About Us

We invest in the lives of Chicago youth through Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships.

Who We Are & What We Do

GRIP Outreach For Youth is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization created to connect youth with caring, Christian mentors to build Life-on-Life relationships. GRIP provides programs and resources to develop young people spiritually, mentally, and physically.

Our Mission & Vision

At GRIP Outreach For youth, our mission is to invest in the lives of Chicago youth through Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships. We have a vision for thousands upon thousands of kids to grow into solid Christian adults who will positively impact and contribute to society, their communities, their churches, and their families.

More specifically we want to see:

  • Thousands of transformed lives
  • Transformed cities
  • Strong local churches
  • Solid schools
  • Future leaders for Christ
  • Centers of excellence for urban ministry

We’re striving to create a network of support for our youth, not simply by serving them and their families in the home, but also by partnering with local churches in our outreach programs, and by having a presence in the public schools, where our youth spend the majority of their time.

Christ Centered

100%

Life-on-Life

100%

Our Approach

Life-on-Life

At GRIP, we believe that Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships is what God has invited us to build with youth in Chicago.

Why Christ-centered?

We take seriously the words of Jesus Christ (from Matthew 28:18-20) who commissioned His followers to make disciples of all people, immersing them in the character of God the Father,Son and Holy Spirit while teaching them His truth. Therefore, for the past 18 years, GRIP has remained committed to training and equipping thousands of adult mentors from local churchesto invest in Chicago youth with God’s love and Jesus Christ’s commission as our motivation. Just as Jesus “came not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28), we realize that mentorship requires dependency upon Him in order to keep us serving youth through the highs and lows of mentorship.

Why Life-on-Life?

When we refer to Life-on-Life, we are talking about a relationship that is so much more than “mentorship.” Jesus walked life with His disciples, investing quality and quantity time with them, therefore we equip our adult mentors to spend time getting to know their mentee inside and outside of our programming. We challenge our mentors to care about a student as a whole person (emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually). We also encourage our mentors to partner with their student’s family in order to identify how best to serve them in order to develop their mentee holistically. As mentors open up their lives intentionally and consistently, life-on-life relationships can grow. Our prayer is that hundreds of Christ-centered, Life-on-Life relationships will form, empowering youth to know the love of God and grow in their purpose and identity, becoming young leaders in their homes, schools, churches and communities.

Our Model

Equip, Connect, Grow, Develop

We recruit, train, and equip an army of caring adult volunteers to serve as mentors to youth in the city. And we provide resources and ongoing support for these mentors as they engage and build deep relationships with young people.

We connect our mentors to students through our SLAM and GRIP The School programs. SLAM is a weekly, high-energy sports and team-building outreach that combines creative games with Bible teaching and time for one-on-one and small group discussion. GRIP The School mobilizes volunteers to serve in schools-as tutors, coaches, teacher aides, and more.

Our staff members mentor the mentors, coaching them to intentionally pursue and grow relationships with youth outside of our programs by spending time with them in their homes, schools, churches, and communities-essentially “doing life” together.

As mentors get to know youth, they are able to identify their true needs, partner with their families, and help develop them holistically. This could be in academics, life skills, career goals, family life, or spiritual life. GRIP’s Future Steps program further helps prepare students for adulthood through college and career development, as well as internships and job opportunities.

Our History

Since its founding in 2004, GRIP has introduced a Life-on-Life relationship and the hope of Jesus Christ into the lives of hundreds of youth who desperately need someone to love them and walk life alongside them.

OUR PILLARS

Each letter in the word GRIP represents one of our pillars:

Learn More & Get Involved

G – GOSPEL

Sharing the Life-Changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

The Gospel is the cornerstone of everything we do at GRIP. Our goal is to do ministry just as Jesus did, serving with love, compassion, humility, and an unrelenting commitment to spreading the Gospel of Truth. It is our hope that this commitment will help lead many of our youth into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)

