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.
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 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 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.
If you would like to apply, please send an email to email@example.com describing yourself and why you think you make a good candidate for this grant.
Those nominating a young person are encouraged to submit a short letter of nomination outlining who the young person is and why they would make a good candidate for this grant. Applications can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Standard Application and Nomination forms coming soon)
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
Dorothy & Peter Pytel
$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
Nancy Goede & Jim Vondracek
Rachel & John Nielsen
Jean & Jim Nye
Carolyn & Ron Rahaman
Jean & Jim Schwab
Stephanie & Matthew Stuhlmuller
Thank you to our Business and Community Donors:
Brown Sugar Bakery
Keinika & Scott Carlton
CHAOS Brew Club
Lisa & Rich Hensey
Hyde Park Art Center
Hyde Park Chicago Village
Joseph Masonic Lodge #12, Lydia Chapter #1
Dorothy & Peter Pytel
The Revival Theater
Seminary Coop Bookstore
Small Shops Cycles & Service
Chris & Bill Tompset
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 email@example.com and begin reading more about the initiative Here.