Letter From Janelle,
Executive Director
At Growing Home, we know that growth requires hard work. Whether it’s tending to the crops in our urban farm or strengthening our neighborhood through our workforce development program, the growth we see each and every day is a result of a lot of time, energy, and love.
And just as a farm can’t thrive without the dedicated people who plant, harvest, and sell its produce, an organization can’t thrive without the volunteers, patrons, partners, neighbors, alumni and team who support the mission. 

Growing Home has always been a collective community effort. And in 2020, our community has shown us just how powerful that collective can be, as you will read throughout this newsletter and see in our Still Growing Video. From our 2020 Impact Numbers only possible through all of your help to the organizations we have collaborated with and the stories of these partnerships, collective effort is everywhere. 

In 2021, I look forward to all of us doing the good work. In this newsletter, you’ll read about this good work we are already doing and planning: heating our hoop houses to grow year round; expanding our Employment Training program and developing new partnerships with corporate job readiness sponsors; enhancing our educational offerings through an experimental community garden and our Growing Home University - and so much more. 

I know that everything won’t be perfect these coming months. Our society continues to struggle with racial and social injustices in our community - and with the effects of the pandemic and high unemployment and food insecurity affecting our Black and Brown communities the hardest in Chicago, there is so much work to do. I imagine that we will continue to face these challenges together with honesty, respect and compassion. As Anna, one of our Employment Training Program Graduates, said, “At Growing Home, I found out that things are possible.” We couldn’t agree more with Anna; and we know that the best is yet to come for our organization and our community. 

The Chinese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” At Growing Home, our farms may be the body of the work we do, but our community is the heart. 

Thank you so much for your enduring support in 2020 and a special thank you to our 2020 Circle of Impact Members. We hope you all continue to walk alongside us as we grow this year and beyond. Wishing you all a wonderful new year, and a healthy, prosperous 2021.

Stay well --
2020 By The Numbers
People &
Employment Training
Hybrid Workforce Development Program
& Cohort 3 Graduation Successes!
Our Employment Training program is extremely unique: we provide transferable skills job training with a robust staff, all in-house; we pay our program trainees; we have holistic support services including one-on-one case management; we focus on curriculum centered on the green economy; and, we are dedicated to educating highly motivated adults with barriers to employment, many who have been formerly incarcerated. For all these reasons, we knew it was extremely important to adapt and find creative ways to continue our Employment Training program for our community during the pandemic.

We are so proud of our Production Assistants, staff and Employer Partners for our successes this year. Most recently, our final group - Cohort 3 - completed their program filled with small group on-the-farm training in the mornings and virtual classes in the afternoon on Roots of Success Environmental Literacy, Emotional Resiliency Courses, Career Aptitude, Conscious Leadership, and Job Readiness + Job Search.

Our virtual format allowed us great creativity as we had several guest presenters including: Fifth Third Bank, Career Pathway Certification, CGLA, and former employee, Shelley Willliams. PA's received certifications through online courses, such as Growing Home’s annual Sexual Harassment Training and online ServSafe courses, with costs covered by Growing Home.

Cohort 3 capped off with a touching Virtual Graduation Ceremony with our staff, the graduates and friends and family. Opening words from our Circle of Impact Les Brown Founders Circle members Laura Tilly and Derek Cottier set the tone for celebration and gratitude for each other and this program.

Specialized Workshops
We have many fantastic Employment Training partners who volunteer their time to our Production Assistants (PA's) so our PA's can gain real-world job preparation experience. Here were some of our Cohort 3 highlights:

  • Accenture holding a Virtual Elevator Pitch Session with our Cohort 3 PA's
  • Hosting Bel Brands for a 3-part Bel Brands Company Overview and Virtual Interview Workshop for PA's in October
  • Hosting a “Know Your Rights” Workshop facilitated by Rights and Restoration Law and DePaul University Law School on October 7th
Alumni & Community Programs
One of the best parts of the Growing Home program is our life-long support services as part of our Growing Home Alumni Family. This year, with the pandemic, we made sure to connect our 500+ alumni network to connect them with housing, job and other support services.

Growing Home also co-hosted a Virtual Job Fair open to the Englewood community on October 29th as part of Growing Home’s membership in the EQLP Workforce Development Taskforce. This virtual job fair was a fantastic opportunity for our PA's and our alumni to meet employers and interview safely from their own home.

