in News, Programs by

The South East Chicago Commission (SECC) is excited to announce renaming the Neighborhood Enhancement Grant as the new Shirley J. Newsome Beautification Program. 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.

Newsome joined the SECC Board of Directors in 2006. She was appointed Board President in 2008 upon former board President Valerie Jarrett’s departure to serve President Barack Obama. Newsome led the SECC Board and the SECC’s efforts in housing, transportation, business development and retention, neighborhood improvement, and arts and culture. Newsome served on the SECC Board until 2020 and on the SECC’s Advisory Board through her passing in December 2022.

“For nearly 15 years, Ms. Newsome provided valuable insight, expertise, and guidance on how microgrants were dispersed. She directly impacted over 120 projects during her involvement with the program,” stated Diane Burnham, Executive Director for the SECC. “It only makes sense to recognize her efforts in changing the landscape of vacant lots and other public spaces, but also working to change the narrative of Chicago’s Southside through placemaking efforts.”

“Congratulations, SECC on launching the Shirley J. Newsome Beautification Program for 2023.  Dedicating your program, focused on the beautification of our south lakefront neighborhoods, in honor of Shirley J. Newsome is a fitting tribute, Shirley believed that all of our residents deserved to live in communities with beautiful spaces,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The 2023 Shirley J. Newsome Beautification Grant is designed to enhance the physical attractiveness and walkability of the Hyde Park, Kenwood, Oakland, Woodlawn, and Washington Park communities. The program provides reimbursable micro-grants to support beautification projects that enhance the quality of life and improve the aesthetics of the southeast neighborhoods

The grant application is open until Friday, April 14, 2023 (EXTENDED). The selected projects will receive grants of up to $5,000. Proposed projects must meet the following eligibility criteria:

Each proposal will be reviewed by a committee comprised of representatives from the community areas and the SECC. The application deadline is Friday, April 14, 2023. Information sessions will be held in each community area beginning March 14, 2023.

The SECC would like to thank our sponsors: the Elizabeth Louise Smith Fund, the Camelot Foundation, and individual donors.

Please contact Kiara Hardin, SECC Program Coordinator, at if there are any questions about the Shirley J. Newsome Beautification Program.  For more info, visit