Giving back to the community has been a core value of the Chicago Bears for a century, and through the Bears’ Community Relations Department and Bears Care, which is the team’s charitable arm, they have have been focusing on doing things to build up the Chicagoland area with a nod towards those with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Back in May the Bears announced an investment of $611,000 to go towards building a brand new Healthy Lifestyle Hub to be developed by the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) on Chicago’s South Side, and in October they finally got started on the construction of the facility that would house a high-tech test kitchen and training center, both of which will be sponsored by the Bears, health clinics, a restaurant, a fitness center, a Bank of America, and a Black-owned pharmacy. The GAGDC is taking the lead on the $17.8 million project, and they’ll also have their headquarters in the building. The Healthy Lifestyle Hub is expected to be completed in spring of 2022.
Former NFL player Matt Forte, who played with the Bears from 2008 to 2015 and still resides in the city, is doing his part to help Black entrepreneurs and small business owners on the South and West sides of Chicago through his What’s Your Forte Foundation. His Foundation has partnered up with the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives Micro Finance Group (CNIMFG) to create the Your Forte, Our Finance program.
“I really just want to help out anybody who’s really – has a business, or wants to be an entrepreneur, or is an entrepreneur that may be struggling,” Forte said via CBS 2 Chicago, “And not only to mention that it will be funded, but it will be able to have a long effect in the community where it does create some jobs, and then in a community that’s not used to having wealth or being able to generate it. Being a former football player is great, and like, people remember those things, but when you touch their life, it’s something that really takes some stress off of them and expands what they want to do. It helps them out. That’s what they’ll remember, and that’s exactly what I want to do.”
The program has committed to over $3,000,000 in loans, 82% of which will go to to African Americans, 48% to women borrowers, with 37% of loans going to new start-ups, and 70% of borrowers being of low to moderate income.
The Bears are also making a direct impact on four local restaurants in 2021 through their Small Business All-Pros initiative, and the four winners were announced in September.
This year’s four winners are Moody’s Pub, Cocoa Chili, Peppo’s Subs, and Cleo’s Southern Cuisine, all of which are located in the city of Chicago, except Peppo’s Subs which is in nearby Palos Hills, Illinois.
Through the initiative (2021 is the Gameday Eats Edition) each local business will receive four full weeks of marketing and promotions from the Bears, which includes placement on all the team’s official social media channels, the team’s website ChicagoBears.com, email newsletters, and in-stadium promotions.
This is the second year the Bears have done their Small Business All-Pros initiative, but the first time they focused exclusively on building back and supporting the restaurant community, which has been affected so negatively during the pandemic.
In 2020, the Bears had one top winning small business, Principle Barbers, and they received a marketing partnership for the entire 2020 season. There were nine additional Small Business All-Pros that each received digital and social marketing exposure for one week each during last season. Those nine local businesses were 4P Industrial Cleaning Corporation, Barbee Tax Consulting, LLC, Bark Bark Club, Boco Services, Inc., Colfax Corporation, Jus Sandwiches, Lillstreet Art Center, Small World Bar & Grill, and Thalia Hall.
- For more on the Chicago Bears Community Outreach programs you can click here, and for the latest news you can click here.
- For more info on the four local restaurants that were the Bears Small Business “Gameday Eats Edition” All-Pros you can click here.
- All the latest about Bears Care can be found here.