Summer Soccer at Benton House, So Long!


Hi Bridgeport Community,

This past summer kids from the community were trained in soccer by the wonderful and skilled Elise, Arlo, Alex, and me, Maritere. 

The small number of players allowed for a lot of one-on-one training to happen. With the individualized attention, players showed improvement soon after the start date. Aiden, one of our participants, had perfect attendance and discovered his love for the goalie position, a very important position in soccer indeed. 

With help offered by fellow resident staff, children learned a lot of pretty cool soccer drills that prepared them for the soccer field. We began training exercises like learning how to properly kick, dribble, and pass the ball. One of the most challenging exercises was to touch the ball with the tip of the shoe, switching off feet as quickly as they could without putting too much of their weight on the ball, thus avoiding moving the ball’s place on the ground. This sounds easier than it is!

Elise, one of our trainers, taught the group a drill called “Knock Out." She set up a circular training area outlined by cones. The kids played inside the uncomfortably small area and tried to control the ball and knock the ball out the other players’ feet simultaneously! This creates a chaotic drill scene, yes, but it teaches the group to keep good control of the ball and develop both offensive and defensive strategies. These are just a few of the fun, educational soccer drills our players completed.

The players were not the only great people involved in the soccer training. I was amazed at the help that my fellow residents offered through out the trainings. I want to thank them for that.

There are more soccer training programs to come - indoor soccer, that is! Details are on their way. I hope you can join us!

Thank You Washington Federal!

Washington Federal bank has helped Benton House greatly by renting a bus for us to use transporting Bridgeport residents to Hunger Walk! Given the great need for rides to and from the event, this donation is precious!

Thank you Washington Federal!


If you haven't made plans to participate in Chicago's annual Hunger Walk, please consider doing so! This event is crucial to our Food Pantry's success. Visit our Hunger Walk page for more information.

Hunger Walk is a 5k walk raising funds for food pantries and soup kitchens across Chicago. June 21st at Soldier Field.

Neighborhood Yoga and Zumba now at Benton House!

Free Yoga! $2 Zumba! Check out our Athletics and Fitness page for more info!


Kundalini Yoga - Free!

Sunday (6/15-7/20): 1-2 pm for everyone

Tuesday (6/17-7/22): 5-6 pm for women-identified people only

Friday (6/20-25): 3-4 pm for chair yoga (great for seniors & those in wheelchairs or with more limited mobility)

Instructor: Jo Becker

Yoga at BH Facebook!

Zumba - $2

Monday & Thursday

Session 1: 8:30 am - 9:45 am (Gym building)

Session 2: 6:00 pm - 7:15 pm (Mural room)

Instructor: Violeta Estevane

A Few Fun Finds: Benton House History Project Update

Not sure what was going on in this Benton House play, but it looks fun.

Not sure what was going on in this Benton House play, but it looks fun.

At this point in the archiving game, we are taking inventory, which means we're not supposed to be spending too much time fawning over the material. However, combing through the documents, it's next to impossible not to "stop and smell the flowers" every now and then. I thought I'd share our few indulgences.

Plenty of exclamation marks to go around ! ! !

Plenty of exclamation marks to go around ! ! !

We found many fascinating and amusing photos, flyers and paper clippings. The highlight for me was found in a big box of "Program Narratives" from the 1940's. In this box, there are many write-ups by program coordinators describing their activities. A report titled simply "Little Girls -- Age 7 - 9" by Anelle Miller and Virginia Pratt was particularly cheeky. Some excerpts:




There were only two cases of athlete's foot! I'd hate to see a bad year.

In the middle of the afternoon it was the time for showers...Only two of our girls had athlete’s foot during the summer...
The children are dears regardless of how terrifically angry they make you many times in eight weeks. They know just when to do some cherishable [sic] thing so that they can get back “in good” with you. They know about how far they can go and still get by...The first week of summer program they were an unmanageable mass of nervous human energy, screaming, clawing, fighting, spitting — female hoodlums...Great are the changes thereof.
We have failed however to draw some of the girls from their shells, and they have never performed for the group. Some, like Patsy, and Jackie, have, which is quite encouraging. Gerry Yanke has improved to the point of boldly facing the audience by herself, instead of hanging her head as she formerly did.



I like to imagine that the woman who wrote this would be my friend if we grew up in the same era.

Finally comes the inevitable — lunch. At first, the whole period of lunch was a horrible nightmare, but now it is just a bad dream.




