For years, the West Garfield Park community has been a neighborhood of wellness inequities. The Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative (GPRWC) is working to address this by creating a space centered on black culture wellness to identify, promote, and implement strategies to increase health and wellness in Garfield Park. Theo Crawford, Executive Director of GPRWC states, “A wellness center had long been a need in our community. In the West Loop, the average life expectancy is 84 years of age-in West Garfield Park, it is 68 years of age. The determinant of that is not only the lack of resources, institutional racism, and police violence but also the level of stress from the environment. The toxic environment leads to disease within the body.”
GPRWC has already implemented strategies to address this inequity in West Garfield Park through the creation roller rink within the community. The Collaborative has also created a community development investment strategy, inclusive of identifying a community grocer to replace the abandoned Aldi’s on Madison, developing a plan for investment within the Midson Pulaski Corridor, and the creation of a vacant lot neighborhood plan.
The Collaborative also plans to open a Wellness Center on Madison and Kildare to house community wellness partners such as Rush University Medical Center, Erie Health Center, and the YMCA. The wellness center will focus not only on physical and mental health wellbeing for the Garfield Park community but also on Black culture as a guiding and connecting force through an anti-racism framework. The goal is to provide space for on-site dentistry, counseling, fitness, and nutrition, while also providing space for neighborhood events and collaboration. The Collaborative also aims to also have a wealth-building component within the space, inclusive of individual wealth classes, job training, and an embedded credit union. “We believe that holistic community building, health, wealth, and wellness starts from the individual. As one individual gets healthy, another individual gets healthy which spreads to the community,” explains Theo Crawford.
GPRWC kicked off its latest wellness initiative by hosting a pre-launch wellness fair at Garfield Park this past Saturday to reflect the needs and wants of the community. The program consisted of holistic wellness activities, such as Tai Chi, Cardio Kickboxing, and Line Dancing as well as conversations regarding African-American parenting and nutrition led by African American instructors and practitioners, as well as COVID vaccinations for the community.
The Collaborative’s current members consist of Bobby E. Wright CBHC, The Community Builders, Garfield Park Community Council, Habilitative Systems, Inc., The Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, MAAFA Redemption Project, Nation Builders Construction Group, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, Project Forward, Rush University Medical Center, United for A Better Living, West Side United, and the YMCA. Additional partners include The City of Chicago, Melody School, Legler Library, Studio Gang, Goldin Institute, Chicago Mobile Makers, United Way, Pritzker Pucker Family Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, Garfield Park Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and the Civic Consulting Alliance.
For more information on upcoming programming and ways to get involved, please visit www.ritetowellness.com.
Chante’ Gamby is a writer passionate about social justice and empowering others to live their healthiest lives. You can follow her on Facebook at Fringefam, Instagram@fringegram, or on her website, www.fringefam.com.