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Normal-based nonprofit secures $2 million grant to continue services for Illinois immigrants

Immigration Project in Normal exterior
Ryan Denham
The Immigration Project's office is located at 211 Landmark Drive in Normal.

The Immigration Project just got a $2 million boost from Yield Giving, a philanthropic initiative founded by Mackenzie Scott. The unrestricted grant is part of Yield Giving’s Open Call, aimed at rewarding U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that support under-resourced people and places.

Scott divorced Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in 2019, pledging to use her 4% stake in the company to support worthy causes “until the safe is empty.” The Immigration Project is one of 279 organizations nationwide to receive the maximum gift of $2 million. In total, 361 nonprofits were awarded grants through a year-long, three-part review process of more than 6,000 applicants.

The nonpartisan Immigration Project connects immigrants to legal and social services in 86 central and southern Illinois counties, with a headquarters in Normal. In some counties considered legal deserts, the Immigration Project is the only agency providing immigration services.

“We’re looking at making sure no one is forgotten in the in-betweens,” Immigration Project Executive Director Charlotte Alvarez said in a recent interview with WGLT. “There’s no ‘flyover country.’ There’s no ‘pass-through country.’ There are people in our communities who need help and services.”

Since 2020, the Immigration Project has awarded more than $6 million in direct relief payments to immigrant families. The new grant, however, will be used to bolster the agency's core mission to aid immigrants in navigating the legal process and adapting to their communities.

Alvarez is one of 21 women featured in WGLT's ongoing series 21 Women Who Shaped Bloomington-Normal. Under her watch, the Immigration Project has seen an eight-fold increase in staff and quadrupled its office space in Normal.

The Open Call program is administered by Lever for Change, a nonprofit affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and connected to Yield Giving. Since forming in 2019, Yield Giving has awarded more than $17 billion to nonprofit organizations.

Lauren Warnecke is a reporter at WGLT. You can reach Lauren at lewarne@ilstu.edu.