Every Day is Earth Day: A Lifetime of Environmental Stewardship Begins with a Young Sapling

Rob Reid

Daniel La Spata, at right in a grey coat, helps one of hundreds of volunteers choose gloves for a morning of work ahead.*

It takes more than one day per year to take care of the earth. But many participants at the 2018 Earth Day event in Humboldt Park believe that Earth Day activities can help cultivate a year-round and lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship and community-building. 


A crew of volunteers picks up mulch for spreading around trees.**

“You could hope that taking stewardship over this one tree is a spark that helps them to think about how they can be stewards of the environment overall,” suggests Daniel La Spata, a former Friends of the Parks volunteer who was recruited to help out at the April 21 event. First handing out gloves to volunteers spreading mulch and picking up garbage, he later provided oak saplings for community members to take home. “The kids love [the saplings] because it’s something that’s alive and theirs, and it also involves dirt,” LaSpata remarked, adding that it wasn’t just for kids. “Anyone can wake up to a new type of consciousness.” 


Sister Patty Fillenwarth, standing in front of the tree dedicated in her honor. “We’re going to name her Providence, how’s that?

Carl Camacho, a staffer at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who also handed out saplings, believes this stewardship can take place year round. “Every day is earth day.” 


"Oh look at the bunny!” exclaimed Sister Patty Fillenwarth as a bunny hopped past her in the middle of her speech.* 

The Work of Generations
The day’s event was sponsored by a wide variety of both national and community-based businesses and nonprofits, ranging from ComEd to Cermak Produce, Dunkin Donuts to Presence Health and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance to Openlands. It also brought together volunteers of all ages from across the community. 

“Everybody needs to work together, and that’s what trees need to do,” explained Sister Patty Fillenwarth, the former Principal of Maternity B.V.M. School and one of this year’s recipients of a tree dedicated in her honor. “They all need to work together to pollinate one another and to grow beautiful and to give all the beauty to us.” She then asked for God’s blessing and urged us to “keep our earth beautiful today, tomorrow and in the generations to come

It Takes a Community
Commenting on the wide range of people from across the neighborhood who participated in the day’s events, La Spata suggested that “if we can get into random groups and plant trees and take care of parks together, maybe there are other things that we can work on together, too.” Across the parking lot, Opera-Matic, a local public arts organization based in the Kimball Arts Center, offered a hint of what those other community projects might look like. 


Clowns such as Jean Carlos Claudio, at right, help guide children through community obstacle courses.*

Standing behind a do-it-yourself community obstacle course, Lily Emerson suggested that the course was a “silly, abstract way of getting neighbors and strangers to play together and to solve problems.” Emerson, the Artistic Director for Opera-matic, furthermore suggested that it wouldn’t be a leap to go from facing community obstacle courses to addressing “actual community obstacles that we’re all facing, using the community resources 


Lily Emerson, Artistic Director at Opera-Matic**

Earth Day 2018 has come and gone, but the earth is still here and so is our community. What are you going to do with your community? And what are you going to do for the earth? 

Upcoming Events 

May 12, 11 a.m.

  • An Opera-Matic Benefit in Honor of Mother’s Day 
  • A special celebration of mom-ness, for everyone ages 0 to 100, with or without Mom.
  • 1757 N. Kimball 

May 19, 10 a.m.

Photo sources: * Rob Reid   **Charlie Billups


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