Building Community Through Nature
Keeler Gardens, a 501(c)(3) on Chicago’s northwest side, improves the health and sustainability of urban community life through environmental experiences, supporting diversity and youth development, and building a connection with nature. In 2016, the founders of Keeler Gardens, Ed Caplan and Gina Iliopoulos, turned their Old Irving Park neighborhood home into this community resource. They created something extraordinary for their immediate community and neighboring communities, an incredibly beneficial nature space for those living in an otherwise forlorn and underserved urban setting.
Keeler Gardens’ urban nature space is always open to the community and needs support to develop our diverse interactive and educational programming, bringing community members and families together by centering on connecting with nature. We recently opened our Illinois Native Educational Pollinator Habitat that was funded by a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and plan to greatly extend programs to the community in order to fully develop as a community resource. Programs and events will educate on connecting with nature through immersion, sustainability, horticulture, urban farming, art and design, cultural exploration, and community interaction.
We are developing the following types of community engagements:
- Weekly Community Gathering Nights
- Daily Educational Events and Series
- Community Art Events
Keeler Gardens is for everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, and other socioeconomic differences, serving participants from ages 3 to 103! By bringing community members together with nature as a catalyst, our programs will not only build community but strengthen the physical, mental, and emotional health of individuals and the community as a whole.
Keeler Gardens is a certified National Wildlife Federation Wildlife Habitat, Monarch Waystation, Conservation Home Site, and recent recipient of The Chicago Excellence in Gardening Award. We are pleased to announce we have been approved by the USA TODAY NETWORK to compete in their “A Community Thrives Challenge” for awards and an ultimate grant of up to $100,000!
We need your help!
1. Click the “Donate” button and make a donation of the required minimum of $10 or more.
2. Click on one of the share buttons to share this campaign with your network of family, friends, and colleagues asking them to participate.
3. Check in every week to help us win weekly incentives and bonuses and to see how your donation has helped us reach our goal of $3000. Reaching this goal gets us to the next round of the granting process (with awards of up to $100,000!)
Additionally, if Keeler Gardens is one of the top three fundraisers at the end of the four-week challenge, we could win up to another $25,000. And the smaller, weekly challenges for the highest number of donors and the total amount of donations have awards of up to $5,000.
This challenge and grant will make a dramatic impact on Keeler Gardens’ programming allowing us to offer multiple, unique weekly programs in a variety of disciplines, more than tripling our existing offerings. Community members will not only connect with nature, but with each other, allowing for mentorship and the sharing of resources and cultural traditions. The community will benefit from the educational aspects of the programming with the goal of building more native, sustainable, productive green spaces. Overall the health of the community will improve, creating a stable, safe, GREEN place.
Keeler Gardens intends to serve as a pilot, setting a precedent for other communities in Chicago and beyond, helping them create their own local natural spaces that build community while improving health and well-being.