Justice Teams in several of our communities have taken off! All are working to provide "best practice" resources to municipalities, engage our partners and increase civic engagement among the teams.

To organize a Justice Team in your community, contact Gail Schechter
(847) 502-3194 or ghschechter@gmail.com

  • Deerfield

  • Evanston

  • Highland Park

  • Lincolnwood

  • Morton Grove

  • Northbrook

  • Park Ridge

  • Skokie

  • Wilmette


The Deerfield Justice Team is working on affordable housing and education.


The Evanston Justice Team most recently met with the Mayor of Evanston on ensuring racial equity in all decision-making.

Highland Park

Curt’s Cafe Highland Park will open in 2019! The Highland Park Justice Team, a grassroots group of residents and religious leaders, culminated its 3-year effort to establish a Curt's Cafe in Highland Park, a first for Lake County, by signing a lease at 1766 Second Street, in early February 2019. Curt’s Café (Cultivating Unique Restaurant Training) is a nonprofit innovative hybrid education, restorative justice, transitional jobs and community building program that since its founding in 2012, has transformed the lives of over 250 young adults, aged 15 to 24, through its two Evanston cafés. Curt’s goal is to prevent incarceration and to reduce recidivism rates. With 97% of its students employed or in school after a year compared to only 14% of those exiting the justice system (and for a fraction of the cost), Curt’s is succeeding. The cafés are also bustling community gathering places.

From Andy Amend, Highland Park Justice Team (December 2018):

In late 2014 The Justice Project came into being. To honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a campaign was mounted to engage all Open Communities member communities in an effort to become more WELCOMING . The benchmarks to measure this quality fell under the pillars of Safety, Education, and Engagement. Each community chose its own way to enhance the quality of Welcomeness and Highland Park embarked upon the journey to bring a Curt’s Cafe to Lake County.

Curt’s Cafe, a not-for-profit entity, currently operating at two Evanston locations is a friendly place to meet friends, have meetings or talk about books. it is also a place where at-risk young adults receive education and training in both life and food service skills. This “Dine with a Purpose” establishment transforms the lives of young people (ages 15 - 24) who have been disadvantaged from the beginning and enables them to successfully re-enter and contribute to their communities. In its six and a half years of operation under the direction of Susan Trieschmann, Curt’s has transformed the lives of over 250 young adults while enriching the fabric of life among Evanston residents. In fact, it has become a source of pride.

As 2018 comes to a close, the Curt’s Cafe Lake County endeavor has raised enough funds to sign a lease, and begin whatever work is needed to open the cafe. The team that has worked on this project has grown from three Justice Project participants to a well-rounded group that includes people with various skill sets and representatives from area religious institutions. Everyone involved in this journey is dedicated to the original Curt’s Cafe goals, and to enhancing the fabric of life in our communities. We have more work to do and more money to raise, but we can now state with certainty that a new “community gathering place,” Curt’s Cafe, will be open in spring of the coming year.

We are very grateful to all of you who have helped in any way to make this possible.

The team is looking for:

  • faith leaders to get involved

  • volunteers

  • donations for the initiative

Contact us! Andy Amend, David Borris, and Alena Laube at curtscafehp@gmail.com


Lincolnwood founded their Justice Team and has collaborated with Morton Grove and Skokie.

Morton Grove

The Morton Grove Justice Team has organized annual interfaith walks and support for raising the minimum wage and providing sick leave to these workers.


Contributed by Debbie De Palma, ddepalma92@gmail.com, January 2019:

Following the success of the Justice Day celebration in Winnetka in 2015, and the Justice Summit that followed shortly thereafter, a group of activists involved in the Justice Project and several new recruits formed the Northbrook Justice Team. We met regularly to explore how we might promote the 19 Principles of a Welcoming Community in Northbrook. For several months, we focused on affordable housing, especially at a proposed new development at 1000 Skokie Blvd. Our efforts were ultimately unsuccessful since Northbrook has not proven to be a community that actively seeks to reach the 10% affordable housing goal written into its comprehensive plan. Northbrook regularly passes up opportunities to require developers to set aside units as affordable or contribute otherwise to the creation of affordable housing. Some members of our group continued to be active around local gun control issues, and there has been some progress in that area. Restaurants and grocery stores that sell liquor must now post no guns signs.

When members of our group became aware of the new Cook County minimum wage and earned sick leave ordinances, our Justice Team became very active in this issue. An Open Communities' staff member connected us with Arise Chicago, and our group worked quite intensively to try to prevent Northbrook from opting out of those ordinances. We printed flyers, stickers and yard signs, and joined forces with other local activists as the Northbrook Working Families Coalition. Northbrook did opt out of both, though two Village Trustees voted "no" on opting out of the earned paid sick leave ordinance. Members of NWFC continued appealing directly to Village Trustees through face-to-face visits, letters to the editor, e-mails, and especially by speaking during Village Board meetings. Toward the end of 2018, Northbrook Trustees voted to opt back into the earned paid sick leave ordinance, but later refused to opt back into the minimum wage ordinance, at least until the Spring.

The Village Boards’ unresponsiveness to voters’ opinions as expressed through local referenda, and the ongoing entrenchment of several Village elected officials drove some earlier Justice Team activists to focus on upcoming local elections -- to help ensure that candidates that support a more open and welcoming Northbrook community would be on the ballot. Some became involved with the Northbrook Caucus, which vets and slates candidates for the Village Board, Library Board, School Boards and Park District Board. One Justice Team member joined the Northbrook Community Relations Commission, and another joined the Board of Open Communities.

Our group later became involved in advocating for a proposed assisted living facility -- Heritage Woods -- with 25% of its units designated as affordable. Due to tremendous NIMBY pressures, that project was abandoned by the developers.

At this time, our members continue to monitor local elections and development issues (especially Meadow Plaza, Green Acres, the former Grainger property, which includes 10 acres near "downtown" Northbrook, along the railroad tracks). We look forward to working collaboratively with other groups to promote fair wages and working conditions, to address the need for affordable housing, to protect the environment, and to promote diversity and inclusion at all levels and in all sectors of our community. Some of us have become active with League of Women Voters, Curt's Cafe-Lake County (itself part of the legacy of the Justice Project in Highland Park), R.A.I.N. (Racial Awareness on the Northshore) and to promote greater civic engagement. Many of us continue to work on many issues that the Justice Project championed, and hope to re-focus our efforts after the upcoming election, when we hope Village Trustees and other elected officials will be more sensitive to the will of the voters.


Park Ridge

In partnership with the Park Ridge Housing Initiative (PRHI), the Team is in the procress of obtaining a house in Park Ridge that will be affordable to a family earning less than the area median income (AMI). Our goal is to raise awareness of the need we have right here in our community for lower priced housing.


The Skokie Justice Team is working on “integrating our diversity,” as described at the Skokie Community Forum of 2014, with a special focus on government transparency, racial diversity in representation, and affordable housing. Stay tuned!


Success! The Wilmette Justice Team helped bring about grassroots support for Cleland Place, a proposed affordable housing development on Wilmette Avenue approved by the Village Board. Working in coalition with the League of Women Voters of Wilmette and WIlmette Cares, the Justice Team also helped build support for an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave.