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Teamwork Englewood and Partners Celebrate 10 Years of 'Making a Difference'

Spike Lee, when you get here be sure to check out our Whole Foods.

Yes there was a hint of defiance, not to mention a whole lot of pride, on display April 30 when close to 300 residents and stakeholders of the Greater Englewood neighborhood gathered to celebrate 10 years of achievements that have flowed from their 2005 Quality-of-Life plan.

Teamwork Englewood Executive Director Perry Gunn with Leon Walker, whose DL3 Realty is developing the 13-acre shopping center now rising at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets … a center anchored by an upscale, $3.5 million Whole Foods supermarket.

John McCarron

“Spike might as well go someplace else,” quipped Deborah Crable, the media executive who emceed the event. Her reference was, of course, to the well-publicized rumors that the famous film director is coming to Englewood to shoot a movie about urban street violence – a movie tentatively titled “Chiraq.”

Englewood still has challenges, to be sure. But organizers of the “Making a Difference Awards Ceremony” made sure the evening’s first plaque was presented to Leon Walker. His DL3 Realty is developing the 13-acre shopping center now rising at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets … a center anchored by an upscale, $3.5 million Whole Foods supermarket.

Walker said the project has big potential to turn around Englewood’s faded shopping district. Once that intersection was second only to the Loop’s State Street in gross sales, and has the potential, he said, to become once more “the South Side’s downtown.”

New Englewood

Following a moving tribute to the late Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), mistress of ceremonies Crable recounted the history of the host organization – Teamwork Englewood: how it was created in 2003 as a charter member of LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program; how it pulled together the positive efforts of longtime neighborhood actors such as St. Bernard Hospital, a dozen strong churches and Pullman (now U.S.) Bank; how in 2004-05 more than 600 residents participated in workshops and public meetings to create “Making a Difference,” the 52-page Quality-of-Life plan.

The event celebrating Englewood's Quality-of-Life plan was held on the campus of Kennedy-King College, an institution which is helping transform the area around Halsted and 63rd streets.

Eric Young Smith

It was that Q-of-L plan’s 10 basic strategies that inspired and helped bring to reality numerous neighborhood improvements, ranging from Growing Home’s Wood Street Urban Farm to the ongoing “Large Lots” transfer of dozens of city-owned vacant lots to homeowners organized by R.A.G.E., as in Residents Association of Greater Englewood.

“Tonight we want the rest of the world to know what’s going on in Englewood,” declared Perry Gunn, Teamwork Englewood’s executive director. “We want everyone to know what you have accomplished to build what we’re calling New Englewood.”

Those same accomplishments also were featured in a short documentary film produced and directed by Englewood’s own Rashanah Baldwin, who also does a weekly show on WKKC radio called “What’s Good in Englewood.”

Halsted and 63rd streets back in the day when the area was a booming retail corridor.

The documentary showed, for instance, how St. Bernard’s mobile pediatric unit has helped raise childhood immunization rates from among the lowest in the nation to a very respectable 90 percent; how organizations such as the Greater Englewood Community Development Corp. and Neighborhood Housing Services have battled the nationwide foreclosure epidemic; and importantly, how programs creating jobs for ex-offenders and improved community policing are having a ripple effect on the sense of safety, making possible developments like Whole Foods.

In the words of Elder Willard Payton, Teamwork Englewood’s board chair, this spreading sense of safety “has allowed us to accomplish a great deal.”

Many awardees

The highlight of the ceremony, held in the main hall of the Kennedy-King campus of the City Colleges of Chicago, was the awarding of plaques-of-recognition. They went to scores of residents who’ve worked tirelessly, both on the programs cited above and others, including those who’ve steadfastly operated local businesses – from a hardware store to a funeral home – through some very lean times.

A later scene at Halsted and 63rd streets after construction of Kennedy-King College.

Eric Young Smith

From the beginning it’s been an all-inclusive process. Ten years ago the names of 667 Englewood residents were listed as authors of the New Communities Q-of-L Plan … and almost half that many strode proudly to the rostrum that Thursday evening to be acknowledged by all for their contributions.

So what’s next for Teamwork Englewood and its many, many partners?

“It might be time for a new plan!” suggested Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director, at the end of her welcoming remarks. LISC sponsored the evening’s celebration, along with The Monroe Foundation, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), Uber and actor Harry Lennix – a South Sider who, like Englewood, has gone on to achieve great things.

More information:

Perry Gunn, pgunn@teamworkenglewood.org

Dionne Baux, dbaux@lisc.org

Posted in Englewood

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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