The Bowen Family and the Kenilworth Union Church Board of Trustees are honored to share that The Gilbert and Marlene Bowen Christian Outreach Fund is making a one-time gift of $1 million to By The Hand, a non-profit organization helping under-served communities in Chicago. As described below, this gift seeks to transform the food desert of the Chicago neighborhood Altgeld Gardens into a “garden of Eden” and was approved with enthusiasm by Minister Emeritus Gil Bowen and his family.
Choosing “By The Hand”
Gil Bowen recently celebrated his 90th birthday, and the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees has been in discussions with the family since summer on how best to continue to honor Gil and Marlene’s legacy as he transitions the Bowen Fund (established in 2007) back to the Church. We formed a task force consisting of our two outreach chairs, Chris Cole and Mike Revord, Bill as Senior Minister, Silvi as Mission Minister, John Sharp, Margot Bowen (representing the family), Lester and Becky Knight, and me. After reviewing a number of options, we ultimately recommended to the Board that By The Hand receive this gift in honor of Dr. Bowen as this organization and project satisfied the following key criteria:
- We desired to make a gift to a faith-based charity focusing on youth and children that also benefits the larger community;
- We sought a one-time, high impact, transformational gift to an agency that serves an unmet need in a highly under-served community, to be funded over a one-, two-, or three-year period; and
- We wanted to give to a highly regarded charity that would meet the high standards we apply to our Christian Outreach grant agencies.
With this transformative gift (which has been formally approved by the Board) By The Hand will create The Gil and Marlene Bowen Fresh Food and Nutrition Center, a holistic food solution that consists of a state-of-the-art freight farm that will produce the equivalent of four acres of nutrient rich produce year-round in a 500 square foot truck-like container. The center will also feature robust student entrepreneurship and nutrition programs, as well as food access opportunities for the entire community through farmers markets, transportation to grocery stores, and partnerships with food delivery and distribution programs.
Minister Emeritus Rev. Dr. Gilbert W. Bowen participated in the Board of Trustee meeting and upon approval was elated: “Wow, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.” Dr. Bowen fully supports this project, particularly in light of its youth programing and service to an area of great need.
The Bowen Fund’s history and future
As many of you may know, in 2007 when Gil Bowen retired from his ministry at Kenilworth Union Church, a number of then-current Church leaders (including Ed James and Dick Thomas) helped to raise what became The Gilbert and Marlene Bowen Christian Outreach Fund in honor of Gil’s and Marlene’s outreach ministry. Approximately 675 Kenilworth Union Church families made generous donations to allow Gil and Marlene to continue their outreach ministry by making donations to organizations serving those in need. The Bowen Fund giving has been in addition to the outreach grants made every year by Kenilworth Union Church under the review of the Outreach Committee.
Since 2007, the Fund, led by Gil (along with Marlene during her life), has made contributions aggregating over $1.5 million to dozens of deserving organizations. Today, the aggregate amount in the Fund is approximately $4.4 million, of which we estimate that approximately $3.2 represents the original contributions, the remainder being investment returns in excess of distributions from the Fund. The Bowen family and the task force concluded that a gift in the amount of $1 million was appropriate given the significant growth in the Fund and the importance to the Church of honoring Gil and Marlene’s legacy.
In addition to approving this one-time gift, the Board of Trustees also approved a modification of the Fund Charter to meet a few key objectives. We wanted to continue to honor the donors’ and Gil and Marlene Bowen’s outreach mission but at the same time better synchronize the Bowen Fund gifts with Kenilworth Union’s service mission and more fully engage our congregation in related service work. So now, in the tradition of the Fund, our Senior Minister, in consultation with our Mission Minister, will make recommendations on grants (subject to Executive Committee approvals). Our Senior Minister and Mission Minister hope to partner with churches and/or other Christian faith-based organizations to help serve those in need, and we hope to be rolling out this service work in the near future. We want to better align our charitable dollars with our service mission, by providing volunteer and mission opportunities for our Congregation and making higher impact gifts as we build these relationships.
Margot and Mark Bowen are enthusiastic about the tremendous potential impact of the By the Hand gift and successful transitioning of the fund back to the Church: “On behalf of the entire Bowen family, we are very grateful for this extraordinary gift and that the Bowen fund will continue to honor Gil and Marlene’s outreach legacy through future Senior Ministers.”
I want to personally thank the task force and the Bowen family for all of their work towards this exciting project. We are so fortunate as a church to be in a position to help those in need with our various outreach funds, and we hope to continue in a passionate, impactful way the ministerial benevolence Gil and Marlene set in motion during their ministry. More information about this exciting gift and the related volunteer opportunities for members of our Congregation will be forthcoming.
President, Kenilworth Union Board of Trustees