The StreetSweep Program, approved by the TIF Council in January 2003, then disallowed by the city, now replaced by approved CleanSlate- and it came to pass, we hope not to pass away.

A service of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference, its Development Zoning and Preservation task force, and its website, Help support our work as watchdog, forum and clearing house: Join the Conference.

Back to TIF News. PDF TIF Funding Proposal for Cleanslate 2008 (with background.)

Contacts: CARA-
Cleanslate., 773 858-7622,

SECC in late spring 2013 hired CleanSlate to clean several South Side streets, including 57th (the only street in Hyde Park) and install banners and planters. 53rd and Lake Park are NOT included.

In summer 2014, The SSA 61 (special service area tax district for 53r and 5th St.) rehired CleanSlate after competitive bidding.

Cleanslate appears to have been swept aside for the duration of the 53rd TIF (unless an SSA is set up) due to the tightness of the TIF leverage for Harper Court. People say the notice the difference!! The program is part of CARA and provides job-ready training and motivation for those with obstacles to employment including personal, lack of experience, or former incarceration. Last funding was in 2010 ($217,000 - including extension into 2011 and an increase to cover 30 employees) for sidewalk pickup and snow up to six days a week along 53rd, Lake Park and sometimes Metra embankments and side streets. Service stopped in the middle of 2011. However, it wasn't noted officially until September's TIF meeting, when it came out that tax assessment had been shifted somewhat to residential, making it possible that there would not be enough input into the TIF funds to cover Cleanslate in addition to everything else committed. The same problem is faced by the Small Business Improvement Fund for businesses in TIFs.
According to the Herald, the October TIF report shows a funding at $91,600. 2009's "job training" was $157,000, the 2011 difference representing the 60,000 increase in payment and days approved at the start of 2011. Payments to Cara were stated by the city to be $74,917 in 2009 and $227,895 in 2010.

Clean Slate's contract renewal was approved at the March 9, 2009 TIF meeting. $157,000.
In early 2010 proposal options were submitted to extent the current price or include $87,000 for more days, snow removal, and use of a powerwash machine. Approved by the Repair and Rehabilitation Commitee March 27 and comes up again at May TIF meeting. Here is a summary from the March 8 Minutes:

Update on Cleanslate Program by the Cleanslate Team: A short presentation was given by Natalia Wright Assistant Manager of Operations for Hyde Park, John Rush, Managing Director, and Logan Quan, Business Contracts Manager. Together, they presented a proposal tot he community and Council for services for next year. A summary of the proposal: Create 30 permanent jobs, up from 24, and that they were branching into property reservation service. They wil also add an extra day of serice's, Saturday to the current service schedule, all while maintaining 2009 funding request levels. The proposal was presented in response to the challenge from the Chairman to be "bold and ambitious" next year in creating additional jobs through additional services.

The proposal will now go to the Repair and Rehabilitation Committee, to be voted on by the full Council at the May, 2010 meeting. This meeting will be held at the New Op Shop, located at 1530 E. 53rd St. 53rd Street (Hollywood Video building) on March 27, 2010 at 9 a.m.

A short Q/A followed (Council member questions are initialed and bolded):

(Q). How are recyclables handled? (CT)
(A). CleanSlate uses its own carts for recyclables.

(Q). What is CleanSlate doing in Pullman [Neighborhood]" (AM)
(A). CS is working with Park National Bank (now US Bank) to clean near the Ryerson Plant.

(Q). Walking from 53rd to 49th Streets on Lake Park, why are there not garbage cans on the west side of the street?
(A). Mae wilson, from the Alderman's office made a call to Streets and Sanitation, and will follow up on this.

(Q.) Will you clean bus shelters?
(A). Cleanslate will clean and make paths to shelters on snow days, and clean around shelters on regular days.

(Q). How do you get interns? What is the contact process?
(A). We work with referral services. There is also information in the packets that were handed out.


CleanSlate won a $20,000 cash award as a winner of a Chicago Neighborhood Development Award from LISCChicago.

