • Completed between June 3 – October 28, 2024
  • Designed to physically enhance and build on the uniqueness and character of the neighborhood
  • Executed as a way to strengthen civic pride and foster a strong sense of community
  • Sustainable


  • April 1
Application Opens
  • April 29
Application Submission Deadline
  • April 30 – May 3
Application Reviews
  • May 6 – May 10
Site Visits
  • May 25
A Night at the Theatre: A fundraising event
  • May 27
Awardees Announced 
  • June 3 – October 28
Project Execution to Completion


The grant selection committee, comprised of community members from the five footprint neighborhoods, selected the following community groups for the strength of their proposals and the breadth of potential impact: 

  • Burke Educational Garden and Space Enhancement Project by 2016 Ma’at will install a stage at the Burke Garden along with rebuilding and painting the planters. There are at least two planned events involving planting within the beds and a “Harvest Celebration”.
  • 6100 S St. Lawrence Block Club will rebuild community garden at the southeast corner of 62nd and St. Lawrence with the creation of 20 new raised beds in the open space, to develop a reading garden and a dog resting area.
  • Muddy Waters MOJO Museum Front Yard Beautification will sod the front yard, repair and beautify the pavers from the sidewalk to the front door, add two trees and plant annual flowers in the front yard of the Muddy Waters House at 4339 South Lake Park Avenue.
  • Paradise Garden Project by Salaam Community Wellness Center will enhance its current organic garden by designing and creating a walkable urban educational garden center. Currently there are 30 raised beds that produced between 25 and 30 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs during the last growing season.  The project aims to educate visitors on the nutritional value of the produce in the garden.
  • Pocket Prairie Place by Woodlawn Clean Up: One Lot at a Time will transform a current vacant city-owned lot into a “pocket prairie” garden which utilizes plants that are indigenous to the Chicagoland area. The prairie will adapt to the region’s climate, creating havens for insects, butterflies, birds and humans alike.
  • Sankofa Garden by the Sankofa Group will develop a flower and food garden to improve the quality of life for Woodlawn residents by creating a flower garden for residents to utilize for planting, growing and eating whole and natural grown foods.
  • Spruce Park Beautification by Nichols Park PAC- Spruce Park Subcommittee will beautify the half-block long garden beds with basic supplies and additional shrubs and foliage to help prevent erosion and damage from pets.
  • Woodlawn Botanical Nature Center by William Hill Center for the Arts will create a rainwater shade garden at the Woodlawn Botanical Garden on 63rd and Stony Island.
Project Grants Awarded
Maximum Grant Award Amount
Communities Served

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