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'I'm going to continue to build up Englewood': CPD officer plants seeds of hope for kids in the community

CPD officer plants seeds of hope for kids in the community
CPD officer plants seeds of hope for kids in the community 02:19

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Only on 2.

A Chicago police officer is planting the seeds to give kids something healthy to do afterschool. The idea came about after Whole Foods closed its doors in Englewood last year.

CBS 2's Shardaa Gray shows us how he's taking steps to change his neighborhood- and the lives of kids.

"Curled parsley, growing in the dead of winter. That's how I know that this garden was meant for something."

Officer Kenneth Griffin wants to make sure the kids in his Englewood neighborhood know how to grow their own produce.

"We grew bell peppers. Jalapeno peppers."

Griffin started a nonprofit organization in 2017 called No Matter What. The purpose is to mentor young kids who have been through trauma. He and other officers invest in the youth with mental health healing, job readiness training and mentorship.

"We try to help build them up and let them know, no matter what you go through, no matter what you see in your neighborhood, you don't have to be product of your neighborhood. Make your neighborhood a product of you," Griffin said.

So, after Whole Foods closed its doors near 63rd and Halsted, Griffin gathered the kids in the neighborhood.

"I asked them what do they want to see in their neighborhood. And they said, 'how about we build a community garden?'"

Through the help of the Chicago fund for safe and peaceful communities, this past summer, a group of students and officers built the garden, planting plenty of vegetables and herbs, dedicating it to Denzel Thornton, who died in 2016, a victim of gun violence.

"This was probably everybody's favorite area because of the collard greens."

You may remember Griffin from a story CBS2 did just over a year ago. He went viral in 2021 after this picture of him with a little girl was posted on Instagram.

"She was like, how you doing officer?"

That greeting was so needed because he had a rough day after a child lost his life in a fire. This year, Griffin wants to turn the abandoned building next door to the garden and make it pot to plate program.

"I'm going to continue to build up Englewood, no matter what."

Griffin says he's hopeful he'll gain ownership of this building and start renovation by the end of this summer. Griffin said he's also working with Chicago Public Schools to develop a program to teach kids financial literacy. 

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