On the CleanSlate Initiative, by Jane Comiskey, HPKCC board and 53rd St. TIF Advisory Council. December 2006 Conference Reporter.

Ed.- Alderman Preckwinkle asked and received a $150,000 appropriation for CleanSlate startup in Hyde Park at the January 8, 2007 TIF Advisory Council meeting. In succeeding years, the city expects more and more of the costs to be borne by other revenue sources. It's already in action with 30-40 participants and working out of a building on Cottage Grove at 48th Street.

CleanSlate Coming to 53rd Street

CleanSlate is a wonderful idea that is la win-win situation for both the community nd th participants. It is a beautification (clean-up) program providing on-the-job training and support services for students in the Cara Program. These students face employment problems because of criminal histories and incarceration for non-violent offenses.

The program started in 2005 and is currently operating on 39th Street, 43rd Street, 47th Street, and Cottage Grove from 39th to 51st street, and also on Drexel Boulevard from 30th to 51st Street. Hopefully, at the January TIF meeting, the council will approve a one-year trial in our neighborhood, to be paid for with TIF funds if it qualifies under the TIF guidelines.

Founded in 1991, the mission of the Cara Program is to assist homeless and at-risk populations in their efforts to achieve real and lasting success by providing comprehensive training, permanent job placement, and critical support services. To be accepted in Cara, interns must complete 4 weeks of intensive training and be willing and determined to transform their lives. They clean up the designated area for a period of time (average 121 days), and then are place in permanent jobs so there is a constant recycling of workers. This program helps the community by cleaning the streets (primarily 53rd street and neighboring TIF-district areas) and also helps the participants graduate to permanent employment. Truly, win--win for all of us.

May 2009: In other business, the council revised its earlier budget for Cleanslate, which provides neighborhood cleanup services. The program also helps people with troubled employment histories transition to permanent, stable jobs. Teh $157,000 allocated at the council's March meeting was scaled back to $150,000 since Cara, the organization that sponsors Cleanslate, chose not to include power washing in its menu of services for the neighborhood.

From the January 208 TIFormation report

Cleanslate Sweeps in Praise.

(pic: Cleanslate crews serve the 53rd St. business district five days per week.)

(quote: "53rd St. Vision Workshop participants rated a visually clean and attractive street as a top priority. Cleanslate clearly supports that objective." Howard Males, Chair, 53rd st. TIF Council)

"The streets certainly look cleaner," said resident and TIF Council member Jane Comiskey. "Cleanslate is one of the best programs the community has had in a long time," noted Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference Vice President Gary Ossewaarde.

A cleaner 53rd Street is because Alderman Preckwinkle and the SECC introduced Cleanslate to the community. The TIF Council then approved $150,000 from the 53rd St. TIF to launch this program in 2007.

Both businesses and residents recognize the program's impact.

Clearly the businesses agree: 78% of businesses surveyed in September 2007 described the public areas of 53rd St. as "very clean" in contrast to the 19% that described the same areas as "very clean" in May 2007.

Further, Cleanslate interns move into permanent jobs. Already this year, over 35% of the interns have found permanent employment in the housekeeping, custodian, cashier/stocker and Cleanslate crew chief positions at an average wage of over $10.00 an hour.

The 53rd Street TIF district was established in 2000-2001 in part to fund improvement to the business district, including streetscape and cleaning. Breakthrough Urban Ministries already had a program here, succeeding a volunteer Saturday sweeping group. Much streetscape was done (by the city) and hanging flower baskets installed (funded by the U of C, businesses, and donations).In 2002 or 03, a company was hired to power wash the sidewalks (once; it may have been from TIF funds).

In 2004, the TIF sought to spend funds for street cleaning operated by CleanSweep, an offshoot of Breakthroughs Urban Ministries. The project, which cleaned 53rd daily, had been funded by the University of Chicago/South East Chicago Commission with contributions from local businesses via partner Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce. A proposal was prepared for TIF council funding.

