For prospective homeowners in Garfield Park, Breakthrough’s Community Economic Development (CED) program offers a Home Preparedness Workshop series. The goal of the workshop is to increase housing stability in our community and to offer pathways and resources to homeownership. Thirteen participants completed the pilot program early last year.

The three-part series covers budgeting basics, understanding and improving credit, and the home-buying process. Breakthrough partnered with Geraldine Blair, CEO of Garfield Park Community Development Corporation, for homeownership instruction and Wintrust Financial for financial coaching and education.

Wintrust Partnership Brings Resources

Breakthrough is grateful for our partnership with Wintrust. Through this partnership, Matt Gambs, Senior Vice President at Wintrust, sits on the CED Cabinet and provides insight, recommendations for programmatic growth and opportunities, and connections with Wintrust employees. Their resources, such as the Money Smart education program and one-on-one financial coaching, have been important for prospective homeowners in Garfield Park and beyond. 

“Wintrust is our partner to talk to, coach, and educate all of the homebuyers who are taking the class. They are our go-to for anybody that comes to Breakthrough looking to buy a home,” says Wilonda Cannon, Chief Program Officer of Community Economic Development. Wilonda is actively involved in both local community and real estate spaces and has also been invited by Wintrust to speak to groups about homeownership. She says, “It’s a beautiful tapestry of relationships between myself, Community Economic Development, and Wintrust.”

Wintrust’s involvement at Breakthrough is part of a larger commitment to local communities. In 2021, Wintrust provided more than $10.2M in donations and more than 20,000 volunteer hours of financial education training. As part of the Advancing Banking Equity Commission, their approach to philanthropic action is derived from and in partnership with communities and incorporates the ideas of local residents.

Motivated to Support Participants’ Goals

The homeownership workshop was one of the pilot programs (the other being Small Business Development) launched by Community Economic Development last year. The goal of the pilot programs, Wilonda says, is to “really understand what the appetite was, where people were along their journey, what they were interested in, and how we can tailor our programs to meet those needs. I think they allowed us to do that.”

Community Economic Development program participant shakes hands with Chief Program Officer Wilonda Cannon at graduation ceremony.
Chief Program Officer Wilonda Cannon shakes hands with a Community Economic Development participant at a graduation ceremony this winter.

All of Breakthrough’s Community Economic Development services seek to support the goals and strengths of Garfield Park residents. CED provides services across five key domains: employment counseling, financial coaching, income support counseling, housing access, and small business development. Last year, Breakthrough partnered with 356 people to foster financial wellness. You can learn about the program and current offerings at