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Heart of Gold

Janice Forrest has one of those smiles that can turn even the worst day around. Her open and welcoming heart radiates through her bright grin. Her joyful nature is a breath of fresh air to a community that has gone through hard times.

Janice has worked with Zion Lutheran Church for 5 years as the Buddy House/Blackhawk Farm Involvement Supervisor at Blackhawk Courts, a Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) community. Blackhawk Courts Farm and Garden is a partnership between RHA, Zion Outreach and Angelic Organics Learning Center.

When I interviewed her recently, she told me that she doesn’t like to think of herself as a supervisor, however. She prefers to think of herself as part of a team. When asked what is her favorite part of her work at Blackhawk Courts, she explained, “I love fellowshipping with the residents and getting them involved. When I see the smiles on the kids’s faces, it gets through to the parents.”

She was involved with this community when the farm was just a lot of weeds and grass. She expressed to me what a difference the farm and garden has made for the residents. “Before the farm, there was a lot of crime. Women needed help with extra food. Now they don’t need as much help. They ask about food to serve, how to make the vegetables. I give them recipes.” In addition to contributing to better nutrition, Janice told me that the farm and garden has made it so the neighbors talk to each other more.

Blackhawk Courts, RHA, Rockford Housing Authority, Urban agriculture, urban farm, Roots & Wings, Angelic Organics
Janice loves seeing the residents pay-it-forward. One couple that stood out to her was Angela and Brian. She helped them out once with their utilities and now they are back on their feet and active in the community. “They still watch over the farm and help residents with the community garden by telling them when vegetables will be ready when,” Janice told me, her voiced flecked with emotion and pride.

If you come out to the Blackhawk Courts Farm Stand on Tuesday evenings from 4 - 6 PM, you are likely to see Janice helping the resident children out with educational activities. You’ll easily be able to spot her by her infectious smile.

By Jessie Crow Mermel
Communications Coodinator

farm stand, urban agriculture, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Roots & Wings, Blackhawk Courts, Buddy House, RHA, Zion Outreach, Rockford Housing Authorityurban agriculture, community garden, Roots & Wings, Angelic Organics Learning Center