It's not all bad, though, and you start to get a sense how much the instructors cared for the childrens' well-being.

At the museum, the children behaved remarkably well — they kept their shouting and yelling to a minimum, and none of the children were lost for more than a few minutes...On the way over to the beach, going through the tunnels, one way we have found to eliminate the nerve-wracking screeching is to have them sing a song as we go through the tunnel.
We believe the outstanding example of any success we may have had this summer is Patsy. She is a highly retarded child and has improved greatly over the summer. Patsy can now run about like a normal child, can skip, can crayon, can cut out paper...Our biggest trouble with Patsy was her “I can’t do that” attitude whenever something new was suggested. We tried to help her get rid of this attitude, and she did make attempts at most everything and had some pretty good results, as her fingerpainting, which we considered the best in the group...Another Jackie. Jackie never got over being stubborn to the nth degree. It seems quite evident that Jackie is dreadfully neglected, and wants and needs attention, which she attempts to get by doing things that she knows are wrong.
One child who is a complete turn-around from the usual pattern is Donna. At the start of the summer, Donna was very, very shy and quiet and sort of mousy, never raising her voice above a whisper. We can proudly say now that she is somewhat out of her shell, and is, in fact, one of the little organizers of mischief in the crowd. Whether that is to be commended or condemned is a question.

"The last suggestion -- more of a plea -- is that something should be done along the line of tolerance toward other religions and nationalities and colors, perhaps a project about the different countries of the world, but something, for the place to squelch prejudice is in the little children."

This is a booklet put together in 1955. It includes letters of complaint written to Richard J. Daley by residents of Bridgeport. They are complaints about the rock quarry (which is now Palmisano Park).

This is a booklet put together in 1955. It includes letters of complaint written to Richard J. Daley by residents of Bridgeport. They are complaints about the rock quarry (which is now Palmisano Park).

A graph depicting the dramatic increase in pounds of dynamite used per blast at the rock quarry (from 40 lbs to upwards of 900 lbs). There are many letters detailing individuals being hit by falling chunks of their ceilings, items broken in houses by the explosions, residents having to keep windows closed because of the dust, and rubble flying a block away from the quarry.

A graph depicting the dramatic increase in pounds of dynamite used per blast at the rock quarry (from 40 lbs to upwards of 900 lbs). There are many letters detailing individuals being hit by falling chunks of their ceilings, items broken in houses by the explosions, residents having to keep windows closed because of the dust, and rubble flying a block away from the quarry.

To receive regular updates on the Benton House History project, please email To get involved in the project, e-mail To donate something on our wishlist, or just a few bucks, click here!

Benton House History Project Underway!

Beginning the Project: Archiving Crash Course

-Ambria Taylor

Since our trip to the Research Center at the Chicago History Museum in November, I've been thinking more and more about all of the stories floating around Benton House and how they relate to us in the here and now. I've also been thinking about how most everything I "know" about the history of the Benton House has been an anecdote passed down orally. And I realize how easily these stories could be lost, and how many of our stories probably already are.

The story of the settlement house movement is one that is still largely untold. This movement (which flourished circa 1890-1930)  is one that has very certainly (in my mind) impacted the social landscape of the United States. Neighborhood social service agencies, intentional community-building across cultural lines, and solidarity with those struggling in poverty are all ideas that were significantly nurtured by settlement houses. Their heyday has not been sufficiently documented, and the story of their nation-wide demise is perhaps even more notably absent. 

Benton House is likely the only settlement house left...

After many, many e-mails and phone calls, it has been concluded that Benton House is likely the only settlement house left which follows the traditional resident staff model in North America. My curiosity about the place where I work in combination with its historical and current significance has inspired me to investigate and preserve its tale. So, this summer, myself and several interns will be creating an archive. On one hand, we will be improving our record-keeping, and on the other hand, we will be finding out more about how we got to where we are. 

At the end of this summer, when the archive is done, I hope to move on to the oral history component of the project. The ultimate goal is to write a complete narrative history of Benton House, filled with the facts, the folklore, the firebombs and the heists (yes, there was a firebomb and a heist or two).

We are an enthusiastic but inexperienced group, and we are just getting started. Luckily, we've already found some support. On May 16th, research assistant Sam Alfrey (with the UIC Special Collections Department) graciously visited Benton House to give us an Archiving 101 workshop. She brought along a booklet titled "Don't Throw It Away! Documenting and Preserving Organizational History," which has already proved an excellent resource. 

