The “Loan Rangers” from Chicago Community Loan Fund will expand their after-work athletic endeavors to the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in 2019.

The largest J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in the United States is held each May in Grant Park. A throng of 27,777 runners and walkers from 692 companies were on the Columbus Drive starting line in 2018.

Some of the companies have participated in the 3.5-mile team road race since the 1980’s. Others have built up such a following for the event that they entered hundreds, or thousands, of entrants. Witness Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, which had 1,134 of its employees wearing Corporate Challenge runner numbers last year.

But the 38th annual edition of the 3.5-mile team road race – scheduled this year on Thursday, May 23 – is all-inclusive and always evolving. It features companies big and small, established and up-and-coming. Indeed, the Chicago business heartbeat changes regularly, and the new faces in the Corporate Challenge underscore the confidence, optimism and intelligence worthy of a world-class city.

The Chicago Community Loan Fund, which provides flexible, affordable and responsible financing for community stabilization and development, is making its debut at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, and will be doing so with enthusiasm from its senior leadership.

“We didn’t think we would have enough participants to reach the minimum,” said Angela Dowell, Chief Financial Officer for Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF), “but the response has been overwhelming.  We currently have 20 of our 25 employees registered.”

Perhaps the turnout shouldn’t be surprising, considering the emphasis placed on physical fitness at the top of the house by CCLF.  Its President, Calvin L. Holmes, rides his bicycle to work daily from his South Shore neighborhood home – 18 miles away – roundtrip, in all weather conditions.

CCLF’s work benefits low- to moderate-income neighborhoods and individuals throughout metropolitan Chicago. At year end 2018, it had created or retained 267 housing units, over 350,000 square feet of commercial real estate or community space, and nearly 600 jobs created or retained by its borrowers.

And now, CCLF’s team at the Corporate Challenge – nicknamed by CCLF President Holmes as the “Loan Rangers” – will strive to show how their team works.

“We are taking the unifying aspects of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge to heart,” Dowell said. “Our participation will show how we work together and support each other in the exact same manner we support our borrowers and the communities we serve. We boost each other just as our mission is to boost Chicagoland’s communities.”

Dowell referenced that the Corporate Challenge’s beneficiary partnership with Chicago Cares was a key factor in CCLF’s decision to participate, and the health and fitness benefits match up with its customer base.

“From the XS Tennis Education Foundation in the Washington Park neighborhood, the Pullman Community Center, Jewel-Osco in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood and Whole Foods in Englewood, fitness and good nutrition is an important element necessary to build better neighborhoods throughout Chicagoland,” Dowell said.

Even with a crowd of 27,000+ expected on May 23, the “Loan Rangers” will be easy to spot.  Each will be outfitted in specially-designed jerseys, representing the role each CCLF member plays daily. And they’re already anticipating the networking benefits a Corporate Challenge race night provides.

“We do hope to connect with our borrowers, investors, and donors in friendly competition that demonstrates our shared mission of unlocking the Chicagoland area’s untapped potential so it may provide opportunity for everyone,” Dowell said.

Among the “Loan Rangers” on race night will be several other senior executives, including Bob Tucker, COO and Executive Vice President of Programs; Juan Calixto, Vice President of External Relations; Maurice Williams, Vice President of Economic Development; Lycrecia Parks, Vice President of Portfolio Management; and Wendell Harris, Vice President of Lending Operations.

If history is a judge, Chicago Community Loan Fund will not be the only “rookies” in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge field this year. Nearly one-in-four companies that participated in 2018 were debut participants. The Chicago business landscape is changing, and the Corporate Challenge and the “Loan Rangers” are in lock-step with it.

“We’re excited to join the Corporate Challenge,” Dowell said. “It is important for our colleagues, borrowers, and affiliates to engage with our staff to dialogue about local concerns and create partnerships.”