CHA Grants Boost Resident-Owned Businesses During The Pandemic

Tawanda Stange, owner of Ms. B’s Kitchen and Catering
Tawanda Stange, owner of Ms. B's Kitchen and Catering, is one of seven CHA residents awarded $5,000 grants from the public housing agency to help their small businesses mitigate losses from the pandemic. Since April, she's had to let go two of her employees. Provided courtesy of Tawanda Stange
Tawanda Stange, owner of Ms. B’s Kitchen and Catering
Tawanda Stange, owner of Ms. B's Kitchen and Catering, is one of seven CHA residents awarded $5,000 grants from the public housing agency to help their small businesses mitigate losses from the pandemic. Since April, she's had to let go two of her employees. Provided courtesy of Tawanda Stange

CHA Grants Boost Resident-Owned Businesses During The Pandemic

Ms. B’s Kitchen and Catering in the North Lawndale neighborhood sells Chicago-style favorites like pizza puffs. On other days of the week, owner Tawanda Stange cooks comfort food, everything from pot roast to oxtails to gumbo. Her Sunday Soul Food menu includes baked chicken, smothered pork chops and candied yams.

Stange, who learned how to cook at her grandmother’s house, started the business in 2017. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, she had to let go of two employees.

“It’s been really rough,” Stange said. “What has saved my business is catering. If it were not for that additional stream of revenue, I would have closed in April.”

The Chicago Housing Authority is giving a boost, too. Stange, a resident of the Henry Horner Homes, is one of seven CHA residents awarded a $5,000 grant for their businesses to mitigate losses from the pandemic.

“I’m still doing old-school things in the restaurant,” Stange said. She plans to use the money for modernization. Instead of writing tickets for orders, she is getting a computerized system that also takes credit cards. Stange will also use the money to establish an online presence.

CHA CEO Tracey Scott said 31 residents applied to the program. The public housing agency matched money given to the relief efforts from the Federal Home Loan Bank. In all, CHA will dole out $35,000.

Many of the resident-owned businesses are in the construction industry, and Scott said the program was specifically targeted to other types of small businesses.

“When we look at the kind of work they do, they’re providing jobs for their communities,” said Scott, adding there’s an impression that CHA resident-owned businesses aren’t sophisticated or equipped to deal with a pandemic.

“They are looking for ways to make sure their businesses survive the economic downturn, but they’re being thoughtful about the impact they have on the community,” Scott said. “There’s a mission that drives them in addition to being economically sound.”

In addition to Stange and Ms. B’s Kitchen and Catering, the other award recipients are:

  • Ebony Grover (Pearlie Sue Cleaning),

  • Deadra Howell (Howell’s Journey professional cleaning)

  • Noni Arnold (Helping Hands day care)

  • Irene Harris (Brilliance cleaning)

  • Xochilt Mejia (The Water Station health and wellness)

  • Kimberly Griggs (On The Move cleaning)

CHA does use some of the businesses for contracting, including $5 million last year for nonconstruction businesses. Stange has a major CHA catering order this week — 125 dinners for CHA seniors. Ms. B’s Kitchen and Catering will provide the seniors full Thanksgiving plates, including roasted turkey, smoked ham, cornbread dressing and deviled eggs. And sweet potato pie for dessert.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.