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The Impact Survive Alive House Foundation Has Had on the City of Chicago



The foundation was formed in 1989 as a vehicle to donations and in-kind contributions from the private sector to the design, construction and operating support of the current Survive Alive House at 1010 S. Clinton Street.

At the time, the foundation was formed and a small makeshift facility had been built by firemen in a firehouse on Orleans Street near North Avenue. The house and the firemen who used it, mostly in their spare time to instruct area children, had nowhere near the outreach that the current facility does. Two of the firemen, Jack Schneidwind and Joe Figel, along with the commissioner at the time, Louis Gallante, contacted representatives of local businesses and other professional organizations to help them figure out how to create a bigger, more effective program.

Jim Werner, past president, Bernie Schroeder an executive with Brach Candy, and members of the Chicagoland McDonald's owners formed the foundation and the first board. Right out of the box, that group began contacting major insurance companies to start raising funds for a new, interactive Survive Alive House. At the same time, the City of Chicago committed a shell of a building at 1010 South Clinton to the program. The building had been a 911 call center and it was being abandoned. The main call center area was perfect in size for a 3/4-scale replica house.

Mark Kelly, businessman, was contacted to get involved, join the board and become the Survive Alive House architect. Over the course of about six months, Mr. Kelly worked with a city architect to create the design and construction drawings for the facility.

The city committed to creating the necessary support facilities for the public education staff that would eventually be committed these efforts.

As the construction drawings were completed and run through the building permit process, the fundraising committee had secured donations of nearly $200,000 to build the Survive Alive House facility. Only a portion of those funds needed to be used after the general contractor Morse Diesel agreed to volunteer all necessary labor to build the project and, through their subcontractor and suppliers, much of the materials.

The facility opened in the fall of 1990 and the foundation had a healthy bank balance that has since been used to fund additional fire safety programs, support the efforts of the public education unit at 1010 S. Clinton. Fund grants that help schools arrange transportation to the Survive Alive House facility, and generally propagate the messages of fire safety and prevention in the communities of Chicago.

Since the house was completed and additional houses were not in demand, our focus has shifted somewhat. The focus has expanded to an audience the goes beyond elementary school-aged children to adults and businesses.