WIN Pacesetters: Advancing Intergenerational Well-Being in Proviso, Illinois
The Pacesetter Stories series spotlights communities leading the way when it comes to creating legacies of intergenerational well-being for all. Local changemakers, as stewards, work together in these communities to steer systems and shift mindsets. By meeting shared needs today, stewards are transforming communities for generations to come.
Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) is a cross-sector coalition transforming the township of Proviso, Illinois. More than 50 community members meet each month to co-design and implement policy, systems, and environmental change strategies through PP4H hubs.
Since co-founders Dr. Lena Hatchett and Loretta Brown launched the coalition in 2015, PP4H has made impactful strides:
The Tobacco 21 policy passed in Maywood was a key lever for state action;
The VeggieRX program meets an important gap in the local food system by offering fresh fruits and vegetables year round; and
The coalition’s recent workshop on placemaking and inclusive economic development engaged residents in a visioning session for a new community anchor that promotes local entrepreneurship and community wellness.
PP4H is a successful coalition by any measure. But, PP4H is more than a coalition. PP4H is a movement, a new way of investing in residents to create change for today and tomorrow, a community living its values and commitments together—on its own terms.
Living on their own terms means that PP4H community leaders, as stewards, move beyond politeness to talk honestly and authentically about what needs to change. Community members have the freedom to bring their whole selves to the table. Residents don’t shy away from sharing their experiences, naming racism and “whiteness.” And, youth and adults work across generations to implement a shared vision for Proviso Township: A thriving, safe, healthy, and inclusive community built on love.
Love. In a public health coalition?
“During one of our strategic planning meetings, a youth leader pushed us to articulate why we all come to the table. It’s love for one another--and we don’t love each other and that’s why we need to be here.
“It was hard for the adults in the room to accept this given the perception we knew ‘love,’ as a formal purpose for the coalition, might have with partners and funders. But, we agreed to practice our commitments to each other and to our community-led process, to listen, and to discuss. And, we realized that the word ‘love’ is exactly right. We need to find love before we can care, invest, and communicate,” Dr. Lena Hatchett recounted.
Love became part of PP4H’s vision statement, as a foundational value and change strategy.
“We need to see the potential in each other, to see our community as an extended family where our individual actions impact ourselves and everyone around us. We need to work across boundaries—and those boundaries aren’t just bringing together public health and food systems. Crossing boundaries also means working outside of ourselves. We need to recognize that we are all connected, and we all belong to each other and to this place,” Dr. Hatchett continued.
The Well Being in the Nation (WIN) Network describes the love that drives PP4H as belonging and civic muscle. Community members need to feel connected in order to create legacies of dignity and inclusion and to expand the vital conditions we all need all the time to reach our full potential.
Community members also need to build civic muscle, the knowledge and resources required to create change. Belonging leads to connection, enduring trust, and community. And, civic muscle is how residents shape their community system.
For PP4H, love encompasses both belonging and civic muscle. PP4H did not stop with love as an abstract value to create a sense of belonging. The PP4H vision is operationalized as a pathway to develop civic muscle and to create impact. Community members participate in the PP4H hubs or the Community Leadership Academy to build the skills needed for policy, systems, and environmental change.
Keion Mackey is a PP4H youth leader, initially joining the coalition an intern:
“I was with my uncle and we went to pick up spare parts for a repair. I happened to start talking with a local farmer working next door to the shop and got connected to PP4H through urban farming. I started learning more about food justice.”
Keion is now a member of the Executive Committee, connecting his friends and family members to the coalition—and will be a trainer in the upcoming Food Justice session of the Community Leadership Academy (CLA).
“The CLA is such a part of our community. The trainings are peer led and once you complete the training, you can come back to teach, to give back, and to pick a topic that is important to you and the community,” Keion explained.
“My family in here. This is my home, my grandmother lives in Proviso Township, too—and it means a lot to see our impact. The more community gardens that pop up, the more we know that people are changing their mindsets and seeing the value in our community, wanting to make an investment in our community.
“We all invest in the coalition to demonstrate our commitment. That investment could be time or money. We want to make sure the coalition is for the community, by the community,” Keion shared.
Dr. Hatchett and Keion are both part of the PP4H leadership team and feel responsible for honoring those member investments, for always centering community experiences. They know how resilient and how powerful Proviso residents are and how much the system that shapes their experiences needs to be rooted in a holistic view of well-being.
“We need our humanity. We need to take risks. We need imagination to address the challenges our community is experiencing. We need to act on opportunities and unlock the trapped potential of residents,” Dr. Hatchett shared.
“We have created our own model for change. Everything we do is with and for the community. But, we also need others to share the burden of shifting these systems. Communities of color cannot be solely responsible for holding our collective communities accountable. We need White allies to take action, too.”
While the progress of PP4H is impressive, the work to create legacies of intergenerational well-being for all is difficult. Proviso has inherited deep legacies of exclusion and trauma—and reconciling those inherited legacies with the legacies PP4H is creating today means both healing and accountability.
Photo: Community Leadership Academy's Business Development Cohort, provided by PP4H.