#HeARTthisCity: Springing into Chicago


by Jean Bartholomew

We made it to the Windy City! This week, I arrived with the stellar “HeART this City” team and immediately set to prepping for Saturday’s event. Chicago has been warm and sunny, much to my surprise. Spring in this city is significantly nicer than I expected!

Snagging some hip threads at a Chicago American Eagle Outfitters.

We began the week with visits to some local American Eagle Outfitters stores. We met store employees, got them psyched about this week’s service project, and gave them some t-shirts, water bottles, and sunglasses. They were pumped!

SCA #HeARTthisCity Crew Member Marvin Valdez painting at Piotrowski. 

Our main tasks for the week were at Piotrowski Park, a much-loved, heavily utilized, and seriously underfunded neighborhood greenspace. It was great to see not only athletic programs occurring, but GED and ESL classes taking place. We spent most of our time painting the hallways and locker rooms in the park building. The staff at the park were so happy with the transformation! It felt great to serve a community that clearly benefitted from our time and resources.

(L-R) Mural artist Nina Palomba & Chicago Crew Leader Yvonne in front of Nina’s handy work.

I took a break from painting to pick up crates of supplies from the SCA Chicago office. It was great to run into staff and see their excitement about “HeART this City.” Delivering the supplies to the site of the project, Our Lady of Tepeyac Elementary School, we ran into Nina Palomba hard at work on the “HeART this City” mural. I could not believe she was almost done by Wednesday afternoon! It was cool to see her and her partner about 15 feet up in the air painting the second story of the vast wall. The mural looked awesome! I especially loved the local references: hotdogs, pizza, and the Chicago skyline.

Hello ivory halo dogwood shrub wall. Goodbye soccer balls rolling into the street.

Mike Vasquez, SCA leader and our resident plant specialist, had this week’s ultimate task. He had to track down a plant to install along the edge of the Piotrowski Park soccer field that would help keep balls from rolling into the street. He searched near and far until he found the perfect shrub – the ivory halo dogwood.  He found this elusive dogwood at a grower in the Chicago suburbs. Upon his return, we set to work digging and planting away. These shrubs have beautiful leaves in the spring and a lovely red bark in the winter.

We’re so excited for the event! I cannot wait to see the final mural!