Our Story

Where it all Began

In 1987, 10 families gathered in a small apartment building to discuss the creation of an after-school program for children and families. They dreamed of a place where parents and children could share their experiences, partner with staff to design programs, and work to improve their community. Since our beginning, parents have consistently requested three key elements:

  • A safe space for their children after school
  • Educational support
  • Communication and leadership skill-building
31 years later, Family Matters continues to provide these three important components. All programs:
  • meet in the after-school hours, between 3:30 and 8:00 PM, during the school year.
  • continue in the summer with a modified schedule.
  • offer opportunities for leadership development.
  • provide individualized goal-setting and academic support.
  • support social and emotional learning in every experience.
  • offer hands-on, applicable, and fun learning experiences.
  • offer one-on-one tutoring and mentoring.

Why it Matters

  • 100% of seniors in our programs have graduated from high school, and 93% have gone on to enroll in college within one year.
  • Students enrolled in our summer program typically make gains in reading skills in excess of one grade level during that time.
  • 92% of youth report that Family Matters provided them their first leadership opportunity outside of school.
  • 80% of teachers surveyed who have worked with Family Matters youth noted their demonstrated skills in classroom leadership and conflict resolution abilities.

Youth at Family Matters - Demographics

living below poverty level

first- or second-generation immigrants

have experienced or witnessed trauma

potential first-generation college students

The Family Matters Building

In 1987, Family Matters began its journey on Paulina Street on the first floor of a three-flat apartment building. In 1995, following two moves, the organization settled into its current location in a three-flat, residential brownstone, which the organization owns through the gift of a generous and longtime donor. The building is located on Marshfield Avenue, down the street from Gale Academy (the local K-8 Chicago Public School) and two blocks east of Lake Michigan. It sits less than two blocks from the most northern stop of the Red Line El, a block south of Evanston and two blocks east of Lake Michigan.


The three-story brick building (with fully used basement) comprises approximately 5,000 square feet, with each program inhabiting a separate floor. Rooms have been converted to accommodate offices, meeting areas, and program spaces, including:

  • a library, with floor-to-ceiling, custom-made shelves, housing an extensive collection of more than 500 award-winning books for children and youth;
  • three computer labs, with cutting edge educational technology, for students and community members;
  • two modern kitchens, fully functioning;
  • an art room, brimming with all manner of supplies;
  • a dance and fitness area, with a mirrored wall and sports equipment; and,
  • a Peace Room, a calming space dedicated to self-reflection and peacebuilding.

Over the years, numerous partners (volunteer groups, pro-bono organizations, faith-based organizations, foundations and individual donors) have contributed to the repair, maintenance, energy efficiency, and wellness of the building.

In 2009, a longtime volunteer and donor partnered with Family Matters to launch Project Sage, a comprehensive initiative that reduced energy within the organization by more than 15%, created numerous energy-efficient learning opportunities, and expanded safe space through upgraded heating, cooling, lighting, and roofing efforts.

Other recent supporters of Family Matters’ space include: Northshore Baptist Church, Sacred Heart Schools, Designs for Dignity, the Field Foundation of Illinois, Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago, Loyola University (St. Ignatian Service Days); Sacred Heart Academy, Freeborn Peters Law Firm, the Eagle Scouts of Wilmette, Voltaire’s Garden Landscaping, among others.

Through the generous support of friends, Family Matters’ building, endearingly named Lucinda has provided a safe, welcoming and inspiring learning environment for thousands of youth and families.