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Published on 19th June 2018

Austin Grandmother's Transformation Project

After years of witnessing the loss of neighbors and loved ones, Austin community member Barbara Colebrook thought it necessary to create a lasting reminder of the beautiful life they lived - a memorial garden.

Ms. Colebrook’s church, Divine Sprit is located just blocks away from where Bettie Jones, 55 and her upstairs neighbor Quintonio LeGreir, 19 were shot and killed in 2016. Year after year, Ms. Colebrook thought about this and other tragedies in her beloved community when she realized nothing lasting was left to remember them by. After attending a Turning the Page parent leadership conference, she received information about a mini grant opportunity offered by the Chicago Trust. She took the leap of faith and applied for their Acting Up Award which is awarded each year to community members that promote positive projects around Chicago. She hopes to use the $5,000 award to start and sustain a memorial garden for the community.

Her church’s vacant parking lot was the most convenient and meaningful place to start her project. She’d work with members of the congregation, surrounding community, and PCC Austin Farms to develop a layout, clear the lot, build flower beds, seed, water, and maintain the garden. Not only would it be a local space for vegetation, but a safe haven for families in the community. She wants families to use the space for recreation, teach their children about gardening, and to inspire their own projects to revitalize their community. By the end of the year, she plans to have a dedication ceremony and reveal of the plaque made in the honor of Ms. Jones and Quintonio.

“I want to be able to say I did something good as a result of this tragedy. I wasn’t just left with the tragedy or the thought that it happened…this happened and the good that came out of it was that I planted a seed and it grew,” said Ms. Colebrook about her transformation project.  

Why this project is important to the community:

  • It's dedicated to Ms. Jones and her neighbor Quintonio
  • A reminder of peace in midst of violence
  • A safe space in the community
  • Vegetation for the community
  • Employment and volunteer opportunities for the community
  • A symbol of beauty and hope for a mourning family and community
  • Garden as example of life

The memorial garden will be an example to youth and their village that transformation is possible – it only takes a tiny seed to make things grow out of nothing.