We Grow : Empowering the Community of Englewood
We Grow is a community-led organization whose programs closely align with Spark’s mission to provide sustainable solutions to lift communities out of poverty and empower future leaders. We Grow was founded in 2013 at the corner of 64th and Honore – in Chicago’s south side neighborhood of Englewood. From one woman’s idea to a whole neighborhood’s heart, We Grow is the story of people coming together and working for change. It’s a history of violence and trauma but also one of hope, resiliency and most of all, love.
With years of disinvestment and structural racism, Englewood had become an opportunity and resource desert, leading many into the street economy to survive. Children couldn’t play outside, and residents stayed in their homes out of fear.
Today, the Peace House stands at the same corner where the seed for We Grow was planted. It serves as the community center on the neighborhood’s Peace Campus – a gathering and healing zone made up of 6 previously vacant lots and 2 homes. This campus is home to nearly 15 different programs, all run by community members and volunteers that assist every generation of West Englewood. 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.
Spark Ventures has contributed to We Grow’s mission by supporting impactful programs such as:
- Born to Thrive: This program provided in-person educational support for remote learning on the Peace Campus while schools were closed due to COVID. Forty of the neighborhood’s most vulnerable children and teens received technology and internet access, school supplies, social-emotional support, peer-to-peer activities, meals & snacks, transportation, and advocacy. In a neighborhood where 15% of the residents don’t have running water, 70% don’t have internet, 66% are unemployed and 45% of the children go to bed hungry, programs like this are crucial.
- Kids on the Move Summer Camp: Thirty children ages 6-12 participated in summer programming that gave them a chance to get outside, learn, explore, get active, and build new friendships in a loving, joyful space after months of isolation due to COVID and safety concerns in the neighborhood. The camp’s activities were designed to strengthen the childrens’ physical, mental, and emotional growth as well as to expand their world.
- The Spark Computer Lab: There was a great need to bridge the digital divide in Englewood given that 70% of its residents don’t have an internet connection in their homes. Thanks to a few of Spark’s generous supporters, there is a new computer lab on the Peace Campus which is providing a space for students to receive educational support. It is also available to teens and adults who are continuing their education and searching for employment.