By Molly Friend, Greenheart Outreach Coordinator

Annually CCI Greenheart’s Work & Travel community of international partners, employers, and community organizers join together for the Work & Travel Conference. In addition to sharing best practices and reviewing the year, stakeholders experience the importance of the Greenheart Club through a volunteer project. As Work & Travel participants are encouraged to volunteer during their program with the Greenheart Club, it is important that all stakeholders can personally relate to Greenheart Club volunteerism.  As stakeholders inspiring our Work & Travel participants to volunteer it is important that we all can walk the walk by having personally volunteered.

This year we chose to focus our conference volunteer efforts around some great Chicago social enterprises. A social enterprise can be either a for-profit or nonprofit business that along with making money fulfills a social, economic or community outcomes. The four social enterprises we volunteered with work towards helping Chicagoans, who otherwise would have difficulty entering the job force with a variety of job training skills and experiences. Over 50 volunteers were spread throughout the north, west, and south sides of the city at Growing Home’s Su Casa Garden, Sweet Beginnings, A Safe Haven, and Inspiration Corporation.

At Growing Home volunteers helped weed the garden and prepare the garden for an upcoming graduation of interns. Growing Home’s Su Casa garden located in the Back of the Yards neighborhood provides people an opportunity to reenter the job force through urban farming and agriculture training.

Volunteers at Sweet Beginnings learned how to harvest honey and helped with the production side.  Sweet Beginnings employs formerly incarcerated individuals and trains them to be beekeepers and produce honey and honey infused beauty products.

A Safe Haven volunteers helped in the food pantry and garden. A Safe Haven located in Lawndale, provides a variety of job training and housing solutions to the community.

At Inspiration Corporation the volunteers helped staff with organizing their basement. Inspiration Corporation located in Uptown offers culinary training programs to enter the culinary field.

CCI Greenheart would like to extend a warm thanks to these amazing social enterprises. Thank you for welcoming us and continue transforming our Chicago community for the better. After a group reflection activity it was clear conference attendees will treasure these experiences and lessons learned to inspire future Greenheart Club members. Here’s to inspiring our Work & Travel participants from our own personal experience.