Cora Butler is proud that she has dedicated her life to helping the Englewood community. Originally from Mississippi, Butler moved to Englewood when she was five years old and never looked back. Even from a young age, she has been heavily involved with the community: she was a part of a program called the Neighborhood Youth Corporation (NYC), worked at the Englewood library, helped the elderly with their chores, and babysat children. “I thought, ‘Is this my calling to help kids or help the community to do this or do that?’ and I guess it was,” she said.
One of Butler’s favorite spaces growing up was her church, Mt. Hope, on Princeton Ave, where she was asked to assist the seniors. “So I took the seniors everywhere,” she said. “They loved going to Old Country Buffet and we went to a whole lot of stuff—we took them to the movies and I took them to see Jesus Christ Superstar.”
Later in life, when Butler was married and had children, she considered leaving Englewood but decided to stay, and lived only a block and a half away from her mother. There, she volunteered and eventually was hired at Walter Reed Elementary (now Johnson Prep). She worked at Banneker (now Mays) Elementary until her retirement. She considers the last two years of work the best two years of her life specifically because of her involvement with the parents. “I did so much with the parents,” she said. “I got the parents involved with so much activity; I took the parents on trips; we went out of Chicago! We had the parents’ center, we had the Region 5, we had the cluster.”
Outside of the classroom, Butler continued to volunteer. She helped out with Teamwork Englewood, an organization focused on creating opportunities for Englewood residents that will alter their quality of life. Inspired by her work there, and by other community organizers she had met, in 2010 Butler co-founded Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.). R.A.G.E. focuses on collaborating with the community to create strategies and solutions that will better Englewood for all. One of her favorite R.A.G.E. initiatives was an event called Jobs on the Block. She noticed that many individuals did not have proper clothes to wear to work or interviews, so the team provided clothes for the community.
While she said that the pandemic has made organizing more challenging, she continues to be a critical community leader—and she continues to stay positive. “Right now my motto is ‘live each day like it’s your last,’ because of this pandemic and everything,” she said. “Enjoy what you are doing. And just keep up the good work as you are helping out people in your community.”