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Just across Church Street from Evanston Township High School, a new headquarters will be erected for Youth Organizations Umbrella (Y.O.U.), thanks to a combined gift of $2.5 million from two prominent Evanston philanthropists.

Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation are providing the land and the funds for the new headquarters at 1911 Church St. to include what the group calls “transformative learning spaces for youth, office space for Y.O.U. staff, and exciting opportunities for collaboration among youth-serving agencies.”

Col. Pritzker is an Evanston resident, and the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation is tied to three families that have long called Evanston home: Chuck Lewis and Penny Sebring, Peter and Rachel Lewis, and Casey Lewis Varela and George Varela. Peter Lewis is a member of the Y.O.U. board.

Pritzker is donating land and cash worth $1.5 million, while the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation is providing $1 million in additional financial support.

The organization is planning focus groups with youth and staff, collaborative meetings with community stakeholders, and observational visits to peer agencies’ youth spaces as part of its design process, and hopes to occupy the new building by the summer of 2016, according to Seth Green, its executive director.

“While these gifts are transformational and will be the foundation of our fundraising for this building,” Green explained, “Y.O.U. will be continuing to fundraise over the next two years toward realizing this thrilling building vision.”

Y.O.U. has been providing services to Evanston youth since 1971 and currently serves about 1,000 youth and 3,000 family members a year with after-school enrichment, summer learning, mental health counseling, and mentorship.

It is a participant in the cradle-to-career initiative that was begun recently by the two Evanston public school districts, with assistance from the City of Evanston and Northwestern University as well as other youth-serving agencies.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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16 Comments

  1. Great news!

    Great news for this most deserving organization.  So grateful for the generosity of my fellow Evanstonians!

  2. Extraordinary generosity

    As a long-time Y.O.U. supporter and board member, I want to express how grateful we are to Col. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family. This is yet another example of the extraordinary generosity that exists in our wonderful community.

    1. Evidence???

      I am grateful for this gift.

      But I wonder about what YOU  has actually done, lo these many years.  Clearly, the donors are satisfied with its  work.  

      As the new D65 supt ( a YOU  board member) is clearly invested in community partnerships, I just wish there were more accountabtily besides the rhetoric of good intentions and number of kids served.  Has YOU made a difference?

  3. Grateful for the support

    I have seen the important difference Y.O.U. can make in the lives of our students. As a parent, Evanston resident and a member of the Y.O.U. board,  I am especially grateful for the extraordinary support being provided by Col. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family.  Their generosity will help us ensure all of our young people reach their full potential. 

  4. Earth shattering

    Wonder why something meant to be a good move can feel so earth shattering,  YOU is coming to the West Side constructing offices/space to be located on Church Street.  I'm not sure how deals are made in other parts of Evanston, but on this side of town, the community must be deeply involved and its political structure must be respected.

    1. Political structure has been holding area back

      There is something deeply wrong with the comment above. The West Side of Evanston is where all of the poverty and crime exists. There needs to be a change in the way the community cooperates with the police and authorities to see that criminal activity is noticed and communicated so the police can do their job to get the criminal element off of the street. Rather than be respected, the existing political structure needs to be gutted and replaced with people that are willing to seek change and aren't beholden to or afraid of a few certain families that seem to cause most of the problem. Any business person or entrepreneur that would seek to invest in the West Side to provide jobs, business activity, should be sought out and encouraged by the local community, not met with lists of demands and attempts to extort entitlements from an entity that is seeking to bring economic growth to the community. The community should be greatful for the interest not making demands. 

      The existing political structure is precisely what has been holding the community back for YEARS. 

      1. Response to comment on a comment

        It's wonderful that we all can comment on what we read even if a deep understanding of what one is saying can't be understood by other readers.  My thoughts on the matter had to do with how the deal came about and I stand on my comment.

        1. Response to a response to a comment on a comment

          Rather than trumpeting that the community ought be involved and a political process respected….it would be much more useful to see an articulation of the targeted goals and priorities of the community and the organization with "hard metrics" and milestones so as to create accountability and be able to ascertain whether these generous gifts and community funds are generating success or failure, and provide a guide for funders to evaluate ROI for future investment rather than hearing the continuing geshrays of "entitlement" and institutional racism.

        2. Return the Gifts

          Return the Gifts given by Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation to Y.O.U> with a nice Thank you message. Tell them the local residents will decide and build it.

      2. re: Local Yokel comments

        WOW. Just WOW. The comment above seems to show the lack of knowledge of the local history of this area of the community, its involvement, its advocacy, its organizing, its businesses, its clubs, its civic participation…over the last several decades. This area of the communtiy has fought and advocated for many, many actions and have often fell on deft ears. Politics is a part of it, perception is another. I live in the community, engage with the communtiy and what you stated, is nowhere near what I see…

        1. Find the middle ground for progres

          Yes, consider the community and its history.  Invite everyone who may have even the least interest or concern then welcome all who want to participate.

          But let's not be paralyzed by our analysis of decades of history and by constant worry about who elects not to be involved. We need to respect history but make progress on the issues and problems of today.

          Many times, I feel that Evanstonians, especially our political leadership, just talk about solving problems.  Platitudes aplenty!  But progress on tackling important issues such as how to reduce crime and undereducated youth with few options for the future — not seeing much of that. We often seem paralyzed to act for fear that someone, somewhere might not like it, even though we have studied and considered the issue for a lengthy period.

          1. How?
            In particular, this case, when you have a wonderful contribution by two very wealthy individuals. Whatever happened to the demonization of wealth, the fat cat millionaires and billionaires, the whole sale slander of a poltical candidate by team Obama?

            Is that common ground? Is that progress?

            So I find your comments a little hypocritical.

          2. Missed my point

            Hypocritical?  For saying that we should include everyone who wants to be involved and not be paralyzed by the typical Evanston fears?  I think that you missed my point. 

  5. An extraordinary moment for Evanston

    This is an extraordinary moment for Evanston, for Y.O.U., and for the kids and families Y.O.U. serves. Thank you Col. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation! Because of you, lives will be changed!  As Founder and Director Emeritus of Y.O.U., I couldn't be more proud and excited!

  6. Gifts will make a real difference

    As a Y.O.U. board member and Evanston resident, I would like to thank Col. Jennifer N. Pritzker and the Lewis-Sebring Family for their generosity and vision.  Their gifts will make a real difference in the coming years for the youth and families of Evanston.  I urge all readers to go to http://www.youevanston.org to learm more about Y.O.U.

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