Subsequent to TIF council appropriation for the program in 2004, the Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development ruled the spending inappropriate. And the project collapsed due to insufficient funding.

In mid 2006 it appeared that a city-approved vendor that recruits from the TIF's community could qualify for TIF money or from a Parking Improvement District. One of these is CARA-run Cleanslate. TIF committees, the Department of Planning and stakeholder groups have met with CARA and Cleanslate The cost is high- $150,000 a year, but the program is really well-run and helps the most redeemable homeless, setback, or ex-offenders with real-world skills and job placement. It also strictly accounts for trash removed and recycled. It's 80 percent charitable and community supported, 20% government. It works with Quad Communities/LISC and several specific neighborhoods that need a good image and pride to jump development and have a high proportion in the vicinity needing help and employment. Presently this are Uptown, Illinois Medical District, Quad Communities, and Auburn Gresham. The program wishes to expand via a Hyde Park node into South Shore, Grand Crossing.... it usually contracts with organizations in the communities with city contractual ties [editor not sure if this is what was said]. Alderman Preckwinkle supports this program. The program prepares a full audit quarterly for the neighborhood purchasers and the city, including how much recyclables recovered, employment and retention. Note that Cleanslate graduates average $8.84 in their jobs.


At the July TIF meeting, people said they could buy onto a parking improvement district and higher parking costs if some of the money went to a project that gave services and expressed our social mission--Cleanslate seemed to fit that bill.

In mid 2006, there are efforts to revive the program as soon as possible, with this being a prospect for stable funding from TIF and a recommended Parking Improvement District. CARA Cleanslate presented to the September 11 TIF council public meeting.

They have an office and assembly and storage location. Interns and their supervisors are vanned in and have a motivational session before starting their shifts. Interns are required to greet at least a hundred passersby a day where there is pedestrian street traffic. They are there partly to create a people presence, noticeable with their green shirts and their aprons.

Contacts: TIF- Irene Sherr. CARA-
Cleanslate., 773 858-7622,


What is Cleanslate?

Cleanslate Chicago is a neighborhood beautification business cleaning sidewalks parkways, public gardens and vacant lots. In addition, Cleanslate educates community residents and businesses about the importance of recycling and facilitates recycling efforts.

Cleanslate sets itself apart through its:

Cleanslate is, however, more than just a high-quality neighborhood improvement project. Through on-the-job training and internships, Cleanslate provides a real opportunity for individuals to learn and apply new skills, earn money, improve their long-term job prospects, and make a real difference in the community.

What does Cleanslate do?

Background to Cleanslate

Cleanslate is a social enterprise that grew out of the mission and success of the Cara Program. The Cara Program assists at-risk individuals to achieve real, lasting success through training, job placement and critical support services.

In spite of its long and proven record of success, The Cara Program faces the challenge of finding permanent employment for it "difficult to place" students. for example, 35% of students in The Cara Program have a criminal record.

Cleanslate addresses this challenge by providing a bridge to permanent employment. Cleanslate interns work in the context of "on-the-job-training." They learn critical work and life skills as they perform their tasks. Formalized classroom training is conducted daily to analyze and learn from situations that occur throughout the day.

Cleanslate provides marketable experience to interns and prepares them for permanent employment.

Details on the Quad Communities component. Cleanslate is currently responsible for Cottage Grove from 39th to 51st, Drexel Blvd. from 39th to 51st, 30th from Lake Park to King, 43r from Lake Park to Vincennes, 47th from Lake Park to St. Lawrence, 51st from Drexel to Forrestville. Local coordinator/referent is Kim English at Abraham Lincoln Center Centers for Working Families, 773 373-0365.

How interns are selected

Must first be accepted into The Cara Program and complete at least 4 weeks of training curriculum. Must be willing, motivated, determined to transform.
Drug-free an alcohol-free for a minimum of four months.
Mentally stable/ if diagnosed, taking medication, counseling etc.
21 or over.
Referred by an approved social service agency, community organization, or church.
Must have IL ID, Social Security Card and birth certificate.
Must have reliable child care and after school care.
Must have stable housing.
Must disclose full criminal record. Cannot except those with convictions for severely violent offenses.

