May 19, 2017

Allstate agency owners pack thousands of backpacks for Chicago’s youth

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

More than 100 Allstate agency owners came together in Chicago to stuff 2,400 backpacks with books for young students. Photos courtesy of the Allstate Foundation

Packing hope: This week, more than 100 Allstate agency owners came together at Chicago’s Navy Pier to fill 2,400 backpacks to benefit Chicago’s students. The volunteers stuffed the backpacks with books meant for preschool, elementary, and middle school students. Allstate, partnered with the Chicago Public Library, will distribute the backpacks across Chicago at public library branches this summer. (The Renewal Project is made possible by Allstate.) The event is part of a larger portfolio of efforts by The Allstate Foundation to empower youth across the country. “Our agency owners are passionate about empowering youth to achieve success in their lives,” Vicky Dinges, Senior Vice President of corporate relations at Allstate, said in a press release. “We’ve made it our mission at Allstate and The Allstate Foundation to help America’s youth gain the skills, resources and confidence to become our future leaders.”

"We’ve made it our mission at Allstate and The Allstate Foundation to help America’s youth gain the skills, resources and confidence to become our future leaders."

High school change-makers A group of ambitious high school students want to “restart the heart of an underprivileged neighborhood” through the construction of a new public space called The Community Backyard. Students of Pontiac High School in Michigan are hoping to raise $15,000 in order to repurpose three vacant lots into a playground, picnic area, and orchard. If they meet that goal, their $15,000 will be matched by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. To that end, they’ve launched a nonprofit, The Leaders of the Future. Through this, Pontiac’s college students and high schoolers hope to revitalize their community. “Up to 300 residents of Pontiac could be directly and daily impacted by this project,” Anders Engnell, a student at nearby Oakland University and CEO of Leaders of the Future, said in a press release.

Pushing for public art: What’s the role of public art in community life? Gracen Johnson, writing for Strong Towns, makes the case that there are three criteria that make public art a vital part of many cities and communities: it can be “aesthetically pleasing, … can make an environment feel special or personalized … [or] can make a statement or spark a conversation.” Johnson points to Los Angeles and New York City, which in the past few years have invested in hiring artists-in-residence. In these roles, artists can serve as liaisons between the city and other artists to help integrate public art into city planning. Creative artistic solutions are often helpful in communicating certain ideas to citizens with greater ease.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor to The Renewal Project.