Cleanup focused on the Pilsen business district and industrial corridor.

Once again ESDC and partners hit the streets to do an all-day clean-up on Wednesday, August 25 only this time it was in 94-degree weather! The heat and humidity didn’t stop the community crew comprised of teachers, administrators, students, and members of a professional soccer team covering 28 blocks and 9 routes across Pilsen. Over 80 volunteers went through the neighborhood, picking up and collecting close to 40 garbage bags of debris to be hauled off.

ESDC partnered with Chicago House AC and Benito Juárez Community Academy along with Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, the office of Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, and others in supporting a healthy and clean neighborhood.

“A neighborhood transforms positively when stakeholders, community institutions, residents, and government come together for a common purpose,” says Salvador Cerna, Community Outreach Director for ESDC. “Today the message was loud and clear that a clean neighborhood speaks well of those who live, play, work, and study in it.”

This organized effort began at the grounds of Benito Juárez Community Academy, where teams of volunteers handed out garbage bags/pickers, gloves, shovels, and brooms.

In addition to refreshments provided by PepsiCo, youth volunteers also received a brief reflection of the day’s work, words of thanks, and appreciation led by the Benito Juarez Community’s “Trash Talkers”, Ms. Fernandez, and soccer students’ Coach Gomez from Chicago House AC.

ESDC Pilsen Street Cleanup serves to remind the community that picking up trash and refraining from littering makes a difference in the neighborhood and the future’s environment.

In doing so, it serves to bring together a diverse group of volunteers to take responsibility, feel pride and inspire a sense of commitment for a healthy community. To get involved in the ongoing cleanup effort, please contact ESDC’s outreach director, Salvador Cerna at or 312.733.2287.


Last week, Executive Director, Alex Esparza and Outreach Director, Salvador Cerna from ESDC and State Rep Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) went door-to-door to various businesses on 18th street in Pilsen to encourage them to apply for the $250M Back 2 Business Grant Program, which was launched on August 18.

“Thanks to Representative Mah and the General Assembly for supporting this continued recovery of small businesses across Illinois,” Esparza says.

According to the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, the $5,000 to $150,000 grant funds can be used for a wide range of operational expenses, including rent/mortgage payments, payroll, inventory, insurance, and more

“We want to let our local business owners know that this grant funding prioritizes those that did not receive RRF, PPP and other state funding and federal pandemic assistance,” Cerna says, “We will continue supporting government programs that provide incentives to our local business for sustainability and growth.”

Priority industries include restaurants, bars, clothing, electronics, barbershop, salons, gym/fitness centers, travel agencies, caterers, florists, printers, photographers/videographers, and others. To apply or view the eligibility guidelines, go to >>>

“The Back to Business grant will be a lifeline for the small businesses in the communities we serve,” said Representative Mah. “Some of these businesses were so small or so challenged by previous grant opportunities that they were not equipped to take advantage of them, or they were so severely impacted that they did not receive enough assistance. For them, this program came just in time.”

For information or to receive ESDC assistance in applying for the Back 2 Business Grant Program, visit


PILSEN, CHICAGO, IL (July 22, 2021) — Treasurer Maria Pappas and staff visited the offices of Economic Strategies Development Corporation on Thursday to highlight several of her data-driven Cook County property tax studies, property tax overview online tools, and foreign language informational brochures.

“I want to help Pilsen property owners get unclaimed property tax refunds and exemptions,” Pappas said. “There are people who are on our tax sale list, owing $1,000 or $1,500, and because now they’ve gotten their exemptions, they are no longer on the tax sale list. Their house will not be sold for property taxes.”

Pappas provided examples on how property taxes have climbed, local governments’ spending habits, from municipalities, Cook County government and school districts, and other trends. She also stressed that voters could change the dynamic if they get engaged in local government and school district spending and if they vote.

Following the meeting, Executive Director, Alex Esparza and Community Outreach Director, Sal Cerna from ESDC led Pappas on a neighborhood tour to meet owners at local businesses on 18th Street.

“I believe seeing Pilsen first-hand gives a different perspective than just seeing numbers, Esparza said. “Talking to homeowners and businesses lets you know how vested they are in keeping their property and doing business in the neighborhood.”

Property owners can visit to obtain information online for property tax refunds and missing exemptions.

  • Select the purple box labeled “Your Property Tax Overview”;
  • Enter your address and you will see a photo of your property;
  • Select “View Your Property Tax Information”;
  • Scroll down to see if you are eligible for overpayments or missing tax exemptions;
  • Check if your property is on the Tax Sale list of delinquent taxes.

Sonia Sauceda, daughter of Abel Sauceda owner of Panaderia Nuevo Leon

“We want to thank ESDC for bringing government programs and services to our doorsteps. As business owners, it is hard for us to access these services because of our busy schedules and long hours. It is comforting to know that organizations like ESDC can provide these critical links between us and the city, county, state, and federal governments.”

Julio Velazquez, owner

“I am very grateful for the treasurer’s visit, and for the good news,” speaking about the refund that he is going to receive from the Office of the Cook County Treasurer. “I hope she had a good impression of our business district and that she’ll continue to support us with resources and funds”.

To learn or be part of an upcoming public event where property owners can be assisted with this process, please contact Community Outreach Director, Sal Cerna at or call 312-733-2287.


On April 28, ESDC collaborated with 11th and 25th Wards and united with Obama Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, ComEd, Comcast, Wintrust, Diaz Group, and Benito Juarez High School for Pilsen Earth Day CleanUp Day. The ESDC Pilsen Earth Day Cleanup is another way to continue working with Pilsen residents and businesses but to stress the importance to reduce, reuse, and recycle no just one day but every day. Its purpose is to remind the community that picking up trash and refraining from littering makes a difference in the neighborhood and the future’s environment. In doing so, it serves to bring together a diverse group of volunteers to take responsibility, feel pride and inspire a sense of commitment for a healthy community. Read about Pilsen Earth Day and the Benito Juarez H.S. students featured in the Block Chicago article here.