Unveiling the Lutz Family Annex: A Place of Innovation and Opportunity for Teens 

We officially cut the ribbon on the new Lutz Family Annex in the Belmont Cragin community last week! The innovative space, next to the Michael and Karyn Lutz Center, offers state-of-the-art equipment for teens to learn welding, bike repair, and urban gardening skills.   

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by dedicated staff, supportive friends, and generous sponsors. After School Matters CEO Mary Ellen Caron, philanthropist Karyn Lutz, representatives from Illinois Tool Works (ITW) and Miller Electric, and Alderman Ruth Cruz gave brief remarks sharing their excitement for the possibilities that this new facility brings to the community. 

For Karyn Lutz, the Annex represents more than just a building; it embodies the essence of After School Matters’ mission – to equip teens with the skills and confidence they need to succeed in life. “Our partnership with After School Matters is very special and our family calls this our ‘happy place.’ This a perfect example of what After School Matters does best, teaching teens skills to provide extensive job opportunities that will enable our youth to live a fulfilling life with a sense of purpose and joy.”   

Guests marveled at the Welding Studio’s state-of-the-art welding equipment donated by ITW and Miller Electric. Dave Lampert, ITW Welding Group President, shared that “ITW and Miller Electric are pleased to support the welding curriculum within After School Matters’ STEM programs. Early exposure to a trade such as welding, combined with hands-on experience is often the first step to a lifelong, fulfilling career. It is our sincere hope the welding lab at the Lutz Family Annex makes a positive impact in the lives of the teens and supports After School Matters’ vision of helping youth reach their full potential.”  

In addition to the Welding Studio, the Bike and Skateboard Shop features bike racks, tools, and space for teens to learn about bike repairs safely. Skateboard racks and helmets are also stored in the space for the skateboarding program. And the amazing Greenhouse is outfitted with water, heat, AC, tables, chairs, planters, and tools to enable year-round urban gardening programs.   

Our CEO, Mary Ellen Caron, extended her gratitude to all who contributed to making this vision a reality, as well as her excitement at seeing teens hard at work in the space. 

The transformation of the nearly 2,000-square-foot space was made possible through the generosity of various supporters, including the State of Illinois, The Michael and Karyn Lutz Family Foundation, ITW and Miller Electric, City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development, the Exelon Museum of Science and Industry Green Lab Grant, and an anonymous donor. 

As the Lutz Family Annex opens its doors, it stands as a testament to our commitment to the teens of Chicago. By providing dedicated spaces like this, we send a powerful message to our teens – that they are valued, supported, and worthy of every opportunity to learn and grow.