Written by Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks November 4, 2011
Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks, Executive Director, A Just Harvest and UCC minister
Those who know me know I am not shy and
that I am not afraid to speak up and to speak out—especially if it is on a
topic that I am passionate about. Well,
I am passionate about the vision of ‘A Just Harvest’ and all of the energy
and creative and courageous people involved in the work we are doing.
of A Just Harvest is to fight poverty and hunger in the Rogers Park and
greater Chicago community by providing nutritious meals daily while cultivating
community and economic development and organizing across racial, cultural and
socio-economic lines in order to create a more just society. We
have gratefully received UCC Neighbors in Need grants for this vital work.
While many know the story of how A Just
Harvest began its work more than 28 years ago, I love to tell the story of how
a “soup kitchen” became a powerful
I love to tell the story of how
congregational matriarchs and college students are both deeply committed and
engaged in the work against hunger.
I love to tell the story of how both the
poor and the affluent are hungry for economic justice and fighting together
side by side—locally in our community and across the region.
I love to tell the story of how people
of faith find themselves fed when they feed the hungry—and experience
transformation when they themselves organize to transform systems that
perpetuate hunger and poverty.
I love to tell the story, but it is not
mine alone. It is Samantha’s story too.
Samantha became a regular patron of our Community
Kitchen when she lived in a nearby SRO with her three school aged
children. Though angry and bitter, her dire
circumstances would not keep her down and she refused to be a victim! At A Just Harvest, Samantha began to find
opportunities to redirect her anger and work for change.
Samantha and her kids began volunteering
regularly in the Community Kitchen. They
also got involved with the organizing arm of A Just Harvest, Northside
P.O.W.E.R. (People organized to work, educate and restore), and attend rallies
and public actions demanding legislators to tax the rich and stop cutting vital
social services. They actively participate
in our healthy cooking and nutrition classes and help maintain our plot in the local
community garden, where the harvest is used for meals provided by the Community
Samantha’s family now live in a spacious
three bedroom apartment. She is taking
classes while her kids are in school and always willing to lend a hand. Samantha gratefully tells her story in the
hope that it will touch someone else.
She knows her story is not hers alone.
There is a saying that goes, “I’m not
where I need to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
Samantha and others help A Just Harvest to
write (and re-write) our story so that we might live into our name and become
what we have been called to be – a
powerful anti-hunger organization – committed to our mission to fight
poverty and hunger while cultivating community and economic development and
organizing in order to create a more just society.