It takes one seed, one step, one chance to change a person’s life. And one dollar can go a long way in helping us make that happen.
I Grow Chicago started in the streets.
When Robbin Carroll went to see a talk by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, a man in the crowd stood up and declared he would give any amount of money she wanted to support her work. Leymah denied the man and said, “We in Liberia have heard about your problems in Chicago. You go find your own corner and fix it.”
Robbin turned to her husband and told him she was going to go find herself a corner.
Robbin showed up on the corner of 64th and Honore with Subway sandwiches and an idea for a Peace House. When asked if they were ready to take back their community, residents said yes. Their question back was “When can we start?”
I Grow Chicago was created by the streets.
Quentin Mables, now I Grow Chicago’s Co-Executive Director, was one of the first people Robbin met. Together, Robbin, Quentin, and our neighbors started programming. At a time when violence was so bad it wasn’t safe for kids to play outside, the first Summer of Hope camp carved out a safer space for 45 children to play. We blocked off the street, and the community donated their bathrooms and kitchens, their electricity and water to create an outdoor camp.
More and more members of the community joined in. More than 50 residents helped renovate an abandoned home and three vacant lots. These spaces were transformed into I Grow Chicago’s Peace House, basketball court, and Peace Garden. Through the process, these community members learned construction, plumbing, teamwork, and other life skills.
I Grow Chicago is transforming the streets.
The Peace House is a community gathering and healing resource space. Nearly 15 different programs, all run by community members and volunteers, assist every generation of West Englewood with every aspect of their lives. Residents learn the tools they need to stop violence before it starts, from how to take a deep breath before reacting to how to apply for and succeed in jobs.
Since the Peace House opened, what was previously one of the most dangerous blocks in West Englewood has become a symbol of hope and transformation.