I GROW CHICAGO
ROBBIN CARROLL, FOUNDER
I Grow Chicago began with a simple question: “Do you want to take back your community?” In 2014, Chicago businesswoman Robbin Carroll arrived in Englewood—a high-crime neighborhood—with a simple goal: Empower residents to bring peace and safety back into their lives. At the time, Englewood was in the news often for its violence, and Carroll wanted to know why a neighborhood in her own city was being treated like a war zone. With a mission statement focused on “creating a world where love lives in public,” the organization offers yoga, gardening, tutoring, mentorship, and more through its resident-run community center, the Peace Campus. Zelda Mayer, director of development, spoke with us about the organization’s efforts to promote healing through a simple yet powerful philosophy: “If in doubt, love.”
Q & A
YOGA JOURNAL: What kind of work does I Grow Chicago focus on?
ZELDA MAYER: It addresses trauma and the root sources of poverty, isolation, and racism. We run programs aimed at bringing hope and healing to all—everything from yoga classes and teacher trainings to job transportation and after-school tutoring. It’s whatever the community needs.
YJ: How did you get started?
ZM: The area around our current location, the corner of West 64th and South Honore Street, used to be incredibly violent. Our founder, Robbin, showed up one day with Subway sandwiches and started asking people if they wanted to help heal the neighborhood. The first person who approached her was our co-executive director, Quentin Mables, an Englewood native. He just took some garbage bags out of her hand and started cleaning up the block.
YJ: How do you engage the community in I Grow Chicago’s work and mission?
ZM: We hire community members—that’s part of our model. When we first started, the police commander at the time pulled Robbin aside and said, “You know, you’re letting cold-blooded killers into your community center.” Robbin said, “I hear you, but those cold-blooded killers are the ones planting flowers in our garden.”