R – RELATIONSHIPS

Building Life-on-Life, God-Glorifying, Disciple-Making Relationships

Building biblical relationships based on honesty, trust, and love is vitally important to accomplishing our mission. We believe that the real impact of GRIP’s ministry takes place outside the walls of our programs, when our youth and adult volunteers are walking life together. We know it is essential for our youth to hear what the Scripture teaches about how God wants them to live, but we also believe they need to see firsthand what living a gospel-centered life looks like. This is why we are committed to equipping our staff and volunteers with the training they need to be godly examples to our youth. (1 Corinthians 4:15, Philippians 3:17)

I – IMMERSION

Plugging Youth into the Word of God & into the Community of God

We believe that the Word of God is essential for the sustenance and growth of our faith and the faith of our youth. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

In addition, plugging young believers into local churches is another vital component of our ministry. We aspire to see our youth become vibrant, growing participants within the local church body, where solid teaching and the support of many God-honoring men and women will surround them. We believe that immersion and participation in the local church is an essential step in the transformational process of learning to serve God and others. (Hebrews 10:24-25)

P – PRAYER & PREPARATION

Praying as Our First Call of Action; Preparing Youth for Their Future

GRIP is God’s ministry and we believe it is our responsibility to seek His will in everything we do. We are also committed to praying regularly for the spiritual growth and protection of all our staff, volunteers, and youth. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We also desire to provide our youth with practical life-skills they will need as adults. GRIP is committed to providing programs that will teach our youth how to work, communicate, and lead so they can be effective contributors to their communities, jobs, churches, and families. (Proverbs 12:14)

OUR PILLARS

Each letter in the word GRIP represents one of our pillars:

Learn More & Get Involved

Meet Our Staff

Anwar Smith

Executive Director

Anwar Smith was named the Executive Director of GRIP Outreach For Youth effective April 4, 2022. In this role, he is responsible for the organization’s strategy, development and operations, reporting to the Board of Directors.

Prior to joining GRIP, Anwar was Managing Director of Program Operations for By The Hand Club for Kids, a Christian ministry in Chicago. He has also served in leadership roles at the Salvation Army and Rawhide Boys Ranch. Anwar has also been serving as an Associate Pastor at Living Word Church in Lansing, Il for the past 12 years, 9 of which he was been the youth pastor. He has spent more than 20 years communicating God’s love and hope in urban, suburban and rural settings both in the U.S. and abroad. Anwar holds a Masters of Education in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois, Chicago and a Bachelors of Arts in Christian Ministry from Taylor University. He loves watching football, and going fishing and camping with his kids. Anwar currently resides in Lansing, IL with his wife Michelle and their two biological children. Anwar and his wife have been actively involved in foster care and have housed many children over the past 11 years.

Sue Lee

Senior Director, Operations and Programming

Sue Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to the U.S. at the age of 6. She grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago but has lived in the city since 2000. A graduate of the University of Illinois, she previously worked as a Process Management Consultant with Accenture. Sue has been with GRIP since 2007 and is passionate about the impact that Christ-centered mentorship can have on a young person’s life. As the Senior Director, Operations and Programming at GRIP, she supports and encourages staff in their roles in order to see more youth impacted by Life-on-Life relationships.

Sue currently lives in Logan Square with her husband, son, and daughter. She considers Chicago to be the greatest city on the planet and is a die-hard Chicago sports fan.

Mark Banach

Finance Manager

Growing up in Elk Grove Village, Mark joins GRIP staff as a Chicagoland native after working for 30 years in the marketplace as an investment consultant and then the Director of Operations and Client Service for a benefit consulting firm. In addition to his love for his wife of 27 years, and 3 daughters, he enjoys playing the guitar and he may be one of the only people you ever meet who discusses investing and budgeting for fun. These are just some of the many reasons he’s a great fit as GRIP’s Finance Manager. Mark shares, “A few of the things I enjoy about my role at GRIP are the people we serve and the people I get to work alongside.”

Julia Butler

Women's Mentorship Manager

Hailing from Indianapolis and graduating from Wheaton College, Julia is one of the most competitive people you will ever meet. When Julia isn’t enjoying Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza or going to Cubs games, you’ll probably find her biking, drawing, or binge-watching SNL skits and Seinfeld. As residents of the North Lawndale neighborhood, Julia and her husband are passionate about investing in Chicago’s youth—which is just one of the reasons Julia joined GRIP staff as a GRIP The School Coordinator in Al Raby High School, pouring into volunteer mentors and equipping them to walk Life-on-Life with Chicago teens. Julia shares, “I love investing in Chicago Public Schools; they are the heartbeat of our neighborhoods.”

