In 1956, Chicago businessmen Elliott Donnelley and Sidney Epstein met for the first time while waiting for a very slow elevator. As they could hear the car’s bell ringing many floors above theirs, their conversation escalated to reveal multiple shared values and an interest in bringing supportive youth programs to their communities. Both believed in community inclusion, strong and effective leadership, thoroughly tested programs and continuous innovation. It was apparent to them that they both shared a vision about how youth organizations can have a greater positive impact on ensuring more successful outcomes for their communities, and they created a strategy to make it happen. The result was Chicago’s largest and most impactful youth organization — Chicago Youth Centers (CYC).
With the merger of the American Boys Commonwealth and the Boys Brotherhood Republic in North Lawndale together with the South Side Boys Club (later renamed the Elliott Donnelley Youth Center in Bronzeville), CYC emerged as a new city-wide agency that immediately remedied the needs that these three boys’ clubs could no longer fulfill. In addition to serving boys, from its inception CYC admitted girls to all programs, which was a first in the city.
In 1960, Fellowship House, a long-time immigrant settlement agency located in Bridgeport, joined with CYC and, two years later, CYC acquired a former YMCA camp in southwestern Michigan, Camp Arthur (later renamed Camp Makisabee and then Camp Rosenthal,) so that inner-city children could enjoy a residential summer camp experience. Camp Rosenthal operated and served children until 2016.
The Young Men’s Jewish Council Youth Center located in South Shore became part of CYC in 1977 as the South Shore Community Center, later renamed the Rebecca K. Crown Center.
Centro Nuestro was the first new center opened by CYC, in 1979, offering programs in Humboldt Park to the Latino community. Other centers were added according to neighborhood needs as the years went on and, as neighborhoods changed, locations were consolidated or closed.
Today, CYC offers services to children and youth ages three to 18 in six neighborhoods (Bridgeport, Grand Boulevard/Bronzeville, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, South Shore, and Riverdale/Altgeld) through seven community Centers.
1956 – CYC founded –South Side Boys Club, American Boys Commonwealth & Boys Brotherhood Republic
1959 – Elliott Donnelley Youth Center dedicated (formerly South Side Boys Club)
1960 – Fellowship House joins CYC
1962 – Camp Arthur (Dowagiac, MI) acquired for CYC – camping services start at CYC
1965 – Head Start begins at CYC
1976 – Youth Welfare Services program – pre-cursor to Comprehensive Community Based Youth Services
1976 – Roseland Center opens
1977 – CYC merges with South Shore Community Center
Join us on Thursday, May 18, for a memorable evening at the Standard Club to celebrate and honor the CYC students, alumni, families, staff, and supporters who go above and beyond to make a powerful difference within our communities.
Sustain our programs with a monthly gift to CYC!
Making an automatic, monthly gift is an easy and efficient way to support CYC. Our monthly givers provide the critical funds that help us best serve our children, families, and communities.