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'Pocket Community Centers' Next Dream For Army Of Moms Founder

 Mothers Against Senseless Killings' founder wants to build a pocket community center in Englewood.
Mothers Against Senseless Killings' founder wants to build a pocket community center in Englewood.
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Chipman Architecture and Designs of Des Plaines

ENGLEWOOD — Mothers Against Senseless Killings, known as the “Army of Moms,” has some bold ideas for taking its highly touted anti-violence campaign to the next level by developing “pocket community centers.”

The group was formed in 2015 to prevent retaliation after a murder in the 7500 block of South Stewart. Bronzeville resident and founder Tamar Manasseh brought together mothers and men who were ready to help make their blocks safer.

Since the beginning, they've kept a watchful eye on the streets and interacted with their neighbors. During the summer, they sit on chairs on the corner daily and pass out food to the community.

To keep young people occupied and safe year-round, Manasseh is proposing using the city’s vacant lots for the pocket community centers. These would be smaller places for young people to hang out, get tutoring and have fun.

She said the structures would better and more cost-effective than building one large community center at a higher cost.

The pocket community centers would be a safe place for children and teens. [Renderings Provided by Chipman Architecture and Designs of Des Plaines]

“You might build a big beautiful structure, but not everybody can go there because of the boundaries,” Manasseh said. “So you might build a $5 million structure, but only 20 kids can use it because no one else is going to come over there."

She wants to build at least 10 small pocket community centers, starting with one on 75th Street in Englewood , with the goal of a grand opening by next summer. She said each one would serve at least 25 children and teens and and will cost roughly $300,000-$500,000 to build.

“You would be covering a lot more ground than the larger structure would cover because you’re serving more kids,” she said.

She said fundraising has just started.

"We're getting donations from private donors and also talking with major foundations," she said. "However, our top priority is getting our flagship on 75th up and running. We're fairly confident upon seeing the finished product, donors will be more likely to get involved."

Her group is partnering with the Museum of Science and Industry to help with a program featuring science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"We are  partnering to bring science to kids in neighborhoods that may not get it," she said. "Our hope is to encourage kids to be more curious about technology."

There also will be art programs. She said she will hire mothers from the community to work there after school, and young people will help build the centers.