Erick Correa

SLAM Program Director

Erick Correa is a Chicago native, and Gordon Technical High School alumni. He attended Southern Illinois University for college and is a certified personal trainer. He is a professional mixed martial artist and he likes to exercise. He and his family live in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood. Erick enjoys watching Cubs games, and at one point in his life, he enjoyed singing. He has a strong passion for discipleship and joins GRIP as the SLAM Program Director to invest in the lives of youth in Chicago.

"My favorite part of living in Chicago is waiting to see which happens first: Jesus coming back, or Cubbies winning the World Series," Erick shares. The Cubs won!

Aric Diaz

Men's Mentorship Manager

Aric Diaz joins GRIP staff as a Texas native, but he and his wife and two kids have endured the Chicago winters to invest in teens here in the city! As a Men’s Mentorship Manager at GRIP, Aric equips and trains our volunteer mentors to walk Life-on-Life with youth. Settling in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago, he loves exploring different cultures and communities of the city, and when he’s not spending time with his wife and kids, you can find him breakdancing or creating beautiful graffiti art pieces. Aric shares, “My favorite thing about my role at GRIP is that I get to enjoy meeting students who have become new believers as well as walk with brothers through life and the call to make disciples.”

Bill Ferrell

Community Relations & Development Director

Bill Ferrell grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a graduate of Coronado High School, Arizona State University, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has lived in Chicago for 28 years and loves the culture, diversity, food, and weather (seriously). He has served as a campus pastor, local church pastor, Executive Director of a nonprofit ministry, and a marriage and family counselor. At GRIP, he serves as Community Relations and Development Director, presenting the mission and vision of GRIP to individuals, groups, and churches for the opportunity of partnership. Bill currently resides in Northbrook with his family; he enjoys biking, swimming, running, and skiing.

Darry Cooks

Men's Mentorship Manager

Growing up in Chicago, Darry has grown to love the diversity of cultures, people, and food found in our city. When he's not playing basketball or creating online content, you'll find him spending time with his wife, Tawatha, and their five kids. Although working as a mentorship manager at GRIP was a big transition from driving semi trucks, Darry is excited to use his experience working with church youth to impact the youth he connects with through GRIP

Shawn Procter

Future Steps Director

Shawn, who has been part of the GRIP family since 2011, is the Program Director of GRIP’s Future Steps initiative, which leverages the strength of our Life-on-Life relationships and network to offer a community of support for our youth and young adults as they learn important life skills and pursue internships, jobs, and college and/or career goals. Originally from Florida, he worked as an actor and youth pastor prior to attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Shawn also worked as an educator and director for What’s Good – a character-based abstinence, education program in Chicago schools. He lives in the northwest side of Chicago and is married to his best friend, Pamela. They have been blessed with two beautiful daughters and other spiritual sons.

Kiel Russell

Slam Program Director

Hailing from Washington State, and graduating from Duke University, Kiel joins GRIP staff as the SLAM Program Director, having previously been on staff with Intervarsity and most recently Moody Bible Institute. When he’s not playing basketball, he’s probably watching it, but it’s not just his love for sports, but his passion for Chicago’s youth that makes him an outstanding person to coordinate our weekly SLAM outreach program. Kiel shares, “I enjoy my role at GRIP because I loved being a GRIP volunteer for 5 years—investing in teens and serving alongside other volunteers. I’m so grateful to be able to do that full-time now.”

Michael Spataro

Multimedia Manager

A jack of many trades, Mike worked at a production company for 12 years as a sound engineer, video editor, graphic designer, and production manager. He has been the production manager for the Legacy Conference since 2009, and joined GRIP's staff in August 2011 with the desire to use his creative talent in full-time ministry. Born and raised in Chicago, Mike is an avid Chicago sports fan. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Diane, and they have two handsome sons, Michael and Noah.

