Neighbors prepare the parkway along 75th Street at Oglesby Avenue with plants and mulch last weekend ahead of the Oct. 15 unveiling of a puzzle wall that will serve as a community marker.

SOUTH SHORE — Two events organized by South Shore residents will build neighborhood unity through food and art on back-to-back weekends.

A “Giving From the Heart” harvest celebration takes place 2-5 p.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Peace, 7851 S. Jeffery Blvd. Local churches, community groups, gardeners and other residents donated nonperishable goods and cold-weather clothing that organizers will hand out at the event.

Neighbors will gather again the following weekend to unveil a puzzle wall and community marker 1-3 p.m. Oct. 15 at 75th Street and Oglesby Avenue. Refreshments and gift card giveaways will be available at the event.

The harvest celebration aims to “show that our community does have heart and cares for one another,” said Linda Young, president of the Central South Shore Area Council.

Organizers have enough food and clothing already to serve 50-75 neighbors in need Saturday, Young said. Attendees can bring nonperishable foods to donate, though additional clothing donations won’t be accepted, she said.

A dance contest to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and a local nutritionist’s demonstration on healthy eating will also take place Saturday afternoon. Donors include the youth organization Ring of Hope, Food and Paper Supply and the Neighborhood Network Alliance, Young said.

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The Oct. 15 event serves as the public launch for a South Shore community beautification effort.

Neighbors have organized over the last year to clean up local parkways, plant flowers and build a puzzle wall, which encourages kids to build their spatial abilities while serving as a community marker, Young said.

The structure includes 18 puzzle pieces that can be arranged into three images: A map showing the central South Shore community’s boundaries, an Activate South Coast logo and a picture showing “Welcome” in several languages, Young said.

The puzzle will be installed at 75th Street and Oglesby Avenue as a sort of block club sign, after efforts to place it in a nearby park or on private property stalled, Young said.

“We’re tired of our outdoor spaces looking how they look, so we said, ‘What can we do to transform it?'” Young said. “The puzzle wall is our artistic impression of how we can start making our outdoor spaces look better.”

The Central South Shore Area Council and Activate South Coast — an initiative that aims to bring “a new energy” to public spaces from South Shore to Hegewisch — won a $5,500 grant from ChangeX’s Urban Thinkscape program for the puzzle wall.

The family-friendly celebration on Oct. 15 will include refreshments and giveaways for first 10 people who interact with the puzzle wall. Organizers hope the puzzle is the first of many similar projects to transform outdoor space in South Shore, Young said.

“We’re hoping 2023 generates a lot of community enthusiasm,” she said. “People are now going, ‘I want something like that on my block or near my business area,” and we’d be more than willing to do that.”

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