Keith Cooper Fund

Celebrating the Human Spirit

Keith Cooper

Keith Cooper, a long-time Hyde Parker, father and grandfather, Vietnam War veteran, jazz lover, and a very active member of Augustana Lutheran Church, was killed in July, 2021, in the Kimbark Plaza strip mall during an attempted carjacking.

Since the killing, to honor his memory, congregation members and friends have partnered with Hyde Park community leaders and family members to create a grant program, The Keith Cooper Fund.

Donate to the Keith Cooper Fund

You can donate to the Keith Cooper Fund through our website

From the homepage click “Donations” and then click the link to enter the secure payment gateway. Once there select the “Keith Cooper Fund -Donate” option, or directly through THIS LINK.

The Keith Cooper Fund

Mr. Cooper was a mentor to many young people, and he was known as someone who believed in transformation, making lemons into lemonade, as they say. He cared about people who were working to make a better life for themselves.

In this spirit, the Keith Cooper Fund has been established to give monetary awards of $500 to promising young people between the ages 16 to 26 who do not want to pursue a four-year college degree, but who want to find meaningful ways to support themselves, raise a family and build a good life. This effort will award grants to help young people counter the economic or social barriers they may face as they launch themselves in life. 

Grants of $500 will be made to young people to use to:

  • seek training in a vocational trade or certificate or licensing program through a community college;
  •  grow a startup business;
  • or launch a career in jazz or other performing or fine arts.

The fund is intended to reach beyond one congregation and involve people from the wider community.

Eligibility, Nominations, Applications

Any young person between the ages of  16 and 26 who lives in the City of Chicago is invited to apply themselves or be nominated by others.  

You can apply for a grant using this ONLINE APPLICATION.

If we think you would make a good candidate for a grant, we may ask you to choose a way to demonstrate your potential and plans by writing an essay, making a video, or presenting a detailed plan or a portfolio of your work.

To make a nomination, send a brief letter of recommendation to, outlining who the young person is and why they would make a good candidate for this grant. Feel free to reference the application above for further prompts.

Both applications and nominations are open for 2023 and will be received on a rolling basis for the time being.

FAQ- Can I use this money to apply to a program, OR do I already have to be accepted in a program? You can use this money to help you begin a program or project; often, that’s when you most need money.


Regarding Public Violence and Racism

Keith was such a good guy, but he was very aware that his life had been shaped and formed for the worse by racism. The way he dealt with that was to embrace the hope of transformation. Keith actively and continually faced racism and used that confrontation to strengthen his inner life. He felt empowered by continually learning about slavery and Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. He liked learning about African culture and he was proud of his African heritage. Because he had successfully navigated his way through barriers, he helped others do the same. He was a mentor to several young men, trying to help them turn their lives around. As one of his friends said, Keith made lemonade out of lemons. He actively practiced transformation in the face in a world that was built to ensure his failure. 

There’s a direct line between extreme, systemic poverty in so many neighborhoods and public violence that telegraphs frustration and despair. This is the line that the Keith Cooper Fund seeks to address. It’s a project to reach out to individual young neighbors who face significant barriers in launching themselves in a satisfying life. It connects poor communities with the considerable resources of Hyde Park and wealthier Chicagoans.

Additionally, The Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council, of which Augustana is a member, has created an “Anti-Violence Task Force” to seek to address root causes of violence in the surrounding communities. For more information please reach out at and begin reading more about the initiative Here. 

Previous KCF Activities

KCF Launch on Saturday  June 11, 2022

Our fundraising launch was Saturday, June 11, at Augustana from 7pm to 10pM for an evening of jazz and beer.  Jazz saxophonist Fred Jackson, Jr.  provided the musical program, thanks to the support of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. CHAOS Brew Club poured the beer.

Memoria de Memoria- Saturday July 23,  2022

Augustana hosted a meditative memorial performance for Keith Cooper and Chicago’s 793 homicide victims in 2021. The piece was composed and directed by Christophe Preissing of Non Op: Open Opera Works. The piece, created from troubadour melodies featured 12 voices of The Adrian Dunn Singers, performed on the weekend when Keith would have celebrated his birthday. The composition and production was supported by a grant of the Illinois Arts Council. For a review of the event please read This Editorial by an Augustana member who attended the performance. 

Thank you to our Sponsors:

$1,000 and above

Hyde Park-Kenwood Interfaith Council 

Lena Jessen

Dorothy & Peter Pytel

Elaine Worcester

$500 and above

Chris & Bill Tompsett

Rep. Curtis Tarver

$250 and above

Keinika and Scott Carlton

Lydia & Richard Kalb

Hyde Park Jazz Festival

Metro Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Other sponsors:

Susan Alitto

Ruth Bloom

Jeanette Bordelon

Grace Chan-McKibben

Nancy Dishno

Curtis Evans

Jay Franke

Nancy Goede & Jim Vondracek

Sandra Henley

Will Host

Margaret Huyek

Padraig McGuire

Judy Merritt-Morgan

Barbara Maloof

Rachel & John Nielsen

Jean & Jim Nye

Carolyn & Ron Rahaman

Jean & Jim Schwab

Stephanie & Matthew Stuhlmuller

Laura Williams

Gary Worcester

Thank you to our Business and Community Donors:

AnthroSpa Logic

Brown Sugar Bakery

Keinika & Scott Carlton

CHAOS Brew Club

Christopher Barnard

Jackie Bishop

Court Theatre

Lisa & Rich Hensey

Hyde Park Art Center

Hyde Park Chicago Village

Immanuel Karunakaran

Joseph Masonic Lodge #12, Lydia Chapter #1

Mira Krull

Malika Jackson

Nicole Jordan

Price Psychotherapy

Dorothy & Peter Pytel

The Revival Theater

Seminary Coop Bookstore

Small Shops Cycles & Service

Chris & Bill Tompset

Elaine Worcester