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: 

  • Disabled Adults Residential Enterprises (D.A.R.E.) Landscape Redesign will install perennial plantings in outdoor planting boxes and care for designated landscape maintenance areas at 1616 E. 55th To be installed with the support of D.A.R.E. residents and landscaping professionals, the area will provide a beautiful addition to the streetscape.
  • The First Presbyterian Church of Chicago Beautification Project will install shrubs and featured sculptural works from artists-in-residence in the area surrounding its soon-to-be-restored greenhouse affixed to the church. The project will involve landscaping and installation of new flower beds and seating to create a publicly accessible community greenspace.
  • Muddy Waters MOJO Museum Front Yard/Vacant Lot Beautification will perform a series of maintenance and improvement efforts for the MOJO house front yard at 4329 S Lake Park Avenue, including the installation of flowers in planters received from their 2023 program grant, landscaping maintenance, and temporary fencing. This beautification will generate excitement for the opening of the MOJO Healing Garden and Museum.
  • Neighborhood Schools Beautification by Future Ties, NFP will involve local students in the planting and maintenance of flowers surrounding three neighborhood schools to enhance both the schools’ aesthetic appeal and educational opportunities surrounding gardening and environmental stewardship. The projects will take place at Fiske Elementary, Emmett Till Math and Science Academy, and Dulles Elementary School.
  • Oakland Museum and Garden Preservation by the Oakland Cultural Alliance will rebuild and refurbish public bench seating and replace fencing areas surrounding sunflower plantings from their 2022 program grant at the site of the Oakland Museum to allow for continual community use.
  • Pioneer Social Work Mural Maintenance by Fuller-Reed-Huff will restore the fire-damaged panel of the 1976 Pioneer Social Work mural, an artwork depicting the contributions of pioneer social workers to peace initiatives, civil liberties, and better treatment of juvenile delinquents, laborers, and immigrants. Artist Damon Lamar Reed and assistant will repaint and maintain the panel to restore its depiction of efforts to ameliorate sweatshop conditions. The mural is located at 1530 E 57th
  • Ray Nature Playscape Phase II by Friends of Ray PTO will purchase and install log play materials and furniture to further build upon their successful playscape project, which was partially funded by their 2023 program grant. This new equipment will bring more opportunities for outdoor imaginative play.
  • Woodlawn Maroons Heritage Garden by Mama Moore Regeneration Center NFP will install and maintain a garden on the grounds of Woodlawn Community Elementary School with the help of the newly founded Ultimate Maroons Youth Garden Club. This garden will represent the collective work, responsibility, and dedication of garden club participants and encourage them to be trained as young leaders and gardeners in the community.
Project Grants Awarded
Maximum Grant Award Amount
Communities Served
Shirley J Newsome Beautification Program

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