Mildred Wiley Wellness Hub, Phase I
    4950 West Thomas St, Chicago, IL 60651
    The Mildred Wiley Wellness Hub (”MWWH”) will transform a portion of Bethel New Life’s nine-acre campus in Austin, located between Division and Thomas Streets and Lavergne and Lamon Avenues, into a holistic health and education center for residents of Austin and neighboring communities. The MWWH, a partnership between Bethel New Life, ACCESS Health, and other community-based organizations, is inspired by Mildred Wiley, a community leader who was dedicated to improving quality of life and served as Senior Director of Community Services at Bethel New Life and passed away in 2019. MWWH will serve as an embodiment of her legacy, creating a space that will improve the quality of life and health outcomes for neighborhood residents.

    The Horticenter and sunroom components, led by Bethel New Life, will serve as a community garden, educational center and gathering space, while the new 10,000 square foot health center will expand ACCESS’ physical and behavioral health services for the community. Total estimated project costs for the Horticenter and sunroom are $5.4 million. The MWWH, located within one-half mile of the Soul City Corridor on Chicago Avenue, builds on the momentum of the 2018 Quality of Life Plan for the Austin community. More recently, the City’s Invest South/West initiative is furthering development efforts along Chicago Ave including the redevelopment of the Laramie State Bank building. With Austin being the largest community area in Chicago by land area with the second largest population, with nearly 100,000 residents, investment in the health and well-being of its residents is just as important as its economic vitality. In Austin, higher poverty rates, racial health disparities, and limited access to care providers all contribute to community health outcomes that are consistently poorer than national benchmarks. The MWWH will expand health care services (including behavioral health), increase access to healthy food, and provide job training and support for entrepreneurs.

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    Project Description
    As part of the first phase of MWWH, the proposed Horticenter will provide: refrigerated storage space to increase healthy food access; a rooftop greenhouse to grow produce; classroom spaces for youth and adult programs including nutritious meal preparation; and a shared commercial kitchen for cooking classes. The kitchen will also be used to teach pathways to culinary careers for youth and adults and be available for rental by local food entrepreneurs. The exterior will include a community garden with 13 raised planters for growing vegetables to be used by campus residents as well as a variety of socialization and gathering spaces for community events and educational programming. The Horticenter will also include a ground floor patio and rooftop terrace. The sunroom will provide dedicated utility space for the over 200 senior residents on campus, allowing the distribution of produce and other nutritional activities from the garden and provides a welcoming connection between the residences on campus and the new Horticenter. Some of the programs and services to be offered include:
    Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (University Illinois Extension): Experiential learning to help families identify goals for their health and wellbeing with resources available to support their goals. Participants work collaboratively, including cooking, dining and discussing their visions and challenges, to meet their goals. Intergenerational learning will also be provided. UI Extension plans to provide multiple classes per week to senior residents and other families.
    Horticultural Therapy (Windy City Harvest/Bethel): The current programming at Bethel consists of twice monthly horticulture therapy sessions. Currently, WCH’s horticultural therapist offers two monthly sessions for seniors and children. Activities include indoor horticulture activities such as putting together a terrarium or a creating a moss tray, planting vegetables, and learning about the plants and bugs in the garden. A Bethel staff member is currently completing their horticultural therapy certification and will lead and expand the program once certification is complete.
    Youth STEM Education: Project Exploration provides learning opportunities for youth, particularly low-income students, students of color and young women, to increase representation in STEM careers and has a center is on Bethel’s campus. PE plans to use the Horticenter and community garden as part of its programming.
    A second, later phase of MWWH will expand the Hub beyond the Courtyard garden with café and coworking space, a fitness center, and one-mile wellness art walk. This phase will also include a landscaped access point from Division Street, making the campus more welcoming to the broader community. When completed the MWWH will create a space for residents of Austin and neighboring communities that increases food access, promotes physical, mental and emotional health, and empowers residents economically.
    Sources & Uses
    Total development costs for the Horticenter, Senior Sunroom and Community Garden are estimated to be $5.4 million. Bethel New Life has already secured a $200,000 Austin Fresh grant, designed to improve access to fresh food in the Austin community. In addition, there is a $750,000 Community Project Funding request included in the proposed Federal funding bill at the direction of Congressman Danny Davis. Bethel applied to the City of Chicago for $3M of Recovery Grant funds in August 2022; award announcements are expected to be in made in November. See Sources and Uses of Funds table below for more detail.

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