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Weiss Memorial Hospital Receives Governor's Home Town Award for Improving the Uptown Community: Volunteer-run Farmers Market is focus of recognition

Nov 01, 2011

Accepting the Governor’s Home Town Award on Oct. 26 from Dan Seals (far right), assistant director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, on behalf of Weiss Memorial Hospital are (from left to right) Volunteer Urban Farmers Will Pool and Jebediah Schenkier; Katie Brandt, Health for Life Blogger; Caren Perlmuter, vice president of community relations; and Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services.
For more information contact:
Catherine Gianaro
cgianaro@weisshospital.com  
(773) 564-7285

CHICAGO (Nov. 1, 2011) — Weiss Memorial Hospital (Weiss) is among 28 groups throughout the state of Illinois honored this week with the Governor’s Home Town Award. Weiss won for its volunteer-run Uptown Farmers Market and Urban Rooftop Farm.

“We are honored to accept this award,” said Terry Tuohy, director of volunteer services at Weiss. “A lot of hard work has gone into planting and growing our urban farm and farmers market, so we’re thrilled to see the fruits of our labor be acknowledged in this way.”

Weiss’ Urban Rooftop Farm and Uptown Farmers Market began two years ago. The market runs every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. From June through October, it takes place in the hospital’s parking lot, and from November to May in the lobby.

Weiss volunteers Jed Schenkier and Will Pool
Weiss volunteers Jed Schenkier and Will Pool.

They plant their crops using compost from food waste collected at the hospital and throughout the community. They hydrate the crops with water collected in giant rain barrels. The farmers also maintain an apiary of 300,000 bees, which pollinate within a 3-mile radius of Weiss and produce honey for the market. Weiss funds the projects and organizes the market, while Schenkier and Pool maintain the farm. So far, a total of 38 volunteers with an annual time commitment of 500 hours have participated in the effort. Weiss has contributed $25,000 for supplies such as farming tools, seeds and signage.

Visitors enjoy the Farmers Market at Weiss each Thursday.

“The volunteers we are recognizing truly exemplify the best Illinois has to offer by going above and beyond to make their communities better places to live,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “By investing their time and talent, these individuals are not only supporting their neighbors, but also uplifting the entire state.”

“Weiss Memorial Hospital has taken preventative care to a new level with its farmers market and rooftop garden,” said State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “Weiss excels at bringing the community together around the concepts of living healthily and eating well, as evidenced by their efforts to make fresh, locally grown foods accessible in the Uptown neighborhood.”

The hospital has experienced a number of successes in helping its diverse community achieve health for life:

  • 12,000+ visitors purchased fresh produce and learned healthy living
  • 100+ children from local schools and park districts educated on healthy eating
  • 4 community-focused organizations connected with their neighbors
  • 2 soup kitchens benefited from donated fruits, vegetables and herbs

The ultimate goal of the project is to make Weiss a place where people can go to learn to be healthy, not just when they are ill. The hospital strives to make healthy eating accessible to everyone from senior citizens to young children—no matter their ethnicity or income level. In addition, Weiss hopes the urban farm and farmers market will inspire other people in the area to start growing their own food in whatever available space they have—backyards, rooftops or even kitchen windows.

A local chef prepares a fresh meal.

A local chef prepares fresh meals.

The Governor’s Home Town Awards recipients were chosen by a group of volunteer judges who reviewed and ranked applications based on community need, use of resources and results.

Projects were judged by population category as well as overall project category, including services and mentorship, memorials and monuments, parks and recreation, beautification and sustainability, and history and historic preservation. Weiss won in the general category.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity administers the Governor’s Home Town Awards Program. Each of the award-winning communities receives a road sign and plaque recognizing its efforts.

The 28 projects combined represent the work of more than 4,300 volunteers who devoted nearly 78,000 hours of their time, which equates to more than $1.7 million in value. Nearly $1.3 million in private funds and materials were raised for these projects.

Find out more about the farmer’s market or engage with the effort online through the Health for Life blog.