“The environment is where we all meet; where all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” – Lady Bird Johnson
This past weekend I was home with my family for Easter. Besides the standard Easter egg hunts and chocolate bunnies which the holiday entails, it’s also the time to get my parents’ yard ready for spring. My mother has a green thumb; I do not. I more often look at spring as when my allergies start acting up. And living in the city, I don’t have a yard to tend, so landscaping is not a part of my every day routine.
However, the beauty of flowers and green space is not lost on me. One of the reasons I chose Chicago as my home more than 14 years ago was for its character as a “City in a Garden.” Typically, cities are thought of as concrete jungles, but not Chicago – green roofs, parks, and flowers abound in this city. And, as we approach Earth Day again, it is more profound to me than others have been. Undoubtedly due to the hard winter. I have a deeper gratefulness for green grass and sunshine, blooming flowers, and budding trees.
Earth Day 23 years ago was when Chicago Cares was founded on several premises: offering an accessible path to volunteer opportunities which would inspire residents to tackle challenges through collaborative action; meaningful volunteer experiences would educate people about themselves, their neighbors, and the world; and empowering volunteers would ensure the future health and vitality of our city.
Chicago Cares began as an idea 23 years ago and has evolved into a movement. In that time:
• 500,000 volunteers have been mobilized
• 37,000 volunteer projects have been competed
• 250 monthly group volunteer programs are executed each month
• 750 Chicago nonprofits are supported
• 99 percent of volunteers feel the work they do with Chicago Cares has a positive impact and are likely to serve again
• 97 percent of nonprofit partners say Chicago Cares helps them meet their mission
Chicago Cares has revolutionized the way people take ownership of our city and the way problems are solved. We are the only nonprofit that comprehensively addresses issue areas – from hunger to education to job readiness – through volunteerism. In 23 years, we’ve grown, we’ve evolved, and we’ve nimbly shifted with the needs of communities, nonprofits, and volunteers. We’ve fostered leadership and civic engagement among an entire generation of Chicagoans.
And while I don’t have a yard to keep up, I’m proud to be leading Chicago Cares in cultivating this next evolution of an ongoing movement around community service. I also wouldn’t mind helping to freshen up a garden or beautify a public park or a school’s landscaping, because efforts like those make our city bloom – both literally and figuratively. Won’t you join me? To celebrate the spirit of Earth Day and Chicago Cares’ Anniversary, serve at a volunteer opportunity and keep Chicago growing stronger.
Chicago Cares Executive Director