From Peaceful Protest to Enduring Relationship
Helping Chicago neighborhoods one homeowner at a time
It was 1980. A group of Chicago community activists wanted to improve the city’s neighborhoods. So they took a little trip down Interstate 55.
The group hopped on a bus and headed south. They saw everything from skyscrapers to miles of corn fields along the way.
Two hours later they were at their destination. State Farm Headquarters in Bloomington, IL
Volunteers poured out of the bus expecting a peaceful demonstration. They wanted the biggest insurer to join their efforts in strengthening Chicago communities.
“It was quite a twist of fate. We were pleasantly surprised by the warm and respectful welcome,” shared Bruce Gottschall. In 1975, Bruce founded Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS). This organization was formed to address the deterioration of Chicago’s neighborhoods.
“All parties agreed to continue an open dialogue in the future,” Bruce continued. “We were hopeful for a strong relationship with State Farm.”
This new relationship allowed State Farm to connect with Chicago’s communities at a grassroots level. They heard first-hand about the wants and the needs of community-conscious homeowners.
“35 years and millions of donated dollars later, the relationship is still going strong,” shared Bruce. NHS is one of the company’s longest standing philanthropic relationships.
"But the relationship is rich and extensive, more than only the financial donations,” Bruce said. “For years, agents and employees have volunteered their time and talents.”
NHS hosted their inaugural NeighborWorks Day event in 1988. This day brings together hundreds of volunteers from the corporate and local level. During the service day they all complete various projects in NHS neighborhoods.
State Farm also formed an internal planning committee to work with residents to plan NeighborWorks Day projects in 1988. Since then, State Farm has integrated several safety programs with NeighborWorks Day.
In 1998, NHS organized the Chicago Home Safety Partnership Taskforce to prevent fire losses and improve homes. More than 25 State Farm agents oversee the homeowner insurance education part of NHS’s New Homebuyer Education program.
“Turns out having a Good Neighbor spirit turned a protest situation into an open dialogue,” remembered Bruce. “That day created years of opportunities for both organizations and helped thousands of people along the way.”