I will be publicly sharing the details of this project every step of the way. In the spirit of my day-to-day work at Benton House, I hope this project will be multipurpose, bringing us closer to other historical institutions and to other lovers of history. If you would like to be updated as we go, please e-mail If you are interested in working on the project as an intern or volunteer, please e-mail

Benton House Robotics Season Ends, Looks Forward to Next Year

Benton House's 4551 Team Robotic Competing in the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition

Benton House's 4551 Team Robotic Competing in the 2014 FIRST Robotics Competition

Benton House's FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) team 4551, the Robotic Rangers, returned to this year's Midwest Regional Competition.  Held at the UIC Pavilion, the 2014 Midwest Regional hosted teams from the Midwest region and beyond, including teams as far as Turkey.  The competition was held April 3-6, and the Rangers finished the weekend with a ranking 27th out of 52 teams.  The small team consisted of returning and new members from Curie Metro, Benito Jaurez, and UIC College Prep.  Being a second-year team, we are still very young in the FRC, and the members did an excellent job and together worked hard to build a competitive robot, facing design problems and limited materials.  The teams' mentors worked closely with students on issues including design, fabrication, electrical, computer coding and pneumatics.  We are proud to salute the efforts of team 4551, and look forward to next year's competition!  Thanks to our sponsors: NASA, Illinois Tech Robotics, and Neobots 2903.  As her senior project at UIC College Prep, one team member is working with Benton House staff to host a game-night fundraiser in the gym on April 18th to help fund the team in the upcoming year.  

RSVP to the April 18th Robotics Fundraiser HERE!


Please contact Ben Noetzel at if you're interested in getting involved in Benton House's Robotics programming.




Alt. Spring Break with Oberlin Students


Spring Break came to Benton House this year––consisting of nine Oberlin students, a van, everything bagels and a whole lot of heart for community service and social justice. Joelle Eliza Lingat, Christopher Gould, Pam Wang, Donnay Edmund, Aldrumesia Baker, Katherine Moncure and Sofia Fast stayed at Benton House for a couple of days as part of an alternative spring break service. As Pam Wang puts it "Even though I spent such a short time in Benton House, the staff and volunteers went out of their way to teach me about the local community, to give me the opportunity to participate in the radical work that they do, and to make me feel very welcome. I got to make some awesome new friends and had a lot of inspiring conversations. My experience volunteering with Benton House reaffirmed my belief in the importance of a community organization and social work, and familiarized me with the tasks and everyday life of social workers."


2:00pm Sunday, March 23rd:

Their first appearance happened at the Orphanage for the Coming Together for Community and Social Justice workshop! Joined by community members they listened to personal stories of struggle––stories turned into transformative movements in our community. Topics ranging from fighting austerity in education, fracking, ending mass incarceration to environmental justice were touched. There was even a chant borrowed from the civil rights movement that goes "this might be last time, we sing together" as an appreciation for each other and the work organizers do. The evening followed with an action with the Southloop Campus Ministry, a social justice ministry downtown that creates bags of food and beverages to distribute them to homeless in the streets. These urban homes are sometimes under bridges, next to highways or more specifically under Lower Wacker Dr. For many of us the downtown setting is no stranger to homeless in the streets asking for spare change, but how many of us actually think of the juxtaposition? Donnay Edmund places this into context, "Walking with different generations through a giant shopping district filled with clothes and food and commodities juxtaposed us giving out food to people on the corners. I was shocked at the blatant structural contradiction of the system how could I be around such abundance and watch so much struggle."

6:00am Tuesday, March the 25th:

About 100 community members filled a charter bus and left to lobby in Springfield. The bus carried the stories of its Bridgeport constituents, but this time they would be told to the legislators. Photo petitions supporting the Charter Accountability Act HB 6005/SB 3030 and also HB 3754/HB 2627 which would repeal legislation creating the lllinois State Charter Commission were delivered for those who were not able to make it. Sofia Fast speaks of her experience "This trip showed me how to look at community organizing and service in a whole new light. I learned a lot from the wonderful hospitality and welcoming atmosphere of the Bridgeport and Benton House community and the important stories that we all shared."

1:00pm Wednesday, March 26th:

In their second to last day, the students helped with unloading food donations Benton House receives for the food pantry. They organized and checked to make sure the produce was in good condition to be given out for food pantry. Shortly after the students joined the crew at the Hideout, for their weekly "Soup & Bread," since that night the proceeds were specifically going to Benton House's food pantry. The students cut bread and helped set up for the event, where local chefs donate soups and the its served on a donation basis. That evening a French Onion soup and a Vietnamese soup delighted the night. 