We also have inaugurated a Farm Internship and Extension Program for recent graduates who want to dive deeper into agricultural skills. Anna and Paula, two alums from Cohort 1, were awarded our long-term Farm Internships and Michael and Anthony, from Cohort 2, were awarded the Extension PA positions. Congratulations to all!

To learn more about how Michael and Anna found Growing Home and what they value in the Employment Training Program, read their stories below!

Introducing Our New
Employment Training Director
In December, we welcomed Zenobia Williams to our team as our new Director of Employment Training! Zenobia comes to us with 20 years of experience in workforce training and development. Prior to joining Growing Home, Zenobia worked with OAI, Inc., CEDA, SGA Youth and Family Services and Chicago Urban League. Zenobia also contributes her time and talent as a board member and volunteer for Saving Lives, Inc., a local mental health social service agency.

Welcome, Zenobia! We also extend a thank you to Jamie Winger, our outgoing Employment Training Director, for his four years of dedication and service to our Growing Home family.
Employment Training Spotlight: "Building Partnerships That Last"
January 10, 2021
by Growing Home

Growing Home and Accenture have had a fantastic partnership over the years that spans many different kinds of programming and has adapted creatively this year. We had the opportunity to sit down with Accenture's Growing Home partnership program directors, Michael and Stephen, to learn more. Enjoy the interview!

Q. How did the partnership between Accenture and Growing Home first develop and evolve over the years?

(Michael) The origin of the Accenture partnership with Growing home started with my wife, Cathi, and her passion for urban farming and giving back to the community. In the summer of 2014 Cathi started helping Growing Home as a volunteer on the farm to help pull / prep vegetables that were ripe. She came home one day after volunteering with the most beautiful vegetables and when she was providing an overview of Growing Home, I was intrigued on the workforce development component in their work.

With my role as the Director of Chicago Market Development, [...] I was intrigued by the opportunity to find a way to partner with Growing Home and support. After a few conversations with [former Growing Home director] Harry Rhodes, we were off and running with a partnership. [...] It is an honor to partner with such an amazing organization and I look forward to all we can do to work together to create more opportunities for more people in every community and zip code in Chicago.
Q. Why are the individual connections and relationships across the two organizations so important? Any favorite memories over the years?

(Stephen) While the partnership between Accenture and Growing Home started off as a focused effort to connect PAs with Accenture volunteers to help with job-training skills, it has certainly blossomed over the years and has shifted to building longer-term bonds and connections between our organizations. These connections are important for both organizations, by helping the PA's understand how strong their support network truly is to give them the best foot forward in their future career aspirations, to helping them understand what’s possible in and around their community, to continued assistance with job placement and grant funding for Growing Home’s programming.

[...] Considering all the memories made over the years, it’s really the hands-on sessions with the Program Assistants where your impact can truly be felt in the kind words from the PAs. [...] It’s also incredible to see the immense progress of each of the PAs as they develop from the beginning of their time with Growing Home to the end.
Q. What were some of the highlights from 2020’s partnership for you?

(Stephen) 2020 has certainly been a year to remember. Growing Home did an incredible job in quickly shifting their cohorts to virtual learning at the onset of the pandemic and we were able to adapt our traditional in-office visit sessions to virtual as well. The virtual format enabled us to expand our programming from one event to multiple events for each cohort. This year the partnership with the cohorts focused on elevator pitches, resume reviews, and mock interviews. 

The mock interviews were an incredibly valuable tool, allowing our Accenture volunteers to simulate actual interviews the PAs would have in the future by ascertaining their job interests ahead of time, virtually conducting the interview, providing real-time feedback, and after debriefing with the rest of the volunteers, providing general common themes found across the mock interviews back to the entire cohort to keep in mind while prepping for the future job interviews.

We look forward to the continued collaboration of this incredible partnership that has developed over the years.

To read the full interview, go to growinghomeinc.org/accenture
Emergency Food Relief

Food insecurity is a real issue for many people in Chicago and with the pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities that we serve, we have been committed to aiding businesses and other organizations in food relief efforts. A few notable partnerships this winter were:

Setting up a fresh produce stand with free distribution at the Black Village Association's Senior Food Drive at Paul G. Stewart Center on October 2

Donating 150-200 Produce Boxes to the Englewood Community Senior Food Market in October

Packaging and distributing 200+ Produce boxes for our own WinterFest Community Event

Continuing to distribute our produce weekly to local restaurants Smyth and the Loyalist, Kumiko, and Inspiration Kitchen through The Lee Initiative's Restaurant Reboot Relief Program
Growing Home Kitchen Box: Delivery Program
A core of our mission is to make fresh, organic produce accessible to our neighbors. We truly believe that good, fresh food belongs to everyone. In a non-pandemic year, we have a farm stand and pop-up markets throughout Greater Englewood where we sell produce at affordable prices and honor customers' public aid and senior coupons. Without the possibility of farm stands this past year, it was still essential to make our produce accessible.

