Inspiring healthy living, economic opportunity, and community empowerment in Englewood

Mission and Vision

We believe everyone deserves to have a good job, and everyone deserves to eat well.

That’s why we’ve been helping people find meaningful careers through skills learned while farming since 2002. Growing Home is Chicago’s leading expert in farm-based training for people with employment barriers. By providing 25 hours per week of paid on-the-job experience and job-readiness training at our farms, plus the support to conquer issues like criminal records, medical needs, child-care, and housing, we have changed the lives of hundreds of workers, and thousands of their family members.

We start people on the path to self-sufficiency. When people have jobs, they have economic stability in their lives; this stability allows for healthy people and families. But we don’t stop there: we use our unique model to impact neighborhoods with the greatest need. That’s why our farms are located in Englewood, a community on the South side of Chicago that has been under-served for decades and has extremely high rates of unemployment and poverty, hundreds of acres of vacant lots, and a distinct lack of healthy food choices.

When communities have access to healthy food options, the overall well-being and health of the residents improves. With economic resources and physical health, neighbors are more able to participate in the rejuvenation of their community.

To help people find meaningful, sustaining careers, we train them in job skills, give them real work experience, and support them while they begin their careers by helping with job placement and life-planning. We not only provide the support people need to succeed, but also the space to define what success means to them. To transform our community, we offer our produce to our neighbors at significantly reduced prices, advocate for the issues impacting Englewood, and open up our space for trainings, workshops, and more.

Learn more about our impact.

Milestones

1992

Les Brown, founder of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, has a vision to help homeless Chicagoans gain job skills and rebuild their confidence through farming.

2002

Nine people enroll as participants in Growing Home’s first year of training.

2006

Development begins on the Wood Street Urban Farm and the job training program finds a permanent home in Englewood. The first 100 Production Assistants complete the training program.

2011

In part due to Growing Home’s precedent-setting Wood Street Farm, the City of Chicago passes a new ordinance making the establishment of an urban farm less daunting and more efficient for others. Growing Home’s Honore Street Farm is the first farm to open under the new ordinance.

2013

Growing Home is chosen as the winner of the Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award, and, at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, is named as the Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Strategy of the Year.

2014

Growing Home solidifies a partnership with Cabrini Green Legal Aid to help Production Assistants seal or expunge their criminal records, a primary employment barrier, and to offer legal assistance with housing, child custody, and other civil pursuits affecting their ability to succeed.

People without jobs are often without roots. They’re not tied down, not connected, not part of their family anymore. Our organic farming program is a way for them to connect with nature—to plant and nurture roots over a period of time. When you get involved in taking responsibility for caring for something, creating an environment that produces growth, then it helps you build self-esteem and feel more connected.

Les Brown, Founder of Growing Home

Our Team

Staff

Janelle St. John

Executive Director

Zachary Austin

Farm and Program Associate

Gina Caruso

Outsourced Chief Financial Officer

Marlene Ceja

Director of Development

LaQuandra Fair

Community Engagement Coordinator

Sonia Garcia

Farm Sales Associate

Hope Gundlah

Executive Support Administrative Assistant

Shenika Jackson

Case Management Coordinator

Ezra Lee

Farm & Program Coordinator

Devin Middleton

Corporate and Foundation Coordinator

Megan Morrison

Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Amelia Nawn

Program Operations Coordinator

Ursula Phillips-Levi

Employment Training and Community Engagement Associate

Jaclyn Santi

Employment Training Coordinator

Shani Settles

Director of Operations

Anna Sumska

Farm and Program Assistant

Zenobia Williams

Employment Training Director

Board of Directors

Stewart Weiss

Board President
Elrod Friedman LLP, Founding Partner

Micheál Newman-Brooks

Board Vice President
Horticulturalist

Lynn Sheck

Past Board President
Finicity, Senior Vice President

Steve Stanley

Board Secretary
Pastor and Community Organizer

Shawn Boone

Board Treasurer
PNC Bank, AVP Branch Manager

Jennifer Ballard-Croft

Cook County State’s Attorney, Chief of Staff & Chief Diversity Officer

Foster Dale

Foster Dale Architects, Inc.,  Principal

Stephen Gates

Accenture, Senior Manager, Midwest SAP Program Delivery

Dan Kaplan

American Library Association, Marketing Manager

Pascale Kichler

DePaul University, Lecturer, French Department

Colette Payne

 

Kevin Swan

United Senior Services, General Manager

Karl Riley

5/3rd Bank, VP, Small Business Community Lender

James Thompson

 

Toni Thompson

U.S. Bank, Vice President

Laura Tilly

Attorney, Retired

Marny Zimmer

Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Special Prosecutor, Crimes Strategy Task Force

Associate Board

Mackenzie Canfield

Board co-chair
Inspiration Corporation, Employment Preparation & Placement Specialist

Emily Steinhauer

Board co-chair
Top Box Foods, Delivery Coordinator

Ashima Talwar

Board Secretary
Sperling & Slater, P.C., Attorney

Rashanah Baldwin

Journalist & Multimedia Consultant. Baldwin Media Group.

Charlotte Cottier

Campbell & Company, Nonprofit Communications Consultant

Larissa Mariano

Chicago Community Trust, Executive Assistant

Martina Oroz

Accenture, Consulting Senior Analyst

Olivia Rath

Deloitte, Consultant

Liz Rosenthal

DigitasLBi, Project Manager

Sima Shah

iRely, Manager

Kim Smith

University of Chicago Urban Labs, Sr. Research Manager

Katharine Uhrich

The Field Museum, Social Media Manager

Leadership Council

Diana Leifer

 

Amy Rynell

 

Anton Seals Jr.

 

Barbara Wallace

 

Betsy Gates-Alford
Carolyn Zehrer

 

Colleen Sheehan

 

Deborah Bennett

 

Erika Allen

 

Ivan Handler

 

Judith Aronson, PhD
Lauren Rosenthal

 

Lauri Alpern

 

Lisa Leib

 

Nicole Wagner

 

Orrin Williams
Paula Carney

 

Perry Gunn

 

Philip Hong

 

Sebastian White

 

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