Four Nonprofits Unite to Save Lives on South and West Sides.

‘Justice Rising: Project 77’ connects Breakthrough, BUILD, Lawndale Christian Legal Center and New Life Centers

CHICAGO (September 7, 2021) – Four neighborhood-based nonprofits today announced a new partnership to strengthen public safety via holistic social services and restorative justice, while also providing free attorneys to court-involved children and young adults.

The goal is to break the cycle of arrest, incarceration and recidivism by addressing underlying issues that can lead to negative behavior – and ultimately expand this model to all 77 Chicago neighborhoods. Because the cycle ruins young lives, destroys families and harms communities, the expectation is that every successful client will mean improved public safety and quality of life for all.

The initiative – Justice Rising: Project 77 – consists of the following organizations:

•      Breakthrough in East Garfield Park
•      BUILD in Austin
•      Lawndale Christian Legal Center in North Lawndale
•      New Life Centers in Little Village

The partnership will assign free attorneys to clients who have pending cases in the juvenile and adult courts of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Clients will be connected to services for employment, school, trauma counseling, health care, mental health, entrepreneurship, mentoring, housing, spiritual guidance, sports, violence prevention and substance use.

Attorneys will be provided by Lawndale Christian Legal Center, and the four organizations will share information about best practices to deliver their integrated legal and social services. The initiative serves juveniles and emerging adults who have not yet reached their cognitive peak, meaning clients must be under 25-years-old.

The partnership will promote restorative justice in all neighborhoods where clients are served, seeking to restore the client, the people affected by harm and the community. All four organizations share the same values of supporting people, relationships, community, collaboration, innovation, restorative justice and racial justice.

Leaders of the four organizations issued the following statements:

Yolanda Fields, Executive Director of Breakthrough: 
“Collaboration is an essential solution to dismantling the inequities that exist in our community. Our ability and desire to partner with these three organizations demonstrate our deep belief in and commitment to restorative justice and community healing. Our most vulnerable young people deserve to have opportunities to transform their lives.  Breakthrough will do its part in helping to facilitate that change.”

Andres Alvear, Chief Program Officer at BUILD:
“BUILD is excited about the deeper legal support we will be able to provide our youth and their families through this partnership with the Lawndale Christian Legal Center. Our goal has always been to help young people overcome systemic obstacles and become the best versions of themselves, and many end up needing help navigating our complex criminal justice system. This partnership with LCLC will bring help right where it is needed most, bringing us all closer to our goals of safety and justice for all.”

Cliff Nellis, Executive Director of Lawndale Christian Legal Center:
“Restoring the community begins with being part of it. That’s a founding principle of the Lawndale Christian Legal Center and a guiding light for our new partnership. We know we can do better together and that neighborhood solutions begin with more opportunities for individual advancement. We know where the policies of the past have brought us – the harm that has happened and the lives lost to prisons and cemeteries. We know this collaboration is the future of stronger neighborhoods. It’s the answer. And when we make it work in these four communities, we’ll be ready to work with partners in any of the city’s 77 neighborhoods.”

Matt DeMateo, Executive Director at New Life Centers of Chicagoland:
“The past 18 months have been extremely difficult. Our neighborhoods have been hit hard by COVID-19, violence and injustice. Our young people need hope, healing, restoration and justice. Justice Rising will work to transform the systems around us, focus on wrapping around young people under 25 caught up in the criminal justice system, and build something new for the future. New Life Centers is excited to be part of the Justice Rising movement.”

Breakthrough partners with those affected by poverty on Chicago’s West Side to build connections, develop skills, and open doors of opportunity. With a hyper-local, 40-block focus in East Garfield Park, Breakthrough offers several services and programs for homeless intervention, youth development, and neighborhood transformation. Learn more at

BUILD (Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development) is one of Chicago’s leading gang intervention, violence prevention and youth development organizations, focusing on hard-to-serve youth in some of Chicago’s most challenging neighborhoods. BUILD’s mission is to inspire hope and offer opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures. Visit for more details.

Lawndale Christian Legal Center is the only holistic community-based legal practice in Chicago dedicated to the criminal defense of juveniles and emerging adults. LCLC provides services for individuals under 25 years old who are from North Lawndale. Every LCLC client receives services with a family-centered approach and a dedicated case manager who coordinates a wraparound support team of legal, social, psychological and job-training professionals. This on-the-ground program walks young people through, and then away from, the criminal justice system. Visit for more information.

New Life Centers are neighborhood-based hubs that exist to build the Beloved Community by connecting youth and young adults with Christ and community through mentoring, education, sports, peacemaking and food distribution. Learn more at