Afternoon, Thursday, March 27th:

Leaving behind thank your cards and positivity, the Oberliners departed back to Ohio. Joelle Lingat gives us her takeaway: "Of all the trips that i have led as an immerse yourself in service leader, this has by far been the most transformative. the participants were engaged and challenged in ways that are unparalleled at other organizations. The passion, understanding, and vigor with which the Benton House staff do their work is infectious. it inspires me to do more for my own campus and community back home. These are relationships and moments that will last a lifetime."

New Benton House President Donates $3,000 to New Zealand

"They need to get their island back in one piece." - Trevor Griffith, Interim President of Benton House

Elise Cody and Megan McDonald, two Resident Staff members of Benton House, awoke yesterday morning to the booming, triumphant voice of their new President, who called a "very, very early" staff meeting at 5:47 a.m. on Monday morning.

"I just had to tell someone. Everyone." Trevor Griffith explained. "I saw it all at once... in a dream. We're all connected. Except New Zealand."

"Yeah, I just came over to borrow a saw." Bob Clee, a neighbor of Benton House claimed. "And the next thing I know this Trevor fella is... well, he's shouting at me. About what? I have no idea. Apparently Cook Strait was never meant to be."











Merry April Fool's!

Sriracha Social: Good Natured, Poorly Planned


"That wasn't worth it." - Community Member.

In an attempt to "experiment and try new things... who knows!", Benton House's most recent monthly fundraiser leads to uncomfortable conversation and urgent goodbyes.

"I tried it." Alex J. Colston, a recent volunteer of Benton House reports. "I tried it... I don't know what I was expecting."

Benton House monthly fundraisers typically ignite a feeling of community and solidarity amongst community members, but this month's fundraiser has proven to be "basically an absolute, complete failure."

Resident Staff Ty Cummings struggles to embrace his organization's fundraising techniques.

Resident Staff Ty Cummings struggles to embrace his organization's fundraising techniques.

"We usually have businesses sponsor our fundraisers. They typically do a good job." said Resident Staff member Ernie Perez. "But this month the sponsor was just this guy named Kieth who lives down the street. Who we've never really talked to before. Maybe next month we'll try Jackalope or Maria's or something."

Though community members have reported being "off-put" and "revolted" by April's fundraiser, many of them have agreed to give Benton House another chance. "I'll give it 'nother shot, shure." says community member Ben Huey, "I hear their cookin' up a clam chowder pool party or somethin'. I don't care!!!!!"












Merry April Fool's Day!

Soup and Bread: A Benefit for Benton House

“Chicago’s most laid-back, nutritious party”  happens every Wednesday at the Hideout. Each week Soup & Bread offers a community soup meal prepared by 6-8 volunteer cooks along with bread from local bakeries, in exchange for a pay-what-you-can donation to benefit Chicago-area food pantries and hunger relief organizations." Join us next Wednesday for soup and good times with Benton House's friendly faces!  We hope to see you there!

Pleasant House Crowned Cook-Off King

You came, you tasted, you wept with joy: Our Bridgeport Chili-Cookoff was Freakin' Amazing

Thank you to everyone who participated, performed, danced, and volunteered! Your support and friendship is cherished. Special thanks to January from Jackalope Coffee & Tea House for making this event so special.

Here are the winners!

1st Place - Art from Pleasant House

2nd Place - Spanky from Mr. Spanky's

3rd Place - Dori Kaminsky

Here are some photos from the event (click to see full image and slideshow view). See ya'll next time!

Featured Program Audio Electronics Still Going Strong

Benton House hosted the Bridgeport Chili Cookoff last week, in partnership with Jackalope Coffee & Tea House, which helped raise funds for Benton House operations. The youth program Audio Electronics was the highlighted program this month, and thanks to all who attended and contributed to the event, the students are as enthusiastic as ever to be involved in an educational program that has received so much support from the Bridgeport community.

Affordable Care Act Enrollment: Friday Feb. 14th

Ada S. McKinley Community Services Is Working With Benton House to Help You Enroll In The Affordable Care Act

We have another free session to learn about the Affordable Care Act and application assistance THIS Friday, Feb 14th at 12-2pm. You could be eligible for low cost or free coverage. We will have language support in Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin.

Healthcare is important! If you or anyone you know hasn't enrolled, consider coming by this Friday. It is painless, we promise!

