Anthony Garland, a Chicago native who was raised in Oak Park, is currently building his dream home — in unincorporated Gary, Indiana. This month, the 25-year-old will open the doors of the house to five area boys, age 13-18, who will live at the home year-round.
But don't call the house a "boy's home," Garland said in a recent interview. "We don't want people to think this is institutionalized. It's privately run and family-oriented. We want to support kids in a homey environment in order to better address their social and emotional needs."
The home, formally called Greater Youth, is an offshoot of Greater Good — the Chicago area nonprofit Garland cofounded along with three of his close friends a few years ago.
Along with Greater Youth, Greater Good also comprises Beyond Athletics, a program that helps develop young athletes through skills camps and field trips, and Global Awareness Projects (GAP), a self-help program for young people and adults.
Cody Cotton, another cofounder of the nonprofit who helps anchor the organization's Chicago area operations, said that starting the first Sunday in August, Greater Good will host seminars at the Oak Park Public Library's main branch. The seminars, Cotton added, are the result of a collaboration between the nonprofit and Stephen Jackson, the library's community resources specialist.
"Steve has really been mentoring through this process," Cotton, 24, said. "These seminars will be teaching people about ourselves. We're going to be very specific, talking heavily about the subconscious mind, behavioral choices, programming our habits and a holistic approach to self-improvement. We want to be more than a nonprofit."
Cotton said that, starting July 28, the organization's Beyond Athletics program will host a basketball skills training camp for kids from the West Side and west suburbs, age 9-16, at Wright College in Chicago. The camp will feature Alphonso McKinney, a rookie with the Toronto Raptors.
These are heady times for the cofounders, but their lives have been preparation for this point, they said. Along with Cotton and Garland, the other cofounders include Patrell Green and Charles Carter. Green has since left the organization to start his own basketball program.
"Patrell is doing some amazing things of his own," Cotton said.
The friends' bond was forged in sacrifice to a common vision, Garland said. They started Greater Good over Memorial Day weekend, "when 69 people got shot," Cotton recalled during a 2017 interview with Austin Weekly News.
The friends had each been doing his own thing — Garland had his own catering company and was in the middle of starting his own baseball training company — when the nonprofit took over their lives.
They all stopped what they were doing for the cause, they said.
"All of us left what income we had and started making money through Lyft, Uber, night jobs, and working weekend and overnight shifts," Garland recalled.
"We're doing everything we can to keep things afloat," Cotton said. "We believe in what we're doing and we're really willing to put our money where our mouth is."
The bet, so far, has paid off. The nonprofit has grown to employ at least six part-time workers with significant funding from private donations.
Garland said the Greater Youth house is virtually a replica of a model started by Chicago native Terrance Wallace, the founder of InZone Project — an organization that provides opportunities for at-risk young men by providing them with a home in a better environment.
In 2011, Wallace bought a house after moving to New Zealand and discovering that many young M%u0101ori and Pasifika boys were falling through the cracks of the Auckland school system.
"I saw the massive difference between the haves and have-nots," Wallace said during an interview with the Daily Herald in May.
So Wallace, who cofounded a biometric security technology firm, bought a home in a nice area of New Zealand where the boys could thrive in a less challenging environment. He's since brought his InZone Project to the Chicago area and, as of May, had plans to move some of his young men to a home in the wealthy suburb of Barrington.
"His program is completely identical to ours," said Garland of Wallace's InZone Project. "We created some great rapport, and we decided to do this in partnership with InZone."
One slight difference, Cotton and Garland said, is that the young men who will be moving into their home in unincorporated Gary won't be too far removed from their hometowns.
The house, they added, is coming along. Dozens of volunteers have offered to perform electrical, cabinetry and paint work, among other functions. Garland and his small staff, which will facilitate the Greater Youth home, are still screening prospective candidates and the founders of Greater Good are still constructing the organization of their dreams.
"We really feel this vision is divine and we're not just saying that because it's ours," said Cotton.
Answer Book 2018
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