Bethel New Life is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Chicago, Illinois. Formed by a small
Lutheran church on the West Side of Chicago in response to the devastation and disinvestment that followed the civil rights riots of the late 1960s, Bethel New Life has been in the business of creating social impact and community change for more than three decades.
Bethel New Life operates as a new breed of community investment organization on Chicago’s West Side which includes Chicago’s Austin, West and East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and North Lawndale communities. We are focused on creating opportunities to bring individuals and families out of poverty and bringing about system and policy changes necessary to lift an entire community out of poverty. We invest in people who are ready to invest in themselves and we impact the systems and policies that dampen the human spirit and prevent communities from thriving.
To realize God’s vision of a restored society by creating opportunities for individuals and families to invest in themselves and by promoting policies and systems that help communities thrive.
“If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses.” Isaiah 58:9-12
The riots of the late 1960s and early 1970s left the West Garfield Park community in shambles. Homeowners, landlords, banks, businesses and investors fled this West Side Chicago neighborhood. In their wake came poverty, unemployment, and despair.
But a small neighborhood church chose to make an impact in their community. Bethel Lutheran Church members, spurred by their faith, decided to fight the poverty and hopelessness. In 1979, they invested their few dollars to buy and rehab a three-flat apartment building. In doing so, they gave birth to Bethel New Life.
Over the years, Bethel New Life has led the way in the community development movement. Our initial efforts focused on real estate development and affordable housing. Like many community development corporations, we also began social programs in areas of community need through leveraging community assets. In our first three decades,Bethel built 1,200 affordable homes, advocated for social reforms, provided in-home care to the elderly, welcomed people home from prison to find legal employment, provided programs for neighborhood youth, were instrumental in the development of community investment vehicles such as the New Market Tax Credit program and led efforts at the local and national level in community development and transformation.
Today, Bethel is focused on connecting the economy of the West Side to the larger region, improving the capacity of the West Side to benefit from investment, and creating opportunities to bring individuals and families out of poverty through a focus on education and jobs creation.
Since 1979, Bethel has earned a national reputation for cutting edge initiatives and pioneering approaches that build on the people, physical assets, and faith base of the community.