Demographics (Quad Communities division): No convictions- 14%, Felony in past 5 yrs.- 52%, other felony- 29%, misdemeanor- 5%.
Incarceration: Never 52%, Formerly 15%, Recently 33%.
Education: Less than 12th grade 52%, GED 10%, HS Diploma 38%.
Gender 57% female.


Cleanslate program given OK

Hyde Park Herald January 31, 2007. By Nykeya Woods

A Tax Increment Financing (DTIF) Advisory Council approved $150,000 to use for a neighborhood cleaning crew along 53rd street at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Cleanslate, a neighborhood beautification program, will be funded for one year beginning in March through early 2008. The city's department of Planning and the Mayor's Office of Workforce Development will facilitate the fund transfer. The TIF Council is using part of its nearly $1.7 million reserves to pay for the program. "The city has agreed that we could use TIF resources to fund the first year. In subsequent years, the DTIF subsidy would be reduced." said Ald. Toni Preckwinkle (4th) at the meeting.

Preckwinkle also introduced the Transportation Enhancement District (TED), formerly the Parking Improvement district (PID), which will help to fund the Cleanslate after the first year.

This is the second time that the neighborhood has invested in a clean up crew. When the TIF District was put together, one of its first initiatives was a different clean program. The program, Clean streets, was funded by neighborhood business, but the program eventually fizzled out. "It proved progressively harder to get the business community to support this on a voluntary basis," Preckwinkle said. "And then we tried to get a clean streets program approval from the city Department of Planning."

Cleanslate employees will clean sidewalks, curbs and parks, empty garbage cans and promote recycling in the 53rd street TIF District. All employees are required to communicate with a minimum of 100 people per day.


On the job May 14 2007, Roll out party set for May 22 at Pizza Capri

From Robert C. Mason, Executive Director, South East Chicago Commission. May 11, 2007:

Dear Neighbors:

Cleanslate is a neighborhood beautification business that provides public way maintenance services to communities. Perhaps more importantly, Cleanslate provides a bridge to permanent employment for at risk individuals through its on-the-job-training programs.

Cleanslate launched its Hyde Park operation May 14. There will be a six to ten person crew, working three hours a day Monday through Friday in the 53rd Street TIF district. Currently the Cleanslate program operates in four Chicago neighborhoods: Auburn-Gresham, the Quad Communities, Uptown and the Illinois Medical District.

More than just cleaning, Cleanslate establishes a positive presence on the street. Interns in the program are trained to provide fast and friendly service, educate people about recycling, greet 00 persons daily, and respond to the local community's needs.

After meeting with Cleanslate representatives about a year ago, the SECC and the 53d St. TIF Council knew this was the program Hyde Park needed. since then Alderman Preckwinkle, the SECC and the 53rd Street TIF Council have worked to bring this service to Hyde Park in 2007.

The 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council approved the use of $150,000 from the 53rd Street TIF to fund this new program. Alderman Preckwinkle and the SECC are committed to identifying additional and alternative funding sources to help support and sustain this program in Hyde Park.

Please welcome Cleanslate into our community and join us at the Hyde Park Cleanslate program kickoff on Tuesday, May 22 at 9 am at Pizza Capri, 1501 East 53rd Street. Please do not hesitate to call with any questions.


Community-service program helps wipe slate clean

Chicago Maroon, May 22 2007. By Hassan S. Ali

Janet Thompson is not a bad mother. Her past would make some people think otherwise. At the corner of East 48h Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue in a modest office building that neighbors a local barbershop the middle-aged resident of the South Side's Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood addresses a group of about 50 of her coworkers and talks candidly about the reason she stands before them. "When I was 35 years old, I had two daughters,"{ Thompson says. "Then my sister introduced me to drugs."

