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Transformed by Our Connections

Chicago Outreach Director, Veronica Kyle, shared stories of transformation through connection this past year at our Annual Celebration and Fundraiser Breakfast in Chicago on December 6, 2018.

Good Morning! Wow! As a person who is infamously known as not a “morning person,” each year I am in sheer awe and filled with inspiration to see all of you come out to celebrate another year of our work and accomplishments here in Chicago.

Our theme this year is “Get Connected” and as the Chicago Outreach Director, I can testify (now I’m sounding like the church woman that I am) to the transformative impact this year’s theme has made in Chicago.

Eco-Ambassadors Connect for a Team-Building Activity, Summer 2018
Eco-Ambassadors Connect for a Team-Building Activity, Summer 2018

Working with Houses of Worship and their Green Teams is our primary model for carrying out our mission. Without them, we would not be able to make the impact that is so desperately needed to address the urgency of the effects of Climate Change.

I think of the Faith in Place team as the “conduits” who bring these connections of faithful people and great partners together.

So, in the next few minutes, I’d like to share how the Chicago connections between our faith partners, Green Teams, and environmental partners are not only making an impact but are also transforming communities and building new relationships.

Here are a few examples of the Chicago “connections” that are having a transformative impact:

People of Baptist and Jewish faiths commemorate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday at Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church
A multifaith commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday

Our Green Team coaches brought together a Jewish Synagogue in River North with a Baptist Church on the West Side to explore a collaboration to create a peace garden and grow healthy food for the food scarce community of North Lawndale. And because of the fearless dedication of our Development Director, we have been able to secure some funding to help in making this vision a reality!

Eco-Ambassadors from Chicago and Markham, Summer 2018
Eco-Ambassadors from Chicago and Markham, Summer 2018

This past summer, Faith in Place was able to start a new chapter of our Eco-Ambassadors youth program. Over a dozen youth from Markham and the surrounding communities journeyed together for a six-week-long environmental immersion experience. The youth engaged in all four of our program areas and received a stipend to support their participation. They also learned about the natural habitat in their own backyard – the Indian Boundary Prairies. This incredible experience was made possible through the generous funding of one of our environmental partners, The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

This past year, through our Migration & Me program, our Faith in Place Outreach Coordinator, Princess Harris, brought together African American and Latinx communities who worked and played side-by-side stewarding in the Cook County Forest Preserves. Together, people shared their migration stories and related them to the Monarch Butterfly, our Illinois state insect.

Princess gets ready to co-facilitate a workshop on Monarch Butterflies at the 2018 Green Team Summit
Princess gets ready to co-facilitate a workshop on Monarch Butterflies at the 2018 Green Team Summit.

Princess and I had a vision to have a Monarch Festival on the Southside of Chicago, a place where Monarchs once soared through our neighborhoods. A place where both the African American and Latinx communities reside. That shared vision will come to pass this summer, thanks once again to the incredible effort of our Development Director who encouraged me to sit with her and write a proposal.

This is how we do it here at Faith in Place, we “connect” our skill sets to make the things happen for Chicago and all of Illinois!

Seminarian Consuelo Ballom (hat) co-coordinated the Rehoboth Blueberry Fest!
Seminarian Consuelo Ballom (hat) co-coordinated the Blueberry Fest!

We’ve paired seminarians and public fellows with faithful people – from a Mennonite congregation in Pembroke, to folks in Central Illinois and a Mennonite congregation in Chicago to engage in the restoration and enhancement of a Blueberry Farm owned by the church in Pembroke!

Veronica picked five pounds of blueberries with her granddaughter at the Rehoboth Blueberry farm in Summer 2018
Veronica & her granddaughter picked 5 lbs of blueberries!

There will be an awesome Blueberry Festival in July to celebrate and support the farm.

Making “connections” has also brought Faith in Place national and international attention.

Our Executive Director and other program staff are frequently called upon to speak at other environmental conferences about our work. Recently I was invited to serve on a panel with Dr. Robert Bullard, who is considered the “Father of Environmental Justice” and other well-known Environmental Justice Advocates, at the 6th Annual Historical Black Colleges and Universities Climate Change Conference, themed “Fighting for our Lives.”

This Spring, Brian and I will be co-teaching a course at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary focusing on the work and mission of Faith in Place. In past years I’ve had the privilege to speak about faith in Place in Canada and other staff have travel as far as New Zealand.

I share this not to boast, but to point out that the support you give us in having an impact in Chicago and well beyond our state boundaries.

Marianne Krasny and her colleague at Cornell University coined the phrase “Civic Ecology." Civic Ecology is defined as “local environmental stewardship actions to enhance green infrastructure and community well-being being in cities and other human-dominated systems.”

Last year, I was asked to co-author a chapter in Krasny’s 2nd book on Civic Ecology. While reflecting on what we do at Faith in Place, I defined it this way: “When I think of civic ecology, I think of people in their natural habitat coming together to nurture their environment, their community. No books, no science, no lectures. Just lifework in the environment where they live, work and play.”

Here in Chicago, through the work of our Green Teams and Faith Partners, we engage in Civic Ecology to create healthier communities and impact has been incredible.

Connections are not only transformative, but they are also absolutely necessary if we’re going to address the impact of Climate Change and do whatever we can to make this common home a healthier place for all of us.

Thanks for connecting with us to make transformation possible. Your support is more than appreciated.

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Yumi Vega
Yumi Vega
Nov 08, 2022

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