ALBANY PARK — A belated celebration of Cesar Chavez Day is set for Saturday in Albany Park.
It's the first such effort organized by the North River Commission, bringing together community organizations and neighborhood schools for a day of service on April 6. (President Barack Obama declared March 31 Cesar Chavez Day).
Chavez, a human rights advocate, is best-known as the co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association (later the United Farm Workers of America), which is one reason the commission's activities are centered at Global Garden on Lawrence Avenue, home to a refugee training farm.
"That's a really cool connection. We wanted to tie into that," said Casey Baxley, education coordinator at North River Commission.
Partnering with Northeastern Illinois University, Roosevelt High School and Volta Elementary, Baxley recruited volunteers for a number of service projects, including plantings along the perimeter of Global Garden and a fabric art installation on the garden's chain link fence.
Volunteers will also clean up litter surrounding the garden and in adjacent Ronan Park. Roosevelt students will paint and stencil planters at Kimball and Lawrence avenues.
At Volta Elementary, the community is building a learning garden, with students from Roosevelt's gardening club having served as advisers.
The garden will be used for both science and culture lessons. Parents have been encouraged to plant samples of herbs typical to their culture.
"They'll be using the garden to learn about traditional foods," said Baxley.
In recognition of Chavez's nonviolent approach to activism, the day's events culminate in a pair of walks that will visit sites of conflict and peace in Albany Park. The walks will step off from Global Garden at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Members of the public, whether volunteering or not, are invited to participate.
Baxley's goals in organizing Chavez Day were two-fold.
One, he aimed to strengthen relationships between the neighborhood's schools. Second, he's hoping to build momentum toward more consistent community service.
"I'm a firm believer we shouldn't have just a couple of service days a year," he said.
"We're focusing on the power of collective community action to develop a culture of service."
Registration is closed for Chavez Day projects, but those interested in volunteering should report to Global Garden, Lawrence and Sacramento avenues, between 9 a.m. and noon.