Ben Helphand is the executive director of NeighborSpace, a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community-managed open spaces in Chicago. NeighborSpace shoulders the responsibility of property ownership for a network of more than 100 flower, vegetable and prairie gardens across the city so community groups can focus on gardening and community building.
Helphand came to the organization in 2007 and has grown it from 52 to 114 protected community spaces. In that time, he expanded the scope of the land trust to include emerging interest in urban agriculture and nature play. Helphand is also the co-founder and board president of the Friends of the Bloomingdale Trail (FBT), an all-volunteer, community-based organization that since 2002 has advocated for the conversion of the under-used Bloomingdale rail embankment into the heart of the 606 parks and trail network. Now as the official Park Advisory Council for the Bloomingdale Trail, FBT serves as its long-term community stewards.
Helphand has also served as a board member of the Active Transportation Alliance, the Mayor's Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and in 2012 was awarded a Chicago Community Trust Emerging Leader Fellowship. Originally from Oregon, Helphand came to Chicago to pursue a degree in the history of religion from the University of Chicago and then went on to Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.