We at the Reader know how to shed a light. From separate and unequal schools to the drug trade and its repercussions, from police brutality to abuses of TIFs, for more than 40 years we’ve been doing the kind of reporting that holds the city accountable. But we often feel there’s something missing in the way we engage with our readers when it comes to these stories. It’s not enough to “like” an article about Chicago’s cycle of violence, or to share one about the loss of affordable housing. All of us can help illuminate the problems, but the solutions are harder to come by.

That’s why we’re partnering with Public Good Software. For the past several months they’ve been working on a “Do Public Good” button — something like a Facebook or Twitter button for taking action. The button will eventually live on all of our articles that tackle big issues. If you see a story that sticks with you, you can click the button, and the folks at Public Good will connect you with not-for-profits working to solve problems. Once you find an organization you believe in, you can donate, volunteer, sign a pledge, basically contribute in whatever way feels natural to you. One note, we at the Reader are not involved in selecting the charities, nor do we benefit financially from this relationship. This is just our way of connecting readers to a marketplace where they can take action. Do you have a charity you’d like to see included, or do you run one that wants to get involved? Drop them a line; they’re currently expanding both causes and organizations.

To get you started, here are a few of the most moving stories in our archives. You’ll find the button on the bottom of each article. Right now we’re focusing on stories that relate to the not-for-profits Public Good Software has already signed up. As they add more causes, we’ll add more articles. If you think of any other stories you’d like to see rounded up here, let us know in the comments.

  • Guillermo Soto, a Wells security guard, graduated from the school in 2009. Disputes at the school usually aren’t along racial lines, he says, but taunts sometimes are.

The trials of a neighborhood high school

Wells Community Academy in West Town has disadvantaged students, many unhelpful parents, a bad reputation, charters nibbling at its enrollment—and some rare successes. Can it survive?

How to survive a shooting

Nortasha Stingley’s 19-year-old daughter, Marissa, was shot dead just blocks from her home. How do you get over a thing like that?

What can you do when your neighbor’s herbicide burns down your organic crops?

At Growing Home’s downstate training farm, they’re finding out that it’s not a whole lot.

  • Lathrop Homes, one of the country’s first public housing developments and the second in Chicago, was entered into the National Register of Historic Places in 2012.

The fight to preserve a model public housing project

Lathrop Homes, on the western edge of Lincoln Park, has long been one of the Chicago Housing Authority’s most diverse and successful properties. But today it’s a shell of its former self.

  • Inside the two 15-story high-rises in the ABLA housing development.

They came in through the bathroom window

A murder in the projects.

  • Hayley Himmelman (left) in front of New Trier High, and Jasmeen Wellere (right) in front of Hirsch Metropolitan High

Two students, two high schools, two divergent paths to college

Jasmeen Wellere grew up on the south side, Hayley Himmelman on the North Shore. Both flourished in their classes, but they’ve faced very different challenges—and been afforded very different opportunities.

  • Theaster Gates married his artistic talent with his civic responsibility when he turned an abandoned home into a library and archive that houses 60,000 slides, 14,000 books, and 8,000 albums.

Can artists save Grand Crossing?

Theaster Gates is fighting blight with artists-in-residence.


Heroin, LLC

The open-air drug market on the west side thrives in the same way that legal businesses do—by meeting demand, capitalizing on a cheap and plentiful workforce, and offering excellent customer service.

In Chicago’s war zones, the tragedy extends beyond the kids who die.

What toll does violence exact on the children who survive?

Toxic tour of Northwest Indiana

Photographs of environmental blight.

  • Jo Ann Henson holds one of the few existing photos of her father, who was killed 41 years ago during an altercation with a group of white teenagers.

The color of his skin

Joe Henson was killed because he was black. Forty years later, the daughter he never met is still searching for clues about his death. Part 1 of 2.

A missing gun, a wavering prosecution, and decades of regret. Part 2 of 2.


Addicted to guns

Is there a cure for Chicago’s crippling dependence on firearms?

  • The Global Gardens Refugee Training Farm sits on a city-owned lot just to the west of the river and Ronan Park.

Albany Park’s hidden refugee farm

Recent arrivals from Burma and Bhutan have built a teeming garden in the city.

  • Fisk Generating Station, 1111 W. Cermak

Chicago without coal

What would it take for the Fisk, Crawford, and State Line coal-fired power plants to close up shop? And what would happen if they did?

  • Duffie Clark on Peoria Street, near where Helene Navarro and Bobby Leonard were shot in 1971.

The price of intolerance

Racial tensions on Chicago’s south side had been simmering for years when, on September 1, 1971, the animosity boiled over—forever altering the lives of two men. Part 1 of 2.

Forty years after racial tensions escalated to tragedy in a south-side neighborhood, Duffie Clark maintains that someone else pulled the trigger. Part 2 of 2.