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As part of its commitment to fight for more equitable, safe, healthy, and vibrant Hispanic communities, the President & CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) participated this week in a tour organized by the environmental organization The Nature Conservancy.

The first stop was in La Villita, where Jaime di Paulo learned about the tremendous momentum achieved through the partnership between The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Latinos Progresando, the lead agency of the Marshall Square Resource Network.

Together the two organizations are working on projects that bring together people, wellness, and the environment. The partnership includes a green space activation grant program, walkability and green infrastructure efforts, and art & nature workshops.

The first meeting was attended by: Michelle Carr, Illinois State Director at The Nature Conservancy, John Legge, Chicago Conservation Director at The Nature Conservancy, Forrest Cortes, Director of Community Engagement at The Nature Conservancy, and Andrew Sparks, Community Programs Director at Latinos Progresando.

The IHCC is committed to engaging more small business owners to actively participate in rebuilding public spaces that ensure a better quality of life for our communities.

Small business owners are the ones most interested in making the environment around them safer and more accessible,” Di Paulo added. “That’s why we are interested in the work of  respected organizations like The Nature Conservancy working in partnership with community-based partners, like Latinos Progresando, which ensures that all stakeholders involved in urban development can do their part to improve the quality of life in their communities.”

After La Villita, Jaime di Paulo visited one of the dozens of urban gardens in which the team of Marshall Square Resource Network is working-in this case with a community garden created by Hammond Elementary School and Lincoln Park Zoo, located at W 21st Pl and W Cullerton Street.

This is one of two possible sites for a mural installation that shows local artist depictions of the relationship between air quality, people, health and nature. The murals were funded through a partnership between TNC, Latinos Progresando, and OPEN Center for the Arts.

Community members are invited to view the murals and vote on their final location at this link

Di Paulo witnessed how it is possible to educate kids about the importance of small spaces for families, communities, and the city in which they live.

Let’s preserve our parks

A few hours later, in Humboldt Park, the group was joined by Lucy Gomez-Feliciano, Community Stewardship Program Manager with The Nature Conservancy and Chicago Park District, and Emma Epstein, Resident Services Counselor at LUCHA (Latin United Community Housing Association).

There, we witnessed how The Nature Conservancy is helping in many corners of Illinois to protect sun-drenched prairies, oak-shaded savannas, and quiet woodlands throughout the state. We also explored creative community partnerships that TNC is fostering, hoping to engage more local residents of color in their community parks and programming.

IHCC is intrigued by the unique partnership that connects Chicagoans with nature close to home. We look forward to learning more about, and possibly joining The Nature Conservancy and the Chicago Park District at volunteer days in the future.

I love hearing that they want to engage our organization to help our communities solve today’s biggest conservation challenges,” said Jaime di Paulo. “By conserving our public spaces and promoting greener environments, there are many ways our members, partners, and customers can get involved and do their part to support communities where people and nature thrive together. Without a doubt, we are stronger working together!”

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