Alumni Spotlight: Ethan Viets-Vanlear

Cross-posted from, the national blog of Grand Aspirations

Application deadline for Summer of Solutions is 4/14  Apply here!

My name is Ethan Viets-Vanlear, I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois where I am currently a student, activist, poet, and organizer. I started Summer of Solutions in the summer of 2012 through Let’s Go Chicago.

My initial motive for joining SoS was to spend more of my time outside building tangible solutions to some of the issues I noticed around me. I was also excited to spend my time growing food.  I think the biggest thing that I got from SoS was the notion that any problem has a solution that I can take part into making happen.  SoS really taught me a way to help a community without being part of various systems of oppression and control that dominate most organizations and institutions in our society. My favorite memories from SoS would have to be our various trips offsite to places like a farm, or spending time with all the participants around a campfire. 1

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Summer wrap-up

     Hey everyone, Im Jason from the Rogers Park area.  I am a member of LETS  GO Chicago and i’m here to explain to everyone about what we did this wonderful summer.  At first, I thought it Summer of Solutions going to be extremely boring ,since all we did was discuss problems about the world around us. I thought myself, “This was not what I signed up for”, but after our training week was completed, we were ready to get some work done. As a team we all started constructing raised beds on the first day. At first, i felt nervous since i didn’t talk to no one, let alone build with them. But since these were all good-hearted people, everyone got along in an instant. Even with the humid air and harsh sun, nothing could’ve stopped us, because we were committed!

     From there on we’ve contacted our neighbors from around the area to see if they were willing to lend us a part of their yard for us to construct more raised beds. Then came along Bob, a friendly neighbor who lives on Ashland. he was kind enough to lend us 2 plots for gardening and a great spot for a fire pit for gatherings. We’ve called local neighbors who are associated with the church to offer them for a gardening space at different gardens around the area. gardeners have grown eggplants, tomatoes, radishes, and arugula. As you can see below we have posted a sign that says “Rogers Park Yard Sharing Network”. We have posted these signs in all 5 yards that we have worked in to let the people know we mean business! (Here are the before and after pics)


We also had a program for kids that was called “Childrens Garden” in which kids from around the neighborhood would come to learn about gardening and have fun projects to do that involved face painting, tea making, transplanting, etc. Kids were also able to have their own raised beds to grow their own crops. We taught them about the soil and how to properly space their seeds so they can grow comfortably. As you see here we have 2 brothers from Childrens Garden planting their seed sand watering them, as well as Greg (who is a member of Summer of Solutions) helping them out.

Hopefully by next year ALL of our lovely gardens will look like this, maybe even better!

Heat of the Summer

The relentless heat this week kept things exciting as we finished the second week of the program. In the Children’s Gardening Class, we saw some new, and familiar faces. We made small pots out of clay for the children to plant their own plants. Clay was everywhere, from faces of children to the participants. The kids loved the clay and getting their hands messy while making the pots. In addition to making pots, we taught them about the different kinds of soils and identified which is the best for growing plants. After that, we had the children add soil to the potato plants.

Later on in the week, the participants did some canvassing training. We canvassed for the Children’s Gardening Class. We went around the neighborhood and talked to community members to find children that could join our class. I was a bit nervous going door to door canvassing, but it was actually a pleasant experience. We saw a few children from the class in the neighborhood, and got to know the community by meeting and talking to the people that live in neighborhood. People were interested in what we were doing and passed out quite a few applications for the class. We hope to see some new faces next week in gardening class. We ended the canvassing with some seriously refreshing paletas, or popsicles, from a store a couple blocks away. The weather forecast next week looks comfortable and sunny, I’m looking forward to making progress with our gardens. Look out for a new post later this week.


A Cartoon of Gratitude

Greetings Family and Friends!

It’s hard for us to believe that just a few short weeks ago we were in the midst of the successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $4,000 for the Rogers Park Yard-Share Network.  With less than a week till the summer program starts, we want to stop and take some time to thank all of you for your support.

Your generosity helped us move beyond the stress of fundraising:

To the excitement of success and program launch:

And now because of your support, soon Rogers Park will look like this:

Nell, Molly, Peter, and Ben

Dinner and Silent Auction – May 12

Ever had a lentil meatloaf? Pesto made from home grown arugula? The famous carrot cake of Rogers Park’s own Sweet Atilla’s?

Please join us on Saturday, May 12, for three vegetarian courses featuring produce from our garden prepared by personal chef Amanda Schmies and served by LETS GO Chicago staff. And after you fall in love with the Sweet Atilla carrot cake, we’ll give you a gift certificate to use when you go by there yourself.

A variety of donated goods and services from Rogers Park businesses will be up for bid in a silent auction. Goodies from The Coffee Shop, The Mustard Seed, Flatts and Sharpe, Clark Devon Hardware, and many other local supporters will be available, and other surprises are guaranteed.

We’ll be opening the auction at 7 and serving the first course at 7:30. Seating is limited and tickets are $30 per person ($100 for four); RSVP to



LETS GO Chicago – Round 2!

Cross-posted from

After a successful first year, the Chicago Summer of Solutions team is back and ready for more. In fact, we have been plotting it ever since we put our gardens to bed last October!

What we learned in 2011 will help us build up 2012 into an experience you won’t want to miss. Continue reading