CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago is celebrating a new workforce center, with hopes that it will serve the Chatham community in many different ways.
City, county and federal leaders collaborated on the Chatham Education and Workforce Center project. Tuesday, they said they're celebrating a moment of "hope and opportunity" with the center's grand opening.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinckle, Congressman Bobby Rush along with other elected officials and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership got a tour of the new center at 640 East 79th Street.
They hope the 11,000-square-foot state-of-the-art center will help revitalize the Chatham neighborhood and become an engine of economic development.
The building features a flexible space for community groups, classrooms, office space and access to more than 20 programs and initiatives where people can learn skilled trades and computer coding and then get access to career counseling.
"I want to say to the employers who are watching or who will be listening, don't pass this moment by. The people who are here, the people who are trained, are dedicated, hardworking individuals that deserve to have doors opened to them," Mayor Lightfoot said.
"The opening of the Chatham Education and Workforce Center is a boon to the South Side. I have long said that we must invest in our communities if we are to achieve the just, equitable world which we all seek," Preckwinkle said.
Local leaders attributing the development of the center to Congressman Bobby Rush, who led an effort to create something positive in communities gripped by violence after a terrible tragedy that happened in the Chatham neighborhood back in 2014 when special education teacher Dr. Betty Howard was struck by a bullet as she sat inside a real estate office. Police said there was a gang dispute outside.
Her family was at the grand opening Tuesday. The center was built with public funds and private donations and opened in her honor, just blocks from where she was killed.
All services provided at the center will be free of charge.