It is 7 a.m. on a Monday at the Hyde Park offices of Cleanslate, a nonprofit Chicago corporation that aims to beautify neighborhoods through outdoor cleaning efforts while spreading a message of environmental responsibility. It is also where job-seekers with troubled or difficult pasts, including Thompson and dozens of others who share similar tales of drugs or crime, have turned ... for assistance in developing the work skills necessary to eventually secure permanent employment.

Cleanslate, which already operates in four Chicago neighborhoods, expanded its operations into Hyde Park last Monday, May 14, with 34 program participants tending to an area along East 53rd street bounded by South Lake Park and South Kimbark avenues.

An offshoot of the Cara Program--a coal organization that works to help homeless, at-risk, and recently incarcerated individuals find and maintain quality jobs--the Cleanslate internship program was established in 2005 to provide "a bridge to permanent employment" for what its mission statement defines as the Cara Program's "difficult to place" participants. About a third of Cara Program participants have a criminal record, and prior substance abuse is one of the more common reasons people like Thompson find themselves in the more rigorous Cleanslate program.

"I was a good mother, but I failed," Thompson tells the group, referring to the downward spiral her life took as a result of her past drug addiction. She shares her story as part of a motivation session that begins each workday, and input from the rest of the group is a critical component of the personal rebuilding process. "I'm trying to control my anger management," Thompson says. "Trying?" the rest of the group shouts instantly, causing Thompson to jump back in surprise. "I did control my anger management," Thomson says, correcting herself. "I'm here to stay."

Thompson, cheered on by vigorous applause, runs around the circle and gives everyone an enthusiastic high five before taking her seat. A Cleanslate group leaders yells out, "Who's got an inspiration this morning?" Another participant takes the floor and shares her story.

The message behind these intense, energized, almost cathartic group activities is simple, says Cleanslate Managing Director John Rush. It is all about providing participants with the motivation they need to seek a permanent change in their lives." The positive side is seeing individuals who've needed an opportunity... to get the soft-skills training they need to secure a job," Rush said. With average job placement for program graduates yielding wages of $10.50 an hour and a 70-percent job retention rate, Rush said the organization produces serious change for those involved. Last year, cleanslate placed 175 participants into employment, and judging by its first-quarter statistics, Rush said the group is well on its way to fulfilling its goal of placing 235 participants by the end of this year.

Unfortunately, he said, there are a few who choose not to follow through with the group's stated mission, eventually leaving the program. "To disconnect yourself from that larger network that's been given to you it's very disheartening," he said. But for the remainder of those individuals committee to positive change, the training is also a source of pride.

"We beautify the community, it's a positive thing," says Edward C. Young, a 30-yer-old father of four who's been engaged for two years. Wearing the program's distinctive neon green windbreaker jacket and a pair of work gloves, Young recalls the fulfilling experiences that have comprise his seven months in both the Cara and Cleanslate programs. "People look at what we do and compliment us," he says, adding that he gets a good feeling when he sees people in the neighborhood recycling. "I'm getting something much more than a paycheck. I feel so proud."

Reflecting on his previous Cleanslate work in the South Side's Auburn-Gresham neighborhood, Young described Hyde Park as "a whole different world.... beautiful." But like other neighborhoods, the work has elicited some common stereotypes from local residents and passers-by. Young said he and his coworkers are often mistaken for sanitation and city street workers or even prison inmates on community service duty. Nevertheless, he says, a friendly smile and a casual conversation about Cleanslate's neighborhood efforts promptly reverse those misconceptions.

In fact, despite the program's focus on people with troubled pasts, Cleanslate has stringent eligibility requirements, and participants must be drug- and alcohol-free for at least four months, have stable housing, and disclose their full criminal records, although the program does not accept people with convictions for severely violent offenses.

