Welcome to the Southwest Organizing Project’s (SWOP) website. We are glad you are here. We hope this website will give the institutions, leaders, and residents of the Southwest Chicago community the opportunity to connect with one another, tell their stories, and build power for change in the community.
Bringing Furniture and More to Chicago Lawn
A little more than a year ago, Rafi Peterson and Mary Beth Herr sat down for a one on one meeting in the basement of St. Rita’s Church on 63rd ST. Fr. Tony Pizzo hosted them as part of a United Power for Action and Justice meeting that brought them together as a way to build relationships and power between city and suburban dwellers. At first, it might not seem like they had much in common, but through their conversation, it became clear that they shared a passion for social justice, community organizing, and collective action.
In their meeting, Rafi talked about the trouble he had getting jobs for people recently released from prison. Mary Beth was running a consignment furniture store on the north side with unsold inventory. Over the course of several conversations, they hit on the idea of opening a furniture store in Chicago Lawn that might address community issues.
Today, the Storefront On 63rd ST. is up and running. Using furniture provided by Coyle and Herr, the furniture store provides job opportunities for community residents, creates opportunities for African-American and Latino families to come together, fills a vacant store front on 63rd ST., and provide high-quality, low cost furniture and other household items to families in the community.
The Storefront was made possible because several people pitched in to make it work. Mary Beth and her son Sam Brandstrader volunteer lots of hours identifying sources of furniture, setting up a pricing strategy, and training staff. The law firm Kirkland and Ellis provided pro bono legal services through The Law Project to help incorporate the Storefront. Greater Southwest Development Corporation provided the storefront space; at no cost.
Rafi Peterson did most of the heavy lifting, literally and figuratively, in getting the store up and running. He moved the furniture in, identified the people to work in the store, and oversaw the rehab of the storefront.
The store will be open every other weekend. The next weekend the store will be open is February 24-26.