Our Mission

  • Open Communities' mission is to educate, advocate and organize to promote just and inclusive communities in north suburban Chicago. We seek to eradicate housing discrimination, in all of its forms and against all persons, because of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, disability, familial status, or source of income. We believe that fair, quality housing is a human right.
  • To further our goal of equal housing opportunities for all, Open Communities engages in activities that encourage fair housing practices including landlord-tenant and foreclosure counseling services, community education, and advocacy to make our communities more welcoming for everyone.

    The Story Behind Open Communities

    Open Communities has its roots in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. A group of young mothers in Wilmette, led by Jean R. Cleland, were worried that their children were growing up in a community that lacked diversity, and they began to discuss how they could organize for change. There were no fair housing laws at that time, and local housing ads often stipulated, "No Negroes, Orientals or Jews." These initial discussions gave birth to the North Shore Summer Project, an effort to persuade real estate agents in Chicago's northern suburbs to show and sell homes on a non-discriminatory basis. The project culminated with a rally on the Winnetka Village Green in 1965, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters, saying, "We must now learn to live together as brothers, or we will perish together as fools." We are very proud of our history.  

    The Welcome Movement

    A project of Open Communities, The Welcome Movement is an attitude. It’s the belief that suburban communities benefit economically and socially when they embrace people of all ages, abilities, races, religions, ethnicities and income levels. Open Communities calls on all north suburban Chicago residents to come together to foster welcoming, inclusive and just communities. We invite everyone to join the Welcome Movement! The Welcome Movement is collective action. It’s the common ground on which individuals, organizations, congregations, businesses, and government entities stand as they support current and potential residents in living where they choose. The Welcome Movement is an outlet. It offers opportunities for residents with diverse backgrounds and circumstances—-including those who might otherwise be marginalized—-to work together in everyday civic life to build neighborly suburban communities.

    Our Community | Serving Yours

    Our expert staff members provide direct housing services to individuals. They also conduct community education, grassroots organizing, and monitor and take action on housing, economic and social justice issues facing north suburban communities. Members of the staff can speak Spanish as well as English. Members of our Board volunteer their time and resources to assure that the community is fully represented and engaged in the work we do.

    Board Members

    • Lesley Williams, Co-President
    • Alisa Kaplan, Co-President
    • Anita Zawodniak, Secretary
    • Herb Brenner, Treasurer
    • Bobby Burns
    • Emily Love
    • Loretta Sortino
    • Dilnaz Waraich