The process of bringing Cleanslate to Hyde Park began with a meeting last year between program representatives and members of he South[ East] Chicago Commission (SECC), a Hyde Park community organization, and the East 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Council, according to a press release issued by SECC Executive Director Bob Mason. the East 53rd Street TIF Advisory Council approved $150,000 to sponsor Cleanslate's Hyde Park operation for one year, according to Mason. Rush said that the program is working with community organizations, the SECC, and fourth-ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle to come up with alternative permanent funding solutions to keep the Hyde Park Cleanslate crews.

As the group prepares its gear to tend to an empty parking lot behind the Hollywood Video on East 53rd Street, Rush says that, while the program doesn't force religion on anyone, many of the participants rely on their faith above all else to get through the days.

Bony Brown, a Cleanslate and Cara Program participant since February 2006, attributes her enrollment in th program to divine intervention. Diagnosed in 2001 with breast cancer and recovering from a drug addition at the same time, Brown recalled the moment when she decided to free herself from the burden of her past. "God told me in a dream, 'I had to bring you out to bring you in,'" she said, calling her cancer diagnosis a blessing in disguise. "God has healed me," she says before excusing herself to attend the day's work ahead.


Life lessons learned while cleaning Hyde Park's streets

Hyde Park Herald, May 20, 2007. By Yvette Presberry

Dressed in bright light green shirts, dozens of workers are not only cleaning Hyde Park streets but also gaining life lessons to use at a future occupation. The workers promoted their actions on May 22 at Pizza Capri, 1501 E. 53rd st., with the official kick-off of Cleanslate Chicago, a neighborhood improvement program. From clearing recyclable debris from sidewalks to landscaping along 53rd Street, Cleanslate workers wil conduct cleaning services Monday through Friday in Hyde park for a year.

The workers, called "interns" in Cleanslate, are provided with skills to get entry-level jobs in non-cleaning sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing and administration. "It's a job readiness program," said Jesse Teverbaugh, Cleanslate's director of leadership development. Teverbaugh said that some of the interns are preparing for their first-ever jobs while others are former incarcerated felons attempting to re-enter the workforce. Others may lack education or work experience and need training to prepare themselves for the workplace. "We're talking about self-sufficiency," Teverbaugh said.

The interns are recruited from local shelters, jails, social service agencies and other entities so work can be done in the neighborhoods they live in. While working in Cleanslate, the interns must also search for permanent jobs for themselves. A weekly stipend of $180 is provided for each intern, and the workers can stay in the program for as much time as needed to gain job training. Teverbaugh said the work period depends on the intern's passion, career goal and other factors.

Hyde Park is now one of six neighborhoods in Chicago that is receiving cleaning services from Cleanslate. The others include Uptown Auburn-Gresham, South Shore, the Illinois Medical District in Chicago's Near West Side, and the Quad Communities that include parts of Oakland, Douglas, Grand Boulevard and North Kenwood.

Cleanslate is an initiative of the community services provider Cara Program, will assist Chicago's Streets and Sanitation Department in clearing debris from business areas while Streets and Sanitation continues providing its services in alleys and residential streets. "It frees up manpower to do other tings on the side streets," said Ruby Woods, 4th Ward Streets and Sanitation Superintendent. Woods said the duties include rodent control, sweeping sidewalks and clearing vacant lots. "Other services will continue," she said.

Cleanslate also provides safety awareness by greeting passersby in the streets. In addition, business owners and residents wil also be able to learn from Cleanslate how to recycle and what the benefits are."This is not just about trash. This is about our community," Teverbaugh said.

Cleanslate will run for a year, with $150,000 of funding taken from the 53rd Street Tax Increment Financing Fund. [4th Ward Ald. Toni] Preckwinkle said that she wants the program to become permanent, and alternative sources of revenue wil have to be located to pay for the continuation of the beautification program.

John Loftus added his thanks in May 28 Herald


Great success shown in Cleansweep Survey September 2007

Irene Sherr broadcast:

Cleanslate surveyed businesses in the service area in May when they first began to service the area. They just re surveyed businesses and the results are quite impressive and encouraging. It is no surprise to us that people are very pleased with the Cleanslate program. A few highlights:

76% of those surveyed in September described the public areas in the business district as ‘very clean’, while in May only 19% described it as such. Similarly 0% described it now as “usually unclean”, while last May 17% described it as such.
81% of those surveyed in September indicated that Cleanslate has had a ‘very positive impact” on their business
98% o those surveyed described Cleanslate’s ‘customer service’ as excellent.