To do this, we began and increased contactless deliveries weekly & bi-weekly to local families, with 100% of these boxes at no cost to residents. These boxes contain fresh organic produce and recipe cards from Growing Home during growing season and non-perishables and produce from partnering organizations at different parts of the year. Through generous support from donors, we have provided over 1.7K boxes and bags of food to our neighbors and will continue throughout the winter.
Farm Operations Update
Many exciting happenings on the farm! We have ordered about half of our seeds for 2021 and we have officially wrapped two of our hoop houses! This improvement allows us to extend our growing season by providing heating to our hoop houses. Thank you to our Farm Team and alumni for completing this essential project.

We are working closely with our Farm Consultant to assess and improve our processes. Over the next few months we will address: building out an environmental literacy + workforce development curriculum; expanding our processing space; and preparing for GAP certification.

We can't wait to update you on everything in the coming months. Hopefully you all can come visit our farms for a tour in the spring!
Farm Spotlight: "Growing Food and Careers Through Agriculture"
November 2, 2020
by McCormick Foundation

Fred Daniels, our Urban Farm Site Manager who has been with Growing Home for over 10 years, was spotlighted by McCormick Foundation in a fantastic article. See below!

“I didn’t know there was a farm in the hood.”

Fred Daniels hears that a lot. As the site manager at the Growing Home farm in Englewood, he wishes more people knew about this community resource. “Our doors are always open to support. It’s more than just our training program and making sure people get a job. It’s getting to see people blossom into a different person. And, growing some of the best food one can get.”

Growing Home is a nonprofit organization on the South Side of Chicago working to help people find meaningful, sustaining careers through agriculture. Through its training program, participants are involved in every aspect of farm production including planting, harvesting, packaging and selling to customers across the neighborhood and in Chicago. Participants, who are referred to as production assistants, also work with Growing Home staff to improve access to healthy food for underserved neighborhoods in Chicago. Before the pandemic, Growing Home sold produce every Thursday through farm stands, weekly pop-ups at hospitals and various events around the city. Since March 2020, the organization has had to make some tough decisions.

Community Spotlight: "Giving Back to Englewood at WinterFest"
December 22, 2021
by Growing Home

On December 12, Growing Home hosted our first annual "Give Back to the Wood" WinterFest Event with the support of over 12 other organizations and sponsors. Over 200 community members attended this socially-distanced event that provided food, warm gear, raffle prizes, toys and some much needed holiday cheer. Hear more about the event in our interview with LaQuandra Fair, Growing Home's Community Engagement Coordinator and leader of WinterFest.

What were you most excited about for WinterFest?
“I was most excited about seeing all of the community members that came out and the amount of help from other community organizations that came out and supported. It just showed the true essence of Englewood.”
Why is it important that Growing Home & partners put on this WinterFest, especially during the stay-at-home orders?
“It was important as an organization to push through in spite of the COVID-shutdown. Just because there’s a pandemic doesn’t mean the need stops for our community. In the space we work in, it's really important for us to be a leading resource for the community in spite of the pandemic or whatever situations are happening. At the end of the day, our goal is to serve and that’s what we will continue to do: to serve.”
Any final words you'd like to share about the event?
“Shout-outs to all the organizations for all the work and all the individual volunteers who made this event a reality. Special thanks to T.H.U.G. Hippie, Rotary Club Chicago, I Grow Chicago, HHP Lift, The Honeycomb Project, Chicago Cares, Local Artist Pat Devine-Reed, R.A.G.E. Englewood, Dovetail Brewery, Black Girls Carol, Oak Street Health, and the Smiley Family. We look forward to a bigger and better one next year, to have more giveaways, items, food resources, toys and gifts. Other than that — this year's was an ultimate success."

To see more photos from WinterFest, visit Growing Home's Instagram and Facebook
Community Food Access Initiatives
We love sharing the joy and gift of good food with our community - which was especially important this past year and will continue to be in 2021. In addition to WinterFest, here are a few holiday highlights for us from 2020!

