MPC donor profile: Helene Gayle - Metropolitan Planning Council

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MPC donor profile: Helene Gayle

During this season of gratitude, the Metropolitan Planning Council is recognizing some of our generous donors who make our vitally important initiatives, original research, capacity building, and public education and engagement possible.

 The Chicago Community Trust (the Trust) — with more than 40 years of consecutive support — is a valued and close ally. Our partnership with the Trust allows MPC to seize opportunities, play an active role in regional recovery, and disrupt the status quo. The Trust has been essential in keystone MPC initiatives such as Our Great Rivers, the Cost of Segregation / Our Equitable Future, Transportation Equity, and many more. Because the Trust understands the value of building regional capacity to take on the toughest challenges, MPC is becoming a different, stronger organization with the ability to be an equitable partner to local leaders, a research ally, and an innovative communicator.

In December 2020, MPC Development Manager Matt Altstiel interviewed President Helene Gayle about the unique partnership between the Trust and MPC. Our collaboration has deepened under the leadership of Dr. Helene D. Gayle, President and CEO of the Chicago Community Trust since October 2017. The Trust’s new strategic focus on closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap in the Chicago region is completely aligned with MPC’s renewed commitment to building a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone. Named one of Forbes’ “100 Most Powerful Women” and one of NonProfit Times’ “Power and Influence Top 50,” Dr. Gayle has dedicated her career to the intertwined issues of public health, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and social justice.

MPC: Why has the Trust supported MPC for 40 years?

HG: The Trust has had a longstanding partnership with MPC. It is comforting to know we can count on an intermediary like MPC which has its fingers on the pulse of our region's most significant needs. Personally, I’m “all in” with MPC's commitment to bringing together the public, private, community, civic and philanthropic sectors to advance our shared goal of creating a thriving, equitable and connected Chicago region where people of all races and identities have the opportunity to reach their potential.

MPC: How does supporting MPC help advance the Trust’s mission?

HG: The Trust was a proud supporter of the ground-breaking Cost of Segregation study and Our Equitable Future, which continue to ground an evolving research and action agenda on reducing the region's racial and economic inequities. MPC was the architect for Our Great Rivers, which is fueling locally-rooted reclamation of Chicago’s 250 miles of riverfronts. MPC is a founding partner of Elevated Chicago, a coalition advancing Equitable Transit-Oriented Development around seven station hubs on the South and West sides. MPC is doing critical "pre-planning" work on Chicago's forthcoming citywide plan, which will place racial equity front and center. And MPC is a vital link to suburban leaders, who tend not to have the civic and institutional support city leaders do. The Trust’s vision of closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap is regional, so we need organizations like MPC to help us achieve it. 

MPC: What’s the challenge where you see the greatest potential for the Trust’s partnership with MPC?

HG: The Trust, in partnership with philanthropy, business, government, nonprofits, and communities, recently launched Together We Rise: For an Equitable and Just Recovery. This multi-faceted initiative will raise and deploy significant funding, drive bold changes to economic development practices, and pursue transformative policy reforms to ensure the region resets and recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic far more equitably. The Trust asked MPC to be part of a team designing and executing a collaborative and consultative engagement process. That will ensure that metropolitan Chicago’s recovery shares and builds power with and among communities that have been most directly impacted by the current crises.

MPC: What do you wish more people knew about MPC and its value to the Trust?

HG: The Trust cannot achieve its bold vision of closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap through grantmaking alone. We are policy change-makers, which means we need thought partners to help us workshop ideas, push out the boundaries of what’s possible, and connect us with important new audiences and new tactics. MPC is an organization that truly listens and learns. We are proud of our ongoing partnership!

MPC: Thank you again, Helene, for everything you do for MPC and for our region!

Inspired by the Trust's generosity? Donate today.

Chicago Community Trust is a long-time partner of Metropolitan Planning Council with over 40 years of consecutive suport. 


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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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