History

By The Hand has witnessed transformation within the lives of our kids—and as an organization.

<strong>We started with 16 kids</strong><br>and grew to 1,270 today
We started with 16 kids
and grew to 1,270 today

Number of kids served through By The Hand

Over a decade of loving kids—mind, body and soul

By The Hand Club For Kids began as a pilot program of The Moody Church. Soon after, By The Hand relocated to be in the heart of Cabrini-Green, at that time one of the nation’s largest housing projects and home to thousands of kids. Now, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is separate from The Moody Church, By The Hand is serving 1,270 kids from four of Chicago’s most under-resourced communities.


Organizational highlights: 2001-2016

  • 1997
    • May 12, 1997
      God revealed the vision for By The Hand Club For Kids to Donnita Travis, who felt called through prayer to start a holistic after-school program to help children have new abundant life (John 10:10).
  • 2000
    • 1997 to 2000
      Donnita volunteered at The Moody Church to help with ministry to children living in Cabrini-Green.
    • October 2000
      Donnita resigned from being the president of an advertising firm to launch By The Hand Club For Kids in the spring of 2001.
  • 2001
    • March 20, 2001
      Using classrooms at Moody Church, By The Hand began with 16 children from Cabrini-Green. Ms. Shanta, the first staff member, agreed to work without pay until donations were received. Donnita served as a full-time volunteer and continues to do so today. Donnita began sharing her God-given vision to serve 1,000 children by 2012.
    • June 2001
      Even though the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) declined many other nonprofit organizations, it agreed to lease the bottom two floors of a Cabrini-Green high-rise tenant building to By The Hand, recalling that Moody Bible Institute students had faithfully served the children and families of Cabrini-Green throughout the 1960s during rioting, shootings and turmoil.
    • September 11, 2001
      By The Hand Club opened its new location at 419 W. Oak St., in the heart of Cabrini-Green, expanding to 42 kids from every part of Cabrini-Green and Marshall Field Homes. Even though By The Hand was told that kids from rival gang territories could never be brought together peacefully, God used this to teach the children that they are all created in God’s image and should love and respect each other accordingly. By The Hand remained opened after terrorists attacked the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon even though many businesses and organizations closed, recognizing that the kids would be terrified and confused because they lived in high-rise apartment buildings. As a result, 9/11 turned into a day of prayer during which the kids were receptive to hearing about God and His love for them.
  • 2003
    • February 2003
      Outgrowing its space at 419 W. Oak St., By The Hand asked the CHA for a lease on the Lower North Center, a 24,000-square-foot building with classrooms and a gymnasium, located across the street from its current location. Negotiations had stalled, but God encouraged Donnita through prayer that a man would talk to her in two days about Lower North. Two days later, Franklin Ballenger, youth ministry partner, spoke to Donnita and encouraged her to pursue lease.
    • June 2003
      By The Hand started its Club For Big Kids (CBK), a high school program.
  • 2004
    • September 1, 2004
      For only $100 per month, the Chicago Housing Authority gave By The Hand Club a 5-year lease for the 24,000-square-foot Lower North Center in Cabrini-Green, allowing By The Hand Club to expand that year to serve 214 children. A week later, pipes in the 419 W. Oak building burst and flooded the building, which was demolished that December, making it obvious that God had provided By The Hand Club with a new place in perfect time.
  • 2005
    • March 7, 2005
      In response to the CHA request that By The Hand open a second location in the Altgeld-Murray neighborhood, By The Hand Club prayerfully agreed to if $600,000 was raised in 60 days to confirm the decision and provide first-year funding for the new club. CHA referred to By The Hand Club as their “most effective social service agency.”
    • May 6, 2005
      A final gift was received to reach the needed $600,000 and By The Hand Club announced that it would open a location in Altgeld-Murray.
    • July 2005
      By The Hand became a 501(c)(3) and formed a board of directors
    • September 2005
      By The Hand leased an empty police station from Chicago Housing Authority to open a second location in Altgeld-Murray with 66 children.
    • September 6, 2005
      By The Hand Club began serving kids from Altgeld-Murray at the local Park District while renovations were made to a CHA-leased property. The Club was serving 310 students at two locations.
  • 2007
    • April 2007
      By The Hand Club felt God’s leading to open a third facility in Austin, one of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods. A general contractor friend introduced By The Hand Club to a newly renovated church owned by Chicago First Church of the Nazarene. The 8,000-square-foot-facility was located at one of the most dangerous corners in Austin—the perfect location for reaching kids from the neighborhood. By The Hand finalized the lease agreement over the summer months. Later the contractor shared that while he was renovating the church in 2005, he prayed that By The Hand would open in that facility.
    • September 4, 2007
