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The Most Welcoming City: Reflecting on One Year in Chicago

“The most welcoming city I have ever lived in”: CEO @HeleneGayle reflects with gratitude on her first year in #Chicago, what she’s learned and the work ahead for the Trust Tweet This

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This week I mark my first anniversary with The Chicago Community Trust. It is hard to believe a year has gone by! As I reflect on the year, I am particularly grateful for the warmth and kindness so many of you have extended to me. I have said so many times that Chicago is the most welcoming city I have ever lived in and you have been wonderful in the many different ways you have made me feel welcomed. So first, a big thank you for being an important part of making this a great first year.

One of my key goals as someone new to Chicago and new to the Trust was to listen and learn. Many of you have been part of my learning journey. You walked with me through neighborhoods. You shared personal and professional stories that reflect your depth of understanding of Chicago. You shared your time, your knowledge and your passion for the city and the region. I have been impressed with the tremendous pride and civic engagement that exist here. People love their city and truly want to see it live up to its highest potential.

As I listened, I heard a couple of consistent themes. First, that in its 103 years the Trust has been a powerful force in the region, touching nearly every civic project; however, it can do more to have even greater, more focused impact. Second, that Chicago’s biggest challenges are rooted in social and economic inequity.

In its 103 years the Trust has been a powerful force in the region, touching nearly every civic project; however, it can do more to have even greater, more focused impact.

We have taken those messages to heart. Over the next several months, we will continue to sharpen our focus so that we can have long-term and sustained impact on increasing equity of opportunity. We believe it is the best way to ensure that we all can contribute to shared prosperity and well-being.

In the coming weeks and months, you will hear much more about our goals, and the strategies we will be employing to reach them. Of course, I will continue to look for and listen to your ideas about how to work toward our vision of a Chicago that is thriving and equitable for all.

I enter into this next year with a huge amount of optimism, tempered with realism about what it will take from all of us to bring alive this vision. Change never comes easy, nor does it happen overnight. But this is a city that, in Daniel Burnham fashion, “makes no little plans.” I am inspired by that legacy.

Again, thank you for your warm welcome. I look forward to the collective work ahead.