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Marco McCottry in Uber's Chicago office./Photo by Shia Kapos 0

With $1 million donation, Uber puts its money on Chicago

September 7th, 2017

Uber has ramped up its investment in Chicago, making a $1 million donation to Youth Guidance, a nonprofit that’s received national attention for its work with teens from troubled neighborhoods.

The donation will benefit the organization’s Becoming a Man (BAM) and Working on Womanhood (WOW) programs. Both have been praised by former President Barack Obama and Mayor Rahm Emanuel for helping get teens off the streets.

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“It’s a really significant investment,” Youth Guidance CEO Michelle Morrison told me. The donation will allow the nonprofit to work with 500 more students from eight more schools. Youth Guidance already works in 90 schools. Some 4,000 boys and young men benefited from the BAM program last year and organizers hope to reach 6,000 in the coming year. WOW will serve 1,750 students this year, up from 1,000 last year. “This is an important part of that effort,” Morrison says of the Uber donation.

Uber’s collaboration with Youth Guidance isn’t out of the blue. A few years ago, the ride-sharing company offered free transportation to BAM members who were making the transition into the working world.

“We’ve been impressed with its programming and its data-driven work. The numbers speak for themselves,” said Marco McCottry, Uber general manager for the Midwest. “We’re committed to change and to make sure we’re celebrating the cities we serve and the drivers who earn an income with a touch of the button.”

Coordination for the donation has been months in the making. The timing couldn’t be better.

It comes on the heels of a tumultuous few weeks for Uber, which has come under scrutiny for having a toxic management environment. Numerous executives have departed, including the CEO, who was replaced last week by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

The donation to Youth Guidance also comes amid discussions within Chicago City Council to increase regulations on ride-sharing companies, including Uber and Lyft. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) has pushed for fingerprinting of drivers and a measure on the issue was expected to come before aldermen this week. At the last minute, though, Beale pulled it. He’s expected to present it to the council’s transportation committee in the coming weeks before bringing it to the next Council meeting.

Uber has firmly opposed fingerprinting. McCottry wouldn’t discuss the issue but in the past he’s criticized the plan as being discriminatory since so many drivers are minorities and/or come from the South and West sides. He also blames increased regulation for killing Uber in Austin, Texas, where he previously worked.

UPDATED: This story has been updated to reflect how many students Youth Guidance serves each year.


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