  • Partnering with Greenhouse Skokie to distribute 100 grocery store gifts cards to our neighbors for the holidays
  • Sharing our fresh October produce with over 300 seniors at Black Village Foundation's Senior Food Drive
  • Surprising 6 neighborhood families with Thanksgiving Meal deliveries prepared by the incredible Chef Bernard Bennett
  • Partnering with Northwestern Compass Dining Services & Something Good in Englewood to deliver 300 delicious prepared meals to neighbors
Educational Programming
Education for our community and our youth around gardening, cooking, nutrition and joy with food is core to our Community Engagement mission. Even though we haven't been able to host kids at our Learning Garden this year, we have had many successes this winter!

  • Sharing about Growing Home's mission, food insecurity & social justice with middle school students virtually at the Darst Center and Roycemore School
  • Creating Growing Home Kitchen cooking demo videos to share with community members and families
  • LaQuandra joining the WhyHunger Educational Panel to discuss COVID, food insecurity and communities of color.
Volunteers & Partnerships
This late fall and winter, we still had dedicated small groups of volunteers help us with projects on the farm! Special shout-outs to the Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business who helped us paint a bright vegetable mural for our fence, to Rotary Club who helped us build garden boxes for our 2021 Community Garden, to Markus and Daphne who donated their time and photography talent doing professional photos for our staff - and to all our volunteers who helped at WinterFest!

We are also energized with our continuing and new partnership discussions with Grow Greater Englewood, IMAN and Urban Growers Collective for food access and community development work - and Joseph and Amazon for our employment training program.
Organizational Excellence
Growing Home Wins
UN Chicago Zero Hunger Award!
In October, we were recognized by United Nations Association Chicago as the 2020 Zero Hunger Award Recipient for our 2020 work in food access in our community. We were able to attend a virtual awards ceremony and connect with other incredible Chicago organizations doing important work.

Chicago Speaking Engagements
We've continued to share our education and knowledge around Employment Training, Farming & Food Access and Community Development in speaking engagements virtually across Chicago. Thank you to DePaul University's Professor Sarah Holian, the Northwestern Student Group, and WomenUnite for inviting us to speak on behalf of Growing Home and our community at panels and classes - and to WBBM and Rebecca Ortiz for hosting us on their Chicago Connections show!
2020 Impact
For everyone, and especially for our Englewood community, 2020 has been a difficult year. We were (and are) Still Growing. Thank you to everyone who helped make this possible. And if you haven't already, take a look at our "Still Growing" video here:

Board Match Challenge Success!
As part of our Still Growing Campaign, our Board challenged us to a 35K match. Through the incredible generosity and hard work of all of you - our supporters and Growing Home family and friends - we surpassed the match! All of these proceeds ensure that our essential job-training, food access and community programming continue to still grow. Thank you from all of us at Growing Home!
Get Involved
Volunteer & Tour our Farms
We hope this spring we can open our Farms for large volunteer groups and tours! We welcome individuals, community groups, business organizations and more. Email lfair@growinghomeinc.org to get involved and learn more about our volunteer & tour program.
Upcoming Spring Events
February 1st ET Cohort 1 Begins
March CSA Sign-ups, Stay Tuned!
April Market Stands Open
April 13 ET Cohort 2 Begins
Purchase a CSA
Our CSA program is the best! Weekly or bi-weekly fresh organic produce boxes complete with recipes & cooking demos - and you support a great cause. Sign-ups open in March. Email ssettles@growinghomeinc.org with ?'s.
Visit our Markets
In April, we hope to see you at our Englewood Farm Stand , Green City Market & more. (Stay tuned for exact schedule.) See you there!
Be an Employment Training Partner
Want to devise workshops for our ET curriculum? Or become a partner to hire our graduates? We'd love to collaborate! Email our Director of Employment Training, Zenobia Williams, at zwilliams@growinghomeinc.org
Speaking Events
Want to have a Growing Home leader speak for your class or at your event? Contact Megan at mmorrison@growinghomeinc.org
Growing Home Kitchen
Season 1 of Growing Home Kitchen is live! We are filming Season 2 & would love your help. Have great farm-fresh recipes? Love to cook? Know a lot about nutrition? Contact mmorrison@growinghomeinc.org to get involved!
Our internship program is a great way to gain skills while working with Growing Home. College students earning credit encouraged to apply. Contact lfair@growinghomeinc.org
Become a Monthly Supporter
Pledge your support as a monthly donor & watch your contributions add up as you help Growing Home sustain life-changing programs.
Circle of Impact
Become a part of our donor community Circle of Impact and have a deeper connection with Growing Home.
Learn more
Visit us at growinghomeinc.org
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