Kylie Stores

Women's Mentorship Manager

Growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kylie comes to GRIP with experience as a Registered Nurse, and now serves as the Women’s Mentorship Manager on staff at GRIP where she equips mentors to invest in Chicago’s youth! When Kylie is not pouring into mentors, you can typically find her exploring one of Chicago’s neighborhoods or spending time with friends in her home in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. Kylie shares, “I enjoy my role at GRIP because I’m able to connect with the mentors and students on deeper levels.”

Ashley Tarnow

Women's Mentorship Manager

Coming from Zeeland, Michigan (not to be confused with the country New Zealand), Ashley moved to Chicago to attend Moody Bible Institute and upon graduation she spent most of her time working with youth. Now, Ashley serves as the Women’s Mentorship Manager at GRIP where she loves pouring into mentors and celebrating growth we’re seeing in students. When she’s not enjoying all the amazing food that Chicago has to offer, she’s probably spending time with her husband, Grant, and their adorable puppy in the neighborhood of Ukrainian Village where they call home! Ashley shares, “What I love about my role at GRIP is meeting with the mentors, and hearing how God is using them, and celebrating the small wins with them—Like actually getting a text back from a student, or hearing how a student prayed for the first time. It's really incredible to be able to serve the women that sacrifice so much each week to love on their students and point them to Christ.”

Emily Ruiz

Multi-Media Coordinator

Originally from South Carolina, Emily came to Chicago in 2018 and studied Communications at Moody Bible Institute. When she’s not drawing or painting, Emily likes to keep active with hiking, ice skating, and exploring Chicago. She serves on staff at GRIP as the Multimedia Coordinator doing videography, graphic design, and event production. Her favorite part of working with GRIP is seeing the students’ smiles at SLAM every Monday night! Emily believes in the power of the arts for connection, healing, and change in individuals and communities and she loves getting to support the work of mentorship at GRIP through the media arts.

Will Wagner

Slam Program Director

A Walter Payton College Prep, Moody Bible Institute, and Moody Theological Seminary grad, Will calls the Austin neighborhood his home. His range of experience - from child care worker, to campus police officer, to management at Enterprise - and love for Chicago inform his role at GRIP. Getting to serve as SLAM Director is exciting to him because it gives him the freedom and opportunity to make disciples in the city that he grew up in. Although he wishes there was less snow, he has a deep affection for Chicago, and shares: “Just about every good thing grabs me about our city, from the food, CTA, festivals, neighborhood cultures, and how all the streets are on a grid. Even some of the stuff I don't like, I have immense nostalgia for.” In his free time, Will enjoys studying the Bible, preaching, sports, movies, and spending time with his wife, Leah.

Sarah Lent

Office Administrator

Born and raised in a tiny corner of Pennsylvania, Sarah embraced a spirit of independence and attended college out of state, receiving a degree in Music Education from Clearwater Christian in Florida. A 12-week internship in Colorado morphed into a decade of life in the Mile High City, where she broadened her teaching credentials to include reading intervention and elementary classroom experience.

Somewhere along the way, God placed Chicago on Sarah's heart. She began to pray for God to open the door to relocate, not knowing the 'why' or with any kind of definite time frame in mind. God opened the door in 2020 and so Sarah moved across the country with her two cats, Marge and Maeve, proceeding to teach preschool for the first 2 years of life here. She began volunteering as a mentor with GRIP in October 2021 and was excited to join the staff in July 2022. Sarah resides in the Edgewater neighborhood, where her favorite thing is being able to walk along the lakefront every evening after work.

Board of Directors

David Lew, Chair

Vice President, Marketing & Product Management, Vitamix

Mary Chapman-Deas

Director, Event Marketing & Management at Moody Bible Institute

Steve Coble

Teaching Pastor, Renewal Church of Chicago

Vicki Kim

Director of Brand & Strategy Development, Mott St.

Jonathan Lavinier

Real Estate Broker, Baird & Warner

Kent Steiner

Associate Pastor, Chicago West Bible Church

Shane Summers

Owner/Trader, Summers Trading Company