ENGLEWOOD — With a little elbow grease from neighbors and volunteers, a group of Englewood residents want to transform a vacant lot in the area into a safe, peaceful refuge for kids and adults alike.
Resident Association of Great Englewood (RAGE) and nonprofit Chicago Cares are transforming a lot 6620 S. Union Ave., said Aysha Butler, president of RAGE. Through their “Build on the Block” initiative, the group plans to paint a mural, build a fire pit and bring playground equipment to the site. The mural will be painted by local artist, Just Flo, who has worked with RAGE on a number of projects in the past, she said.
Volunteers worked on the lot earlier this month, but the group will need help again from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sept. 28 and 29. Those interested in volunteering can sign up here.
Creating safe spaces and working on community beautification is a priority for RAGE, Butler said. She hopes to expand the Build on the Block initiative.
“We have been talking about putting in work around the most violent areas,” Butler said. “…thinking about how we can transform a vacant lot to be a center-point on some of the blocks that are experiencing more crime, that was originally our reason for doing this on Union Avenue because the area was experiencing a lot of crime.”
Jenne Myers, chief executive officer for Chicago Cares, said the nonprofit has partnered with Teamwork Englewood and RAGE on Teamwork Englewood’s Quality of Life Plan in recent years.
“When we started in Englewood and with Teamwork Englewood, RAGE was one of the valued partners at the table and they’ve been incredible to work with,” Myers said. “They provide a lot of local leadership to help make these projects happen.”
Myers said Chicago Cares provided $2,500 in building materials like lumber and paint for the project. Additionally, the organization spread the word about the volunteer opportunities so Chicagoans outside of the Englewood community could potentially lend a hand. Through volunteering people from different backgrounds, ethnicities and walks of life can connect and build bridges of acceptance and understanding, she said.
“Volunteering is a way to bring people together and right now in our city we were feeling, certainly feeling segregation, certainly divisiveness, using volunteering as a platform to get people together is really the bigger mission of Chicago Cares,” she said.
The organization has tasks on the lot that even the unskilled craftsman can tackle.
“What you often find is the guys that are super handy with anything … [they’ll] volunteer first and be the one on all of the construction projects,” she said.
Butler hopes to bring this kind of community action to other lots in the neighborhood, as long as funding is available.
“We do view [vacant lots] as potential opportunities for development,” she said. “There are discussions around that going on about that but there hasn’t be a solution as of yet.”