In addition Cleanslate assisted with the 57th St. Children’s Book fair, and were a very positive presence. On September 23, 2007 Cleanslate and U of C freshmen participated in the U of C’s Community Service Day and cleaned the Metra embankments.

Perhaps more importantly, Cleanslate interns are moving onto permanent jobs. In 2007, of 42 interns in the Hyde Park & Quad Communities 20 have moved onto permanent positions. Cleanslate interns have been placed in housekeeping, custodian, cashier/ stocker and Cleanslate Crew Chief positions. For more information on productivity and employment please, this see the attached quarterly report.

We have asked Cleanslate to make a brief presentation at the November TIF Council meeting, as we begin to think about 2008. Please let me know if you have any questions. Irene.

Cleanslate indeed made a presentation and were roundly praised at the November 19 TIF meeting. Chairman Howard Males wore a chartreuse tee shirt. Refunding next year is virtually certain.

Cleanslate transforms. Herald, May 21, 2008. By Kate Hawley

It wasn't easy for Yvette Clark to find a job, given her criminal record for theft and what she called "attitude problems and body language problems." But last October she landed full-time work as a supervisor for Cleanslate, a citywide neighborhood beautification program that has operated in Hyde Park since February 20007.

These days she drives a truck through the neighborhood, making sure the roughly dozen people she oversees are pulling tape off light posts, digging paper trash out of the underbrush and emptying overflowing garbage cans -- and being friendly and approachable while they work.

Cleanslate was founded in 2005 by Chicago-area native Mark Carroll through a public service fellowship from his employer Goldman Sachs. Carroll created Cleanslate as an offshoot of the Cara Program, a Chicago nonprofit that finds work for people ho have struggled with addiction, uneven job histories, felony convictions or homelessness. An internship with Cleanslate pays minimum wage while providing a network of job connections and social services. It takes an average of 123 days to place interns in permanent jobs, according to Jesse Teverbaugh, director of leadership for the program.

Cleanslate has earned praise from Hyde Park business owners and civic leaders, garnering a community service award at the South East Chicago Commission's annual awards dinner on April 17. Clark was one of three Cleanslate staffers who received a sculpted glass trophy before a cheering crowd at the Grand Ballroom event facility...

It was welcome recognition for Clark, who set her sights on a job at Cleanslate more than a year ago and worked her way up through the ranks of the organization. She began by spending four weeks in a "transformation class" aimed at building teamwork skills and self esteem and then became one of Cleanslate's interns.

Her promotion to crew chief came after five interviews and some serious self-examination, during which she made an effort to pause before she spoke and keep a positive facial expression. "I ad to work at it every day," she said on a recent Tuesday, as she drove a Cleanslate pickup truck down Lake Park Avenue. "I still do."

The job requires her to keep a rigorous schedule, she said. She gets u at 3:30 a.m. each morning and is at Cleanslate's Near West Side headquarters by 5:30. That gives her plenty of time to do paperwork before the "Morning Motivation" -- a series of songs, testimonies and exhortations toward progress that begins each morning at 7 a.m. sharp.

Last Wednesday morning, the three-dozen people at Cleanslate's headquarters were on their feet, clapping,dancing and singing "I Heard It Through th e Grapevine: and "Ain't No Stopping Us Now." "Motivate me, that's my friend!" they shouted in unison, as one person after another took the floor to talk about behaviors they planned to change.

"When I first came here in February, I was a hot mess. I just had to have what I wanted whenever I wanted it," said Janetra Christian. "For the past three weeks, I've changed my whole attitude." "Go Janetra!" Clark shouted, as the other interns applauded. "I love my job," she said. "This organization is a young and growing company. Plenty of opportunities."