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We’re celebrating 15 years of Cleanslate!

15 years ago, we took a big step. Through a generous seed investment by Goldman Sachs, Cara launched our first social enterprise, Cleanslate, with a small but mighty crew of eight motivated job seekers cleaning the 79th Street corridor on the city’s south side.

Today, you can find a Cleanslate crew hard at work in more than 40 Chicagoland communities and we’ve beautified our city, removing more than 18,000 tons of garbage and recycling from our streets. More importantly, we’ve created a launching pad to real and lasting success. Since that first day, Cleanslate has created or helped secure more than 4,600 jobs for people who are ready to lift themselves out of poverty and homelessness.

To celebrate 15 years of transforming the landscape of our communities, we are sharing 15 key moments in Cleanslate’s history. Thank you for taking a step with us and supporting our Cara and Cleanslate job seekers!

No. 1 – One Executive’s Vision

In 2005, Mark Carroll begins a one-year social purpose fellowship from Goldman Sachs. Inspired by the Doe Fund in New York City, he creates Cleanslate. Cleanslate launched by providing sidewalk cleaning services for the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

Learn more about the history of Cleanslate.

No. 2 – Expanding Our Services

In 2006, we expand our services to include snow removal and landscaping services. Today, these services bring more than $400k in annual revenue for Cleanslate and we shovel more than 5,700 tons of snow a year.

Learn more about the variety of services Cleanslate offers.

No. 3 – Our Four Pillars

In 2006, we are hired by our four pillar customers: Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Quad Communities Development Corporation, Illinois Medical District, and Uptown United. We are honored to have such amazing partners and we are proud to be a part of the fabric of these communities.

Meet a few more of the customers Cleanslate works with.

No. 4 – $1 Million in Revenue

In 2007, we cross our first major revenue milestone of $1 million. By that point, we had already expanded to eight neighborhoods including South Shore and Wicker Park/Bucktown, where you can still find us today!

Check out this throwback feature on Cleanslate produced for Fox Chicago by our friend Robin Robinson.

No. 5 – Festival Fun

In 2008, we are hired by Big Buzz Idea Group to provide services for Ribfest Chicago. This eventually grows into Cleanslate providing our services and smiling presence to more than three dozen community events annually in Chicago and beyond.

Learn more about how you can hire a Cleanslate crew.

No. 6 – Community Heroes

In 2008, we are honored as one of the New Communities Program Community Heroes Award recipients from our friends at LISC Chicago. “These groups are getting it done in their communities every day…These are the people who don’t say no when duty calls…They just keep on doing right because it’s the right thing to do,” said Earnest Gates, Executive Director of the Near West Side Community Development Corp., in remarks that night.

Are you interested in becoming a community hero? Learn more about how you can join Cleanslate.

No. 7 – 1,000 Jobs

In 2010, we create our 1,000th job for people ready to lift themselves out of poverty and homelessness. Today, Cleanslate creates more than 400 transitional jobs annually and provides the workforce training and experience needed to secure permanent, gainful employment.

Learn more about our annual numbers.

No. 8 – Hub Sweet Hub

In 2011, we relocate to our current Hub at 1540 S. Ashland. This new space allowed us to store our vehicles, equipment, and supplies in a safe climate-controlled environment. We were also able to set up a computer lab for our job-seeking interns, host tours of our facility, and provide a more desirable working environment for our growing team.

Learn more about our history.

No. 9 – See You in the Suburbs

In 2013, we win our first suburban contract and get to work beautifying the Oak Lawn community. Today, you can find a smiling Cleanslate crew in more than a half-dozen areas beyond Chicago.

Learn about our operation areas in our most recent Performance Update.

No. 10 – 2,500 Jobs and 10 years

In 2014, we celebrate the creation of our 2,500th job! Shortly after that, we celebrate Cleanslate’s tenth anniversary by bringing our community together for a special Motivations and reception. Cook County Board President (and former Cleanslate customer) Toni Preckwinkle emceed the event, which saw our first Crew Chief in attendance and awards given to our four pillar customers.

View photos from the celebration on Cara’s Facebook page.

No. 11 – A Leading Social Enterprise

In 2016, we are honored to join REDF’s National Portfolio of Leading Social Enterprises. This distinction not only validates our work on a national level, but also makes us a member of the who’s-who in the social enterprise space. Additionally, their investment fueled our growth spurt as we exited the Great Recession.

View REDF’s case study on Cara and Cleanslate.

No. 12 – Taking Back Our Streets, Ward by Ward

In 2017, we launch our Ward by Ward initiative, which is a sponsorship-based program designed to fund Cleanslate crews in our communities most vulnerable to violence in order to create jobs – and thereby peace. In three years, we have placed crews in the 27th, 29th, and 6th Wards, creating 156 permanent and temporary jobs, thanks to the support of several generous funders.

Watch this video featuring Cleanslate alum Cornell produced by our friends at Chicago Ideas.

No. 13 – $3 Million in Revenue

In 2018, we eclipse $3 million in revenue for the first time thanks to a growing wind at our back with a then-relatively new partnership with Chicago CRED, the addition of Ward by Ward, and securing a partnership with Chicago Neighborhood Rebuild, which enabled us to better focus our recruitment efforts on Chicago youth residing in the three highest crime police districts.

Watch members of Cleanslate join CRED CEO Arne Duncan on CSPAN as he addresses the issue of gun violence with the Brookings Institution.

No. 14 – Aloha, Aurora

In 2019, we expand into Aurora, Illinois, thanks to a partnership with Hesed House, the second largest homeless shelter in the State of Illinois and the largest shelter outside of the city of Chicago. Since this launch, Cleanslate has employed 36 crew members.

Read Chicago author Neil Steinberg’s article on Cleanslate written for the Chicago Sun-Times.

No. 15 – Go Gary!

We celebrate 15 years of transforming the physical and social landscape of our communities with the launch of our newest crew in Gary, Indiana. This move is part of a larger $1.2 million investment in the revitalization of the downtown Gary community through the city’s Gary Go Team initiative – which envisions community regeneration and a resetting of city standards through key focus points including employment, litter remediation, and job training.

Learn more about this new partnership and the impact it brings to the Gary community.

Your support of Cara helps fuel the work of Cleanslate. As we celebrate 15 years of transforming the physical and social landscapes of our communities, please consider making a donation at www.caracollective.org/donate. Plus, for the month of June, any donation to Cara will be matched dollar for dollar up to $20,000 thanks to a generous match from The Bartley J. Madden Foundation, making your gift twice as nice.