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They Paved Paradise and We Created a Garden Lot

Faith in Place connected a historic Baptist church on Chicago's West Side with a congregation on the Near North Side to create an award-winning community garden. Read about how this came about from Pastor ReShorna Fitzpatrick's perspective. This story is an example of the type of connections across Illinois that create lasting change in the environment. These are the connections Faith in Place has the power to foster – with your support.

Good Morning, As Associate Pastor of the Historical Stone Temple Church, located in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood, I am happy to share with each of you the joy we have experienced since partnering with Faith in Place. In 2014, Samantha Miller invited Stone Temple to establish a “Green Team.” Samatha explained that the importance of establishing a "Green Team” was ensure that the call to be “better stewards of the Earth that God created” gets accomplished. We were excited, and our Green Team was established. In the past five years, our partnership quickly blossomed into a relationship, and at the speed of light, it bloomed into a friendship. Our “ship” with Faith in Place has always sailed in a positive direction, which has been and continues to benefit our congregation, our community, and the earth. Thanks to Faith in Place, Stone Temple and the members of the North Lawndale Community have had many first-time experiences and have been enlightened by the exceptional events and workshops, Faith in Place developed, facilitated, and graciously made available. We have:

  • Canoed in Garfield Park

  • Learned about the life cycle and migration of the monarch butterfly

  • Learned to conserve energy

  • Learned about Recycling, and composting and now we have the toolbox on how to reduce waste

Two years into the relationship, we were asked to start a family. Did I say, family? I meant develop a community garden. Well, to be honest, starting a community garden, is in many ways synonymous with starting a family. Hence the phrase “plant family,” they both require time and TLC. At that time we could not commit because of prior commitments.

Susan Stone of Chicago Sinai Congregation (left) and Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick (right) plant the garden!
Susan Stone of Chicago Sinai Congregation (left) and Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick (right) plant the garden!

Because of the commitment that Faith in Place has to ensuring that we are good stewards of the Earth, Veronica Kyle and Samantha Miller revisited the community garden project in January 2019. The Stone Temple Green Team was ready. A few members of the Green Team and I had become pensioners and we were ready to start a family, I mean start a community garden. Veronica and Samantha were “really ready” they came to the table with “well-abled partners” and in their hand was a seed.

At the table were: Annmarie Leon and Elvia Rodriguez both master gardeners; Dr. Shemuel Ishmael, president of the North Lawndale Greening Committee, chef Maria Anderson and members from Chicago Sinai Congregation. After several meetings, workshops, and field trips, the birthing of the Stone Temple Community Heritage Peace Garden began. I had no gardening experience but I was all in.

Rev. Brian Sauder, President & Executive Director, laughs with Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick, a funder, and Samantha Miller.
Rev. Brian Sauder laughs with Pastor Reshorna Fitzpatrick, a funder, and Samantha Miller.

Veronica emailed and called to make sure that I attended every seed-swapping event in the city. Samantha stopped by regularly to ensure I had collected enough seeds and seedlings for our garden to be. Even Rev. Brian Sauder and a funder came to make sure that all was well.

We cleared, cleaned and surveyed the land. The Elders from the Stone Temple Green Team built the garden beds and filled them with garden soil. Then, along with our partners and community residents, we planted our vegetable and flower garden. On June 29, 2019, we celebrated the birth of the Stone Temple Community Heritage Peace Garden.

We asked for and received additional resources from Alderman Micheal Scott Jr., Jeff Thompson of Greenway Recycling Services, Ozinga, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Vice President, Barbara McGowan, Home Depot, Farm on Ogden, and private donors.

Children & adults volunteer to plant the garden!
Children & adults volunteer to plant the garden!

Adults and children from the community became volunteers. They did everything from planting seeds to pulling weeds. Several elementary school students regularly watered the garden and played in the sandbox whether I or team members were present or not. They are our stakeholders and doorkeepers.

Everything in the garden prospered as did the relationships between the members in the congregation and the residents in the community.

This summer we hosted a Peace on the Boulevard dinner, storytelling events, community meetings, and a community barbecue in the garden. A few of these events lasted long after sunset and because of the peace we were standing for and experiencing no one was anxious as darkness appeared. For some, this context of peace did not exist prior to the Stone Temple Community Heritage Peace Garden. Thank you, Faith in Place.

"What was once a thoroughfare for violence has become a resting place for peace."

The new peace garden is also used as a gathering place for community members and their families. What was once a thoroughfare for violence has become a resting place for peace.

Thank you Faith in Place for Educating, Connecting, and Advocating for healthier communities. Thank you Brian, Veronica, and Samantha for the work that you do for the Earth, communities, and faith-based organizations.

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Yumi Vega
Yumi Vega
Nov 08, 2022

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