Featured Grantees

While The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust values all of its grantees equally, The Trust features this year the following organizations that submitted exemplary grant applications.

Each of the grantees featured here successfully and convincingly established a strong connection to one or more tenets of The Trust's Values Statement, achieved or exceeded its goals, and had a positive and significant impact on the community it serves.

The Trust (identified below as "EMT") features one exemplary grantee for each tenet of its Values Statements, along with two organizations that The Trust supported jointly with its sister trust, the Elizabeth Morse Genius Charitable Trust (identified below as "EMGT").

The Trust's Value Statements

Tenet 1

Promoting "THISS"

Promoting, instilling, and/or reflecting the values of individual and/or organizational thrift, humility, industry, self-sacrifice, and/or self-sufficiency.

Chicago Children's Choir ("CCC")

Problem being addressed:  After undergoing strategic planning that resulted in goals for deepening impact, building sustainability, and elevating music education over fiscal years 2022 through 2026, CCC determined that its outdated technology infrastructure presented multiple inefficiencies related to data management, communication, fundraising, marketing, and program implementation.
Project description:  To achieve optimal functionality in all departments, CCC will implement the customer relationship management system—Salesforce—and online learning platform—Thinkific—to coordinate participant, patron, revenue, and community data.  Investing in the technology infrastructure will allow CCC to strengthen the organization’s fundraising capacity and launch a capital campaign to: undertake activities and strategies that will deepen impact by rebuilding core school-based programs, neighborhood choirs, Dimension, and Voice of Chicago, and leverage learnings from virtual programs with small group instruction; and elevate music education by offering comprehensive curriculum and content for music educators and building community around a shared approach that leads to piloting expansion outside of Chicago.
Connection to Values:  By implementing a new technology infrastructure, CCC will reduce reliance on manual data entry and analysis, thereby allowing operations to be more efficient and encourage thrift, industry, and self-sufficiency.  Additionally, through accessible online and in-person programming, CCC will further relieve human suffering by engaging youth who are from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Amount of grant


Tenet 2

Relieving Human Suffering

Relieving human suffering by: (1) performing research and/or promoting education regarding the treatment of disease; (2) assisting youth who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, have troubled childhoods, have physical or mental disabilities, or experience emotional disorders; (3) addressing the concerns of the elderly; and/or (4) providing succor to humankind during time of natural or human-made disaster.

Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (“CCF”)

Problem being addressed:  Patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (“IBD”) experience symptoms that may include persistent diarrhea, severe abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, fever, and malnutrition.   Unfortunately, IBD is more than physically debilitating—it also impacts a patient’s mental and emotional wellbeing.  Some patients react to unpredictable symptoms with feelings of anger, anxiety, and fear.  Access to restroom facilities can often exacerbate patients’ feelings of anxiety and depression.  People living with the disease suffer from urgency to use a restroom immediately or risk an embarrassing accident.

In 2005, Illinois passed Ally’s Law--named after Ally Bain, a fourteen-year-old who experienced a flare-up of her Crohn’s disease while at a retail store and was denied use of the employee-only restroom.  Ally’s Law requires retail establishments to allow people with certain medical conditions, such as IBD, to be able to access employee restrooms if public facilities are not available.  Despite the legislation, many retail companies are not educated about the law and how appropriately to handle situations when IBD patients ask to use their facilities.

Projection description:  To inform retail entities in Illinois about Ally’s Law and how it applies to their business operations, CCF is developing digital and hard copy training and education materials for businesses, along with an advocacy kit for volunteers to increase outreach efforts across local communities.  Within the first year of the pilot program, CCF aims to provide resources to five thousand of the estimated 144,200 businesses operating in Illinois, thereby serving more than 160,000 Illinois IBD patients, as well as their loved ones whose lives are also impacted.

Connection to Values:  By developing and distributing training and education materials about Ally’s Law to businesses that inform them about how the legislation applies to their establishment, CCF relieves human suffering through scientific research and education regarding disease, while further assisting youth with physical disabilities.

Amount of grant


Tenet 3

Developing Individual Self-Esteem and Dignity

Developing within individuals, especially youth from under-served and/or under-resourced communities, a sense of self-esteem and dignity.

