Greening The Desert
Each spring and fall, the Firm’s Religious Practice hosts a client lunch with guest speakers presenting on compelling contemporary subjects, ranging from the Syrian refugee crisis to the Chicago Innocence Project, to issues around religious displays on public property.
Our theme on December 9, 2016, was food. As the Firm’s Jim Serritella stressed in his introductory remarks, while most Americans enjoy our nation’s bounty, many others go hungry, some in communities that simply lack access to healthy food.
Our distinguished speakers were two individuals from different yet converging disciplines, both positively impacting urgent community needs: Msgr. Michael Boland, President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and Leon Walker, managing partner of DL3 Realty, the developer of the Englewood Square Shopping center, anchored by Whole Foods in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
Msgr. Boland detailed the daily efforts and effects of Catholic Charities as it assists families and individuals who are hungry in the City of Chicago and throughout Cook and Lake Counties. Catholic Charities’ fleet of vans can be seen driving 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to achieve its mission of providing food and shelter to the impoverished. In the spirit of “teaching a man to fish,” Catholic Charities collaborates with these families and individuals to form long term strategies for independence, including finding employment and housing or learning new skills to increase job prospects.
By providing food, clothing, shelter and counseling, Catholic Charities is bringing hope to the hopeless in the city of Chicago and its suburbs. Through their spectrum of services from 164 locations throughout Cook and Lake Counties, they annually assist more than a million persons without regard to religious, ethnic or economic background. In 2015 alone, nearly 70,000 people were served a warm meal through the Evening Supper programs.
As a Chicago south side native, Leon Walker was no stranger to the food deserts that vex many Chicago neighborhoods. For 15 years, he has served as a managing partner of DL3 Realty, a Chicago real estate investment partnership that, among other things, works with national grocery retailers to build stores in communities of high need. Englewood Square, which features a Whole Foods, Starbucks, Chipotle, Villa Shoes, and Oak Street Health, is more than bricks and mortar. It is a catalyst for revitalization.
Englewood Square is located at 63rd and Halsted at the historic site of the Englewood Mall, whose popularity and profitability were once second only to the downtown Chicago shopping district. Walker shared methods for forming partnerships and instigating the collaborations necessary to get the project financed and built. Many see the development as a turning point for the community, adding optimism, quality food options, greater economic activity, and jobs to this once underserved area.
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