Englewood group surprised with $110,000 donation from broadband company

Imagine Englewood If, a nonprofit focused on environmental awareness and positive communication skills, expected $30,000 from Astound Broadband, but instead the company donated more than three times that.

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Michelle Rashad, executive director of Imagine Englewood if.

Michelle Rashad is executive director of Imagine Englewood if, which received a donation Tuesday from Astound Broadband that was much larger than they’d expected.

Provided/Shondell Rashad Photography

Michelle Rashad grew up in Englewood – but it wasn’t a place she wanted to stay. When she was in high school, she lost a friend to gun violence.

“Believe me when I say I had a plan to get out and never look back,” Rashad said. But a local community organization invited her on a trip to Washington, D.C. to talk to politicians about issues in her community. The trip – and the group – changed Rashad’s perspective.

That group was Imagine Englewood if, a non-profit that provides youth programs on healthy living, environmental awareness and positive communication skills.

On Tuesday, Imagine Englewood if was awarded $110,000 from cable and internet company Astound Broadband.

Imagine Englewood if was initially promised $30,000 from Astound. When the check was presented, they were shocked to find it was actually for $110,000.

“I teared up,” admitted Rashad, who has been the group’s executive director for four years.

As a small non-profit, Rashad said, it can be overwhelming. “I just took a deep breath because I was able to see how much more I could do with the goals that we have this year.”

The company originally interviewed several other groups to split the funds between before choosing Imagine Englewood if to receive the entire amount.

“We decided to put all our money into this one organization due to the problems in the Englewood area and the positive results that Imagine Englewood does for residents here,” said Tom McKay, senior vice president and general manager for Astound Broadband (Chicago). “It’s a depressed area with little resources and Imagine provides a bunch of resources for the neighborhood.”

McKay added that awarding the entire $110,000 to Imagine Englewood if would be “far more impactful to the neighborhood” than splitting the money between groups.

The unrestricted funds will help Imagine Englewood if with new programs for the year.

Currently, the group has an after-school program, a summer camp, a girls mentoring program and a “Growing Citizens” leadership program. One possible new program on Rashad’s mind is a boys mentorship.

“We have gotten requests from parents who say, you have all-girl mentors, where’s the all-boys program?” Rashad said.

She’s also received requests from teens in the programs who want gender-specific groups as well.

“I always want to do more with our young people,” said Rashad.

“There’s not a lot of programming that’s happening or could happen where you can engage larger amounts of young people because we’re limited to space,” she added. “Now that we have the space, we want to do more.”

Astound will also continue to partner with Imagine Englewood if for other activities, such as a program through Astound’s human resources department to provide resume and job interview skills.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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