Jetting from one runway to another, June 12 was a whirlwind for Executive Director Mary Nelson. Landing in Chicago from Parliament travels, Nelson beat thunderstorms to attend the couture Fleurotica 2013 show at the Museum of Contemporary Art that evening. A benefit co-chaired by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, the event also stages honors for significant supporters of the organization. This year, Nelson was honored as a co-founding Alliance board member with three other female leaders.
In the community she lives, loves, and works, Nelson’s action in the Garfield Park neighborhood was instrumental to creating a support structure now thriving with A-list philanthropy. The fundraiser attracts Chicago’s glitterati, executives, and politicos to an annual runway show modeling beautiful and living haute couture fashion designed using the conservatory’s flowers. Amid the glitz, Nelson stood celebrated with three co-founding Board Members; Dr. Gwendolyn Rogers, Rev. Eudora Ramey, and Jackie McKay. Toni Preckwinkle, President of Cook County, also attended to support the greenhouse known as one of the nation’s largest.
It is no rarity for Chicago’s governmental leaders to support one of Nelson’s organizations. If they don’t, Nelson’s engagement usually ensures that will change.
Decades of work daring for an economically-depressed neighborhood brought Nelson to the ranks of top experts in community development. By preaching methods to promote interracial justice outside her neighborhood and pushing to cure chronic poverty within, Nelson’s support to preserve the west-side Chicago staple has longstanding roots. Where money is scarce, Nelson rallied around the jewel of her neighborhood- a conservatory, to save what she believed in; A garden outshining most nationwide, it exists now to inspire and transform the lives of Nelson’s neighbors through nature’s beauty and science.
Calling the conservatory a “treasure of our city, of our region, actually,” it’s Nelson’s love for her community standing out most.
From this perspective, Nelson will say co-founding the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance was never charity work. By fostering in her neighborhood Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a Beloved Community, there are no individual saviors, only teams of neighbors invested together.
Beyond leading at the community level, Nelson champions at the global scale for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, as Chair of Sojourners, the progressive Christian social justice magazine, and teaching intensive courses in social justice for top academic institutions across the United States.
Above left: Dr. Mary Nelson is highly awarded in the City of Chicago decorated with six honorary Ph.D’s. As a-cofounding Board member of Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, Nelson was honored for her years of leadership at a June 12 gala at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The Fleurotica Runway show parades models clothed in handmade designs created with living flora from the conservatory.
Abovr right photo credit: Fleurotica