Aquinas Literacy Center, a non-profit located in the McKinley Park Community, provides English-language literacy instruction. The program relies on volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring, conversation classes, writing workshops, book clubs, computer learning opportunities and job assistance programs. The mission is not only for participants to improve their English-language literacy, but also achieve their personal goals. 

SBIF Grant (Archer/Western TIF) Program a Great Fit

When Aquinas Literacy Center moved into its current space in 2017, with the goal of creating a welcoming, inclusive learning environment for both participants and volunteers. The Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF), administered by SomerCor, supports both small businesses and non-profits with permanent building improvements, and was a great fit for this project.

“When we learned of SBIF, we shared the opportunity with the owners of our building,” said Alison Altmeyer, Executive Director of the Aquinas Literacy Center. “With their vision to improve the 35th Street corridor, our building was transformed with new windows, improved lighting and an overall modern exterior. Our learners, who are all adult immigrants who wish to improve their English-language literacy, are proud of their school’s new look.”

Permanent building improvements for this project  included the removal and replacement of siding, complete removal and installation of a new storefront system, including double insulated glass and a door.

Aquinas Literacy Center Open and Serving Learners

The Aquinas Literacy Center is open and serving the community. Prospective students, volunteers, and donors should visit or call 773.927.0512 for additional information.


Learn More About the Small Business Improvement Fund

Launched in 1999, Chicago’s Small Business Improvement Fund promotes economic development by providing reimbursable grants for permanent building improvement. Landlords, owner/operators, and tenants (with landlord approval) are eligible to apply. Residential projects are not eligible.

SomerCor is the program administrator contracted by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. Learn more about the program and apply by visiting