“ALL HANDS ON DECK! This is YMEN’s moment to serve like we have never served before,” said Michael Trout, YMEN’s Founder. The pandemic has affected African-Americans at a rate that is seven times more than other communities. We have been told that the 60623 and 60624 zip codes of North Lawndale have led the state in both percentage of cases and number of fatalities. COVID-19 has also led to tremendous financial strain as non-essential workers have been furloughed and many have lost their employment. As we know, schools have moved to e- learning -- raising huge issues of supervision that disproportionately affect single parent homes. Many of our students were expected to continue their education virtually without adequate computer hardware or internet connectivity. Then, we saw the murder of George Floyd -- tensions surrounding issues of race and white supremacy dominated the headlines. Protesting and neighborhood looting followed and added to the feeling of community unrest. Many good businesses in Lawndale were hurt and things seemed chaotic at best and hopeless at worst. But the people of God are never without hope! In fact, it is often during the darkest time that the light and love of Jesus shines the brightest.
YMEN TAKES ACTION!
This newsletter will highlight the work YMEN has and is doing to bring food and essential supplies to our neighborhood families, support to help students educationally, financial resources to help our small business owners, and effective projects that build collaborations with other key community partners. If you are reading this
newsleber it is because you care about our students and their families and are probably one of the reasons we can shine so brightly in the midst of the surrounding darkness.
Thank you for helping YMEN be a help to others; we could not do it without you!
YMEN CONVERTS YOUTH CENTER INTO E-LEARNING ACADEMY
Now open at 7:30 each morning, YMEN has 24 students who have individual workstations to complete their e-learning assignments. Complete with a personal Chromebook, headset, fully stocked snack room, and a delicious home-made lunch, our students have everything they need to focus on the difficult task of 5-hours of zoom calls each day. Local principals are referring students to YMEN who are struggling with minimal support. We are so proud of the determination we see in our students.
Expanding Urban Gardening & Building a Hot Pepper Garden
DOUBLING DOWN! Young Men's Educational Network (YMEN) adds a 6,000 sq/ft urban garden in North Lawndale by building 15 raised beds to grow specialty peppers. Student leaders from the Young Men's Educational Network (YMEN) work with carpenters and volunteers to build fifteen 4x8 raised planters to grow specialty pepper plants that will be used in a nationally distributed hot sauce called, “CHICAGO!” The Small Axe Pepper Company will create a hot sauce using hybrid jalapeño peppers grown by YMEN in North Lawndale. Students in YMEN used 2x4 lumber to construct the “home” for these peppers. In addition to getting income for their work, they learned to use power tools and build transferrable skills that will last long beyond the harvesting of the peppers. These new raised vegetable beds were placed in a lot that had previously been a dump site. The neighbors are so appreciative of our community transformation efforts. Special thanks to Bob Newland (and our Hinsdale friends) for teaching us how to build these raised beds.
At the intersection of high unemployment, food insecurity, remote learning, and neglected vacant land ...... is an opportunity for impact touching all of these needed social pains. With unemployment at historic highs, this summer, YMEN employed 25 teens engaged in urban farming in North Lawndale. We called these youth KINGS and QUEENS! Working outdoors and following CDC guidelines of masks, sanitizers, and working smaller working groups, these youth gained both skills and employment while growing fresh produce on formerly vacant and neglected land. Here are the numbers of IMPACT:
25 teens hired — 3 college interns hired — 4 YMEN staff — $15,800 summer income — 15,000 square feet of urban farming — 25 volunteers — 18 types of fruits and vegetables — 300 pounds of jalapeño peppers — 0 incidences of violence.