Chicago Voyagers (“CV”)

Problem being addressed:  Poverty, abuse, trauma from gun violence, and lack of familial support have detrimental effects on adolescents, making them susceptible to delinquent behavior, substance abuse, and dropping out of school, all of which may have negative consequences extending into adulthood. 

Project description:  CV serves youth ages twelve to eighteen, ninety-five percent of whom are low-income and come from the most underserved communities of Chicago—Englewood, Belmont-Cragin, and North Lawndale.  A network of twenty youth development agency partners works with CV to recruit and serve at-risk youth through trauma-informed care and programming.  Adventure-therapy programs are provided year-round in one-day or multi-day increments and include: hiking and backpacking; overnight camping; canoeing; mountain biking; and more.  During these adventures, youth participate in activities designed to engage and empower them, while assisting in the development of their life skills, such as bearing individual responsibility and being a team player.  Additionally, journey sessions promote effective communication, emotional regulation, teamwork, and leadership that heals the anger, pain, and hopelessness experienced by these at-risk youth, affording new perspectives and challenges and allowing them to discover their own strength and confidence.  For the duration of excursions, youth are accompanied by a CV leader, as well as two adults from the partner organization.  Partner agency leaders have a long-term relationship with the youth and continue to reinforce the lessons learned during CV programming.  Groups typically include nine or fewer youth.

To measure the program’s effectiveness in developing a sense of individual self-esteem and dignity, CV devised a youth satisfaction survey that gauges participants’ confidence on completing a journey experience.  Participants can choose “disagree,” “unsure,” or “agree” for the statement: “I grew in my confidence.”  The same survey offers open-ended questions asking participants to recall one thing they learned about themselves, as well as describe what ways they grew emotionally. 

Connection to Values:  By encouraging vigorous physical activity through challenging outdoor experiences, CV provides youth who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, have troubled childhoods, or experience emotional disorders the opportunity to develop self-esteem and self-sufficiency, while learning about self-sacrifice.

Amount of grant


Tenet 4

Encouraging Vigorous Athletic Activity

Encouraging vigorous athletic activity, leading to physical health and/or spiritual well-being.

MetroSQUASH (“MS”)

Problem being addressed:  Middle school students from low-income neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side experience high crime and violence, extreme poverty, low educational opportunities, and limited health services. 

Project description:  In order to address all the aforementioned issues, MS provides year-round academic, social-emotional, and wellness support to students from Chicago Public Schools.  Students spend an average of ten hours each week participating in MS activities:  Squash and Wellness, Academics, and Enrichment.  Students receive three sessions of technical squash instruction each week.  Most of the program’s participants’ first exposure to the sport comes through MS programming.  Through their time in the program, students can progress from first time beginner all the way to advanced intermediate player.  Students receive academic support, such as homework help and one-on-one tutoring, and participate in a rigorous academic curriculum that focuses on math and literacy foundational skills.  Students also take part in community service projects, life-skill workshops, and a wellness curriculum.

Connection to Values:  MS provides tutoring and squash lessons to youth with troubled childhoods, thereby assisting in the development of their physical health through vigorous athletic activity, while further encouraging the principles of individual self-sufficiency and self-sacrifice.

Amount of grant


Tenet 5

Developing Regional Solutions to Chicago's Regional Challenges

Developing regional solutions to Chicago’s regional challenges, thereby protecting and/or improving the quality of life for all its citizens.

Goodman Theatre (”GT”)

Problem being addressed:  Events that intensified social and economic inequalities have halted production in theatres and closed cultural institutions.  Also due to the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying public closures, GT experienced a decline in public funding.  Moreover, the foundation and corporate philanthropic community is providing less funding for the arts, limiting GT’s ability to offer tickets at accessible prices. 

Project description:  Goodman is examining its institutional processes and charting a course through an action plan for inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism, and access (“IDEAA”).  The IDEAA Action Plan is the result of a six-month collaborative effort involving individuals at every level of Goodman Theatre—artists, staff, leadership, and boards.  The foundation of the IDEAA Action Plan centers on the following four “cornerstone” areas of focus and goals:
Policy:  work to revise and establish institutional policies to ensure a safe and respectful environment; break the traditional barriers of participation; and enact equitable practices for all who engage with the organization;
Programming: review artistic priorities—as demonstrated in the plays produced, the artists championed, the works developed, and education and engagement programs offered—and ensure that BIPOC voices are centered in all creative endeavors going forward, both in new opportunities as well as in ongoing/established efforts;
Communication: remain committed to creating new opportunities for partnership, mentorship, and stewardship through revision of internal and external communication processes; and establish a safe channel for honest dialogue with leadership; and
Research and Assessment:  invest in creating a more equitable American theater by examining internal systems with industry professionals who will help analyze, measure, and track goals within the action plan.

