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Green ProAction Cafe #2: Moving from Ideas to Action

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

The Oak Park and River Forest communities are building community connections and people power to become more sustainable and resilient. One initiative contributing to that development is a grass-roots effort led by Green Community Connections, along with 13 partner organizations and partially funded by the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation. The Green ProAction Café initiative is a series of three gatherings intended to create opportunities for dialogue and action focused on building a healthy and resilient community.

The second Green ProAction Café will be held from 6 to 9 p.m., Monday, May 4, at the Oak Park Main Library, 834 Lake St., in Oak Park.

"The house was packed at our first event back in February. That was thrilling because our goal is to increase the number and diversity of residents engaged in planning and action for long-term sustainability," says Sally Stovall, one of the event organizers and co-founder of Green Community Connections. "We also hope these ProAction Cafés will increase the connections and collaboration among both new and long-time sustainability advocates."

Eighty-two residents participated in the first Green ProAction Café on February 10. They filled the Veterans Room at the Oak Park Library with lively conversation as they shared ideas about eight resilience-building initiatives. "You could feel the energy and enthusiasm in the room," says Dick Alton, another event organizer and co-founder of Green Community Connections. "Attendees came from all areas of our community and represented community sustainability leaders, as well as residents new to the conversation."

The working groups each brainstormed ideas in response to a question posed by the group leaders. They provided fresh perspectives and creative ideas to address the goals and objectives of each initiative including:

· Ways to build awareness about issues and why we should care

· Ways to make sustainability initiatives easy and fun and overcome roadblocks

· Strategies for communication and outreach to engage more people

Based on feedback from the first ProAction Café the groups in the second ProAction Café on May 4, will work on specific action projects:

· Jumpstart the wildlife corridor with the Living Landscapes Native Gardening Conference

· Advocate for community electricity aggregation and increasing renewable energy capacity

· Create approaches to increase pesticide-free, child and pet friendly yards

· Recommend ways we would like to enjoy and learn from the trees in the Oak Park Arboretum

· Design a learning and action campaign regarding national climate action

· Develop strategies to increase time-banking to build community and address challenges

· Pilot custom family food policies and assess the benefits, challenges and implications

The May 4th ProAction Café is free and open to the public. Both those that participated in the previous café as well as new participants are encouraged to attend. The gathering will start with a snack supper at 6 p.m. The program will begin at 6:30 p.m. and group work will begin at 7 p.m.

This event is organized by Green Community Connections, and partially funded through a grant from OPRF Community Foundation. Partner organizations that are providing leadership at the ProAction Café include: West Cook Wild Ones, Sugar Beet Schoolhouse, River Forest Sustainability Committee, Interfaith Green Network, Oak Park TreeKeepers' Historic Oak Propagation Project, The Learning Gardens, Mutual Aid Network, Our Village Life, GoGreen OPRF, Citizens Climate Lobby, Oak Park Environment and Energy Commission, and Seven Generations Ahead. Susan Lucci, a River Forest resident, will serve as the overall program facilitator.

Go to GreenCommunityConnections.org for more information and a link to RSVP. Contact Sally Stovall (sally@greencommunityconnections.org, or 773-315-1109) for additional questions.

Email: ktrainor@wjinc.com

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