      By The Hand opened in Austin with 132 kids. By The Hand was serving 500 children that year.
    • September 26, 2007
      By The Hand was out of space in the Altgeld police station when they heard that one of only a few privately owned properties in the CHA development was going on the market. It was an 8,000-square-foot Presbyterian Church on an acre of land at the front of Altgeld-Murrary—ideal for By The Hand Club For Kids. By The Hand was able to purchase the property before it went on the market and began renovations in October 2007.
  • 2008
    • July 2008
      By The Hand added a reading specialist to help children in 4th grade and up who couldn’t read; kids advanced on average two grade levels in reading during the 2008-2009 academic year.
    • September 2008
      By The Hand opened its fourth location in Englewood with 88 children in 1st to 4th grades.
    • September 1, 2008
      CHA extended By The Hand Club’s 5-year lease on Lower North Center by 25 years, resolving a long-term facility need in Cabrini-Green. While By The Hand Club had a long-standing and solid reputation with CHA, Alderman Walter Burnett was instrumental in negotiating the long lease asking CHA to “make a lasting place in Cabrini-Green for By The Hand Club.”
    • October 2008
      By The Hand Club moved to its new location in Altgeld-Murray and expanded to serve 154 children in Altgeld.  By The Hand Club also opened a fourth location serving 88 children in Englewood, another one of Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods. Overall, the club served 638 children that year.
  • 2009
    • August 2009
      By The Hand added a college specialist and started emphasizing college prep at CBK.
    • 2009 to 2010
      By The Hand Club was serving 176 children in 1st to 8th grades in Austin and was out of space. Unable to serve high school students without additional space, they began seeking the Lord while looking for opportunities to lease, buy or share space. After an exhaustive search, By The Hand launched its first capital campaign to build a new learning center in Austin. In Austin, the city of Chicago sold a facility with three vacant lots for $1 to By The Hand. After Donnita fasted three days, By The Hand received calls from two other property owners who offered to sell their lots. A fourth initially said “no,” but changed his mind after “everything started going wrong at his property.” In total, God blessed By The Hand with 17 lots from seven different owners, enabling By The Hand Club to begin construction in winter on a 26,000-square-foot ministry center for after-school programming, as well as community and ministry collaboration and instruction.
  • 2010
    • May 26, 2010
      Donnita Travis was named the Northwestern Kellogg School of Management Social Entrepreneur of the Year.
    • August 24, 2010
      The Austin location was overcrowded, noisy and had no room for its incoming 9th graders. While the Chicago First Church of the Nazarene offered to purchase the foreclosed house to the north, demolish it and install modular classrooms as an interim solution, they could not get any information from Freddie Mac, the holder of the mortgage. By The Hand called a supporter at Freddie Mac and within 24 hours the contract was signed, making it possible for By The Hand Club to stay at its current location while it built a new facility across the street.
    • August 31, 2010
      Sharing space with a school for the first time, By The Hand leased space at Wentworth Elementary School in Englewood, which had sufficient space to accommodate By The Hand Club when it reached capacity in Englewood. This allowed By The Hand Club to expand to 132 kids in 1st to 6th grades in Englewood, serving a total of 767 children at four locations.
    • September 2010
      By The Hand started CBK in Austin and Altgeld to serve 9th graders.
  • 2011
    • March 8, 2011
      Mayor Daley gave Donnita Travis the Sage Award for her work with women and children in Chicago.
  • 2012
    • June 11, 2012
      Mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed June 11 By The Hand Club Literacy Day in the city of Chicago.
    • September 2012
      By The Hand Club crossed the milestone of enrolling 2,500 kids over last 11 years.
    • October 31, 2012
      By The Hand broke ground for its new Austin center to accommodate kids in 1st grade to 12th grade.
    • December 17, 2012
      By The Hand holds official Groundbreaking Ceremony for its new Austin center.
    • December 2012
      Donnita Travis was named Chicago Magazine Chicagoan of the Year.
  • 2013
    • June 4, 2013
      By The Hand kids, along with several dignitaries, families, friends and staff, “crossed over” from our old By The Hand Austin building to a gleaming new $6 million, 26,000-square-foot center that is being called the “gem of Austin.” The nationally acclaimed Marching Band of Proviso East High School led the way.
    • September 2013
      Trinity Christian College opens campus at By The Hand Club — Austin
  •  2014
    • December 17, 2014
      CPS gave Moving Everest a charter to open a K-8 school in Austin to serve 810 children. By The Hand will serve the ME children in the after-school hours
  • 2015
    • January 30, 2015
      By The Hand Club broke ground on a three-story, 50,000 SF building to serve students attending ME Charter School during the day and By The Hand in the after-school hours.
    • August 20, 2015
      Austin children, parents, friends, neighbors and public officials celebrated the opening of the $12 million By The Hand Club and Moving Everest Charter School with a ribbon cutting.