Connection to Values:  By deepening its work around equity, diversity, access, and inclusion through hiring and promoting artists of color, GT instills the values of organizational thrift, humility, industry, self-sacrifice, and self-sufficiency, while it also pursues increased racial equity within the arts sector of Chicago, thereby developing a solution to a regional challenge.

Amount of grant


Joint Grantees

Tenet 1

Promoting "THISS"

Lyric Opera of Chicago (“LO”)

Problem being addressed:   LO’s board and senior management identified a structural deficit that in the long term threatened the financial viability of the organization.  Structural deficits occur when there is an underlying and ongoing imbalance between revenue and expense.  In an effort to manage costs and increase earned revenue, LO launched the Breaking New Ground capital campaign, which included raising funds for stage improvements, with an ambitious $16 million, five-year goal.  The Breaking New Ground campaign enables LO supporters to make an immediate impact on backstage capabilities at the Civic Opera House and ensure that LO’s current time-consuming, physically demanding, and expensive processes are replaced by efficiency, safety, and fiscal responsibility.
Project description:  For the first time since purchasing the Civic Opera House in the mid-1990s, LO undertook significant, permanent renovations to the stage and backstage equipment.  Generally, The Morse and Genius Trusts do not support capital endeavors; however, securing the funds necessary to purchase and install a turntable reduced investing each year in labor costs and enabled LO to collaborate with more technically advanced opera companies, thereby increasing earned revenue opportunities.
Connection to Values:  Modernizing stage equipment through the campaign allowed LO to continue producing new and revived major productions of the highest caliber and created innovative and relevant opera experiences that attracted broad and diverse artists, audiences, and Board of Directors prospects, thereby promoting the values of organizational thrift, humility, industry, and self-sufficiency.

Amount of grant


Tenet 1

Promoting "THISS"

Ingenuity Incorporated Chicago

Problem being addressed:  To address the inconsistency of quality and availability of arts education across the Chicago Public Schools (“CPS”) system, funders and civic leaders formed the Chicago Arts Education Collaborative (“CAEC”) in 2008, to:  track data and conduct research; advocate for arts education; and provide resources.  However, CAEC lacked capacity to operate efficiently a fundraising campaign that would allow it to carry out its mission, including addressing the inconsistency of arts education across the CPS system.

Project description:  In 2009, CAEC launched the Chicago Arts Learning Initiative (“CALI”), a community-wide effort, which brought together arts and cultural organizations, CPS and its Office of Arts Education, and funders. CALI recommended the creation of a public/private partnership that would:  research reliable benchmarks and data on the availability of arts education; organize advocacy efforts; and fundraise to build capacity for arts education in all Chicago Public Schools.  Established in 2011, and growing out of CALI’s recommendations, Ingenuity Incorporated (“II”) launched the Creative Schools Initiative‒an ambitious new effort to help every CPS student receive a well-rounded education that includes the arts.  

To fund the Creative Schools Initiative and bring arts education to all CPS students, II created the Creative Schools Campaign (“CSC”) in an effort to raise $38 million over three years for:  development of curricula, assessments, and professional training; construction of a sustainable arts education infrastructure; long-term policy strategy; placement of a CPS arts liaison in every school; use of data and information to plan more effectively; and expansion of the pool of financial resources to help schools bring the arts to more students throughout their school years.  Being a newly formed organization with modest capacity, II partnered with civic leaders, a funding consultant, and CPS to form a campaign committee, set fundraising goals, and monitor fundraising progress.

Connection to Values:  By retaining the services of a fundraising consultant to launch and lead the CSC, II is building its own capacity and that of arts education for CPS, thereby encouraging organizational thrift, industry, and self-sufficiency.

Amount of grant


The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust

208 South LaSalle Street, Suite 1660, Chicago, IL 60604-1226 | 312-739-0326 | EMTAdmin@MorseTrust.org

Copyright 2024. The Elizabeth Morse Charitable Trust.