Mary Nelson

Mary Nelson (born 1940) came to Chicago in 1965 to help her brother, a minister, get settled in his new home on the West Side of Chicago. A few days later, riots broke out and National Guard units were patrolling the streets. With the neighborhood in flames, Nelson made the life-changing decision to stay and help her brother, his church and the community. She ended up founding Bethel New Life, a faith-based community development corporation focused on building healthy, sustainable and equitable communities in West Garfield Park. Under her leadership as President and CEO, Bethel New Life developed affordable housing units, brought businesses and jobs to the community, provided child development programs, gave support to the elderly and more. Since her retirement from Bethel New Life, Nelson has taught at Northwestern University and DePaul University, served as Executive Director of the Parliament of the World Religions and written extensively on sustainable community development. She continues to reside in West Garfield Park.

Why this stop? The Bethel New Life campus is about a mile north of the Laramie Green Line stop.

Learn more about Mary Nelson and the work of Bethel New Life in West Garfield Park.

Get involved—Volunteers are an important part of every program at Bethel. Interested in volunteering? Email and put "volunteer" in the subject line for a list of opportunities.