Jill Wrigley

Bal­ti­more at­tor­ney worked on so­cial jus­tice is­sues and pro­vid­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles for poor res­i­dents

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES NATION & WORLD - By Car­rie Wells cwells@balt­sun.com

Jill Wrigley, an at­tor­ney com­mit­ted to so­cial jus­tice is­sues who helped in­crease ac­cess to fruits and veg­eta­bles for Bal­ti­more school­child­ren, died of lung cancer at her home in south­west Bal­ti­more on Oct. 5. She was 52.

Most re­cently, Ms. Wrigley taught a sem­i­nar on food and food sys­tems at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County. Ear­lier in her ca­reer, she helped found Bal­ti­more’s of­fice of Latino ad­vo­cacy group CASA of Mary­land, built a hot­line for work­place rights at the Women’s Law Cen­ter of Mary­land and coun­seled la­bor unions in Washington.

“What made her a re­mark­able friend was also what made her a bril­liant or­ga­nizer for so­cial change,” said Su­san Go­er­ing, di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union in Mary­land. “She was gen­er­ous, she was very good at lis­ten­ing to peo­ple deeply. She was also very mod­est.”

Jill Lynne Wrigley was born in 1964 in Pottstown, Pa., a small town near Read­ing. Her fa­ther, Al­bert Wrigley, was an at­tor­ney in Pottstown and her mother, Mar­lene Wrigley, was a teacher.

Be­fore grad­u­at­ing from Potts­grove High School in 1982, Ms. Wrigley spent a year liv­ing in Swe­den, later re­turn­ing there to live for an­other year while in grad­u­ate school. She grad­u­ated summa cum laude from Welles­ley Col­lege in 1987 af­ter study­ing po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, then spent time in Gu­atemala vol­un­teer­ing in a fos­ter home for chil­dren and as­sist­ing with an English pro­gram for GAM, a hu­man rights group.

Ms. Wrigley earned her mas­ter’s de­gree in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and com­par­a­tive pol­i­tics, as well as her law de­gree, from Columbia Univer­sity. At that time, she met her hus­band, Michael Sar­banes, the son of for­mer U.S. Sen. Paul Sar­banes. The two were set up on a blind date by mu­tual friends, Michael Sar­banes said.

In1994, the cou­ple mar­ried and moved to Bal­ti­more. Ms. Wrigley joined the com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing group BUILD, or Bal­ti­more­ans United in Lead­er­ship De­vel­op­ment, for three years, and worked to lobby for higher pay for low-wage work­ers in Bal­ti­more. From 1992 to 2002, she coun­seled la­bor unions on con­tract is­sues and col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing at Barr & Ca­men, a law firm in Washington.

In 2002, she helped start the Bal­ti­more of­fice of CASA of Mary­land, giv­ing le­gal as­sis­tance to low-wage im­mi­grant work­ers to pro­tect their work­place rights and try­ing to raise aware­ness of the con­cerns of im­mi­grants. Later, she helped start a statewide work­place rights hot­line at Women’s Law Cen­ter of Mary­land to ad­vise call­ers on la­bor and work­place rights.

The cou­ple set­tled in a house near the woods in the Irv­ing­ton neigh­bor­hood of Bal­ti­more, a low-in­come area. They adopted bi­o­log­i­cal broth­ers Mu­lugeta and An­teneh, then aged 3 and 5, from Ethiopia. Mr. Sar­banes said they had ini­tially en­vi­sioned adopt­ing a baby girl, but felt a con­nec­tion to the boys af­ter see­ing their pic­ture. “In that mo­ment, we knew,” Mr. Sar­banes said. The cou­ple later added to the fam­ily, adopt­ing a girl, Christina, from East Bal­ti­more.

Chil­dren in the neigh­bor­hood would of­ten come to the house and ask for food, and Ms. Wrigley was al­ways ready with a healthy snack. “We picked ap­ples last fall and she said ‘OK, now we have enough for us and the kids com­ing to the door,’ ” Ms. Go­er­ing re­called.

With chil­dren in school and af­ter see­ing the food in­se­cu­rity in the neigh­bor­hood, Ms. Wrigley was in­spired to work on food sus­tain­abil­ity is­sues. She did a va­ri­ety of jobs and vol­un­teer ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing teach­ing the Food is Ele­men­tary cur­ricu­lum at two city schools, do­ing an 18-month fel­low­ship to de­velop “Good to Grow,” a food ed­u­ca­tion pro­ject for Bal­ti­more schools, and ad­vised a char­ter school con­sor­tium about ways to im­prove their food ed­u­ca­tion and school food.

Ms. Wrigley also helped found Great Kids Farm, an ed­u­ca­tional farm for Bal­ti­more school­child­ren. The lot was over­grown, and home to snakes be­fore it was turned into an ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­nity, her hus­band said.

“You had this 40-acre farm just sort of sit­ting there with this tremen­dous pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing that to en­gage kids about where does the food come from, what makes it good, how does it grow, and then taste the food,” Mr. Sar­banes said.

Food be­came a way for Ms. Wrigley to feel she was mak­ing an im­pact, Ms. Go­er­ing said.

“It’s a uni­ver­sal need,” she said. “In a way it’s a mas­ter­ful way of mak­ing so­cial change be­cause it in­cor­po­rates both the in­ti­mate and more grandiose love of large shifts in the po­lit­i­cal and so­cial land­scape.”

Ms. Wrigley and Mr. Sar­banes helped cre­ate the Peace Park in Irv­ing­ton, on a lot where a va­cant house and a lot filled with junk once stood. With raised beds for plants and a wooden plat­form, the space be­came a place for the com­mu­nity to gather and hold birth­day par­ties and other cel­e­bra­tions.

Ms. Wrigley was also a mem­ber of St. Bartholomew’s Epis­co­pal Church and en­joyed gar­den­ing, writ­ing po­etry and learn­ing about new things, her hus­band said.

“If cu­rios­ity were a hobby, that would be her hobby,” he said.

Funeral ser­vices will be at 11 a.m. Sat­ur­day at St. Bartholomew’s at 4711 Ed­mon­son Ave.

Ms. Wrigley is sur­vived by her hus­band and three chil­dren, as well as her par­ents, who live in Pottstown, 14 nieces and neph­ews, and three sib­lings, Lara Wrigley, of Bal­ti­more, Kurt Wrigley, of Gaithers­burg, and Brett Wrigley, of Pottstown. Jill Wrigley helped start the Bal­ti­more of­fice of CASA of Mary­land.

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