CEO & Accidental Farmer
Meet Kay . . . a native of Joliet, Kay Bolden is the CEO and Accidental Farmer at Warren-Sharpe Community Center and its social enterprise, Green Sprout Urban Farm. The daughter of civil rights activists Judge Raymond Bolden and the late Kathleen Bolden, she learned from a young age the importance of standing up for justice; of defending the disenfranchised; and of working to end social inequalities. She began her career in social services with the Joliet-Will County Community Action Agency, and later managed job training programs for the City of San Diego.
When Warren-Sharpe Community Center opened its doors in 1991, Kay was appointed its first Executive Director. With a mission to reach the high-risk teens on Joliet’s south side, and to transform a struggling neighborhood, Kay developed a holistic and inclusive approach to solving neighborhood problems.
Under her stewardship, the Center has grown into a full-service community resource, providing educational, recreational and social support programs to low-income families all over Will County. The Center’s food pantry supports over 800 households every month, and has been featured as a model program in The Full Plate, the newsletter of Solve Hunger Today.
But with 78% of the Center’s clients living in food-insecure households, Kay became committed to moving beyond emergency food relief, and working toward food security. Inspired by Will Allen and the Growing Power movement, the Center began expanding into urban farming on vacant neighborhood lots; teaching families how to grow (and cook) their own healthy food; and reconnecting children with the earth.
Kay is the published author of numerous magazine articles and essays on parenting and family travel. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Mothering Magazine, American Baby, the Chicago Tribune, Chicken Soup for the Single’s Soul, and other print and online publications.
In January, 2014, she published her first book She Lives in You! The Kathleen Bolden Story, telling the story of Lewis University Trailblazer and Warren-Sharpe founder, Kathleen Bolden. Her second book, Veggie Casserole: Kids Cook the Darndest Things, based on her experiences with the Center’s Kids in the Kitchen program, was published in March, 2016.
She serves on the board of the Community Foundation of Will County, the Lewis University Community Partnership Advisory Board, and the Will County Regional Resilience Committee. In 2013 she was honored by the Joliet Chapter of the National Hook-Up of Black Women for her work in the community. She is also the recipient of a 2014 Lewis University De La Salle Award.