Our Family Resource House is about a month away from being finished! The framing is done. The pipes are set. Cabinets, countertops, and floors have been picked.

Once final approval is complete, the drywall and floors will be installed and the home that’s been just a vision for the past year will become a reality. Timing could not be more perfect. Space is limited at the Peace House and I’ve been having more community members than ever, mainly young people, propose new programs that we’ll finally have the physical space to support. Our neighbors are working together to build the community they want to see.

Our Family Resource House is set to have a grand opening in February 2019.  Anticipation is high and we are excited to celebrate the next step in our expansion. The young men who have been working on the home are excited to show off their hard work. Anthony, who grew up just down the block, said that he is eager to get the home finished so he can move on to the next one. In January 2019, we will share the date of our grand opening celebration and look forward to marking this huge milestone in our community, one that has taken participation from all areas of the city to reach.

Slowly but surely, we are moving the dial forward. It’s taken approximately one year to get to where we are now and the end of this renovation project is finally in sight. With more space, we will begin to deepen the impact and reach of our programs. Another house means that we can move our support groups and one on one case management into a private, more quiet setting. Additionally, we’ll be able to better support our little ones through early childhood education programs.

Over the past few months some exciting things have happened to turn trauma into transformation. On November 15th, we partnered with the Permaculture Action Network for a service learning day. We connected communities through art, food, music, and circle. Our neighbors and volunteers worked together to insulate our chicken coop and paint boarded up windows and doors on our block with beautiful drawings and messages of hope. I heard from both kids and adults how much they love seeing the new artwork on the block. The kids next door told me they now feel proud of their block. Thanks to the Permaculture Action Network, we were able to expand the reach of our positive messages. On our block, there are more abandoned homes and vacant lots than occupied units, and now those spaces have been reclaimed in a small way.

On December 3rd, 15 of the Chicago Bears rookies came out to decorate our Peace House, our neighbors’ home next door, and our current renovation project, the Family Resource House. We got to laugh, dance, and make holiday decorations together as one community, one Chicago.

Hopelessness is one of the most debilitating factors of violence, poverty, and trauma. Unfortunately, it’s something we see frequently. Through small projects like decorating for the holidays or painting boarded up doors and windows, we are able to sow seeds of hope and connection.

Without our community there could be no Peace Campus, they are the key. Our Peace Campus is a declaration that we are investing in opportunity, hope, and healing for all generations. I want to share a story that’s been weighing heavy on my heart and motivates me to continue building our Peace Campus. A few weeks ago, we found out that one of our community members, who has recently re-entered society after being locked up for over a year, had pneumonia. He was released from the hospital with a prescription for about $255 worth of medicine. This young man has no job, no money, and no insurance. The hospital let him walk out knowing that he couldn’t fill the prescription that could save his life.

Without anyone else to turn to, he called us. Thank goodness he did. I was able to pay for his medication and a week later, he sounded so much better. Rev Dr. William Barber has stated that each year 250,000 people die of low wages. The young man we purchased meds for could have easily been a statistic. We’ve lost two beautiful souls who couldn’t afford the medication they needed since I’ve been working at I Grow Chicago. I refuse to lose any more.

Our Peace Campus, and especially our upcoming Family Resource home, will be a place for people to get connected with resources, groups, and opportunities that can save lives and transform a community.

What’s Coming in 2019

This past year has been filled with hard work, solidifying our programs, expanding our capacity, and preparing for the Peace Campus. I’m excited about all the developments and looking forward to 2019, a year centered on growth. In the next year, we will be building a children’s playground, meditation labyrinth, and begin rehab of another home on our block.  

I Grow Chicago and our neighbors are rebuilding a community that has long been a victim of the injustices our country was founded on. We are working hand and hand to take it back, to share our stories, and to build a Peace Campus where we can create our own healing and opportunity.

Each day I show up because of hope, because our neighbors give me hope. At I Grow Chicago we are in the business of growing hope. With hope and opportunity comes peace. It’s up to us to play any part we can in peace. For me, it means showing up to work everyday and sharing the stories of transformation and connection I witness. Hope starts with just a spark and then, with nurturing, spreads. I challenge you to do all you can to invest in peace, hope, and healing. We hope to see you at our Peace Campus in 2019!