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Partnering Together for a Healthy Community

We are grateful to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) for awarding a $15,000 Healthy Kids, Healthy Families grant to support the Roots & Wings Urban Agriculture and Youth Development Program. The Roots & Wings network builds leadership, job skills and community through farming in the city of Rockford. Angelic Organics Learning Center coordinates the Roots & Wings network together with Rockford youth, their families, neighbors, and support organizations.

"Giving back to help our communities is part of our 78-year legacy of serving the people of Illinois," says Donna Gerber, vice-president, Public Affairs and Community Investments. "We're proud to support Angelic Organics – which grows more than vegetables – their programs are helping young people grow into leaders."

Blue Cross Blue Shield, Angelic Organics, Roots and Wings, Blackhawk Courts, urban agriculture, awardTo be enrolled in the program, kids and teens aged 12-18 have to be nominated by a leader in their community. They are then interviewed by current members of the program. Once accepted, the Youth Leaders spend up to 25 hours a week farming selling and or cooking and earn a stipend based on how well they live up to the program's five core behaviors: respect, initiative, timeliness, preparedness and participation.

"Angelic Organics Learning Center is extremely grateful for our partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois through a grant of $15,000 for the Roots & Wings Urban Agriculture and Youth Development Program," says Tom Spaulding, Executive Director of Angelic Organics Learning Center. "Support from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois will help us to empower 200 youth and adults in Rockford to grow, get and eat fresh, healthy foods and live healthier lives."

The collaboration goes even further – this summer, Angelic Organics set up farm stands to sell their produce directly to employees of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois at the BCBSIL office on McFarland Road in Rockford.

In total, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois will support 71 community organizations through financial grants.

"We very carefully choose which non-profits to partner with," says Clarita Santos, BCBSIL Director of Community Health Initiatives. "We look for organizations that are rooted in the communities and impact the day-to-day lives of people right where they need it."

The BCBSIL grant program is one way Blue Cross continues to serve the state of Illinois: last year BCBSIL employees also volunteered more than 19,000 hours giving their time and talents to more than 200 organizations that touched the lives of people across the state.

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