If you plan to apply, please know your social security #, bring a state ID/Driver's license, proof of any public benefits (food stamps), and green card if you are a greencard holder.

Feel free to contact Rebecca Son at 312-505-9371 for more information.

Bridgeport Chili Cook-Off

Sponsored by Jackalope Coffee & Tea and Pleasant House Bakery


A Tasty Benefit Fundraiser for Benton House!


Mark the Date!

Feb. 20 / 6-10pm / Benton House (3034 S Gratten)


Live Music! Delectable Chili! Friendly Neighborhood Competition!


Ready to astound Bridgeport's taste-buds with your secret chili recipe? Contact January at for information on how to compete in the cook-off!

This month's fundraiser will feature Benton House's after school audio electronics program. Benton House partners with After School Matters to provide this exciting educational program for local youth. Audio Electronics students will be showing off their sound engineering skills by running sound for live bands at this event.

Come by and see Benton House programming in action!

For those of you interested in our food assistance programming, will be offering personal tours of our Food Pantry.

Benefits from this event will help support Benton House programming. It's tough out there folks, the neighborhood deserves quality services!

Tickets: $10 pre-sale / $15 at the door

Pre-sales available soon. We will continue to update you with more details about this awesome event. We're very excited and you should be too!


Jackalope Coffee & Tea House

Pleasant House Bakery

Happy Birthday Gilbert!

On Monday, February 3rd, Benton House and the Bridgeport community came together for a joyful celebration. “What did they celebrate?” you might ask. Only the most important day of the year! It was the birthday of Chicago rock star and old-school music icon Gilbert “Elvis” Salazar. 

Gil turned 55! All of his fans showed up to pay him tribute. Benjamin Huey, local Elvis Presley impersonator, popped by to swing his hips and play some air guitar.

Gilbert Salazar has been a mainstay at Benton House for years, hanging out almost every day and providing much-needed security to the premises. He is happy, funny, and kind, and everyone in the neighborhood who is lucky enough to know him has a little extra light in their lives because of him. 

If you've met Gil, you know he loves Elvis, and he was showered with Elvis-themed presents, an Elvis cake (thanks Mark Lennon) and plenty of tunes. Happy birthday, Gilbert! We hope it was a good one.

Soup & Chili Retrospect

Thursday, January 16th, 2014, was just as one would expect a day in Chicago to be in the post-holiday blues of winter. It was cold, it was snowing, it was a dark day and then a darker night. The slick ice had us all picking our ways slowly and carefully along the sidewalks...

Bridgeport's Nana helped raise funds for Benton House by donating tons of delicious eats for the Soup & Chili event.

Bridgeport's Nana helped raise funds for Benton House by donating tons of delicious eats for the Soup & Chili event.

However, in the Ramova Room of the Benton House's activities building, the Benton House staff found themselves warmed by many things – the hot, delicious soup served by Nana, the smiles and laughter of attendees, and most importantly, the incredible show of support from our community on a cold and blustery night. 

The Benton House has survived for over a hundred years strictly because its neighbors and friends have decided that it should. To see once again that this is still true moves us just as much this time as it did the time before, and the time before that. Seeing the friendly faces of Bridgeport (and beyond) going out of their way to make their city a better place by helping others is yet another affirmation of the good hearts and strong wills of the folks we are lucky enough to know.

Thanks to all who participated and attended, Benton House can continue providing food for a hundred families a week, host after school programs for dozens of youths, hold educational events, house a senior exercise class, and so much more! 

We cannot extend enough thanks to Nana for providing an array of soups made of organic and locally-sourced ingredients for free. This is not the first time Nana has supported us, and we are beyond grateful for their dedication to playing an active and positive role in their community. 

Benton House would like to thank all of the attendees, including Commissioner John Daley. We also want to extend gratitude to the business leaders of Bridgeport and volunteers who conceived of and helped organize the event. Thanks to them, we raised enough money to cover our operating costs this month. Our raffle (for a $50 gift certificate for Nana – also donated in kind!) raised $140 for our high school robotics team 4551. Last year was 4551's first, and they earned the the “Highest-Seat Rookie Award” at the Midwest Regionals, only barely falling short of qualifying for nationals.

The Robotic Rangers with last year's robot

The Robotic Rangers with last year's robot


In the next several months, we will continue to do one new fun and exciting event per month in partnership with local business leaders. The next is slated for February 13th. As the season progresses, there is talk of Jackalope, Maria's, Pleasant House, karaoke, Pi Day, and more. Keep your eyes peeled. See you next time!