Growing to Give to Care for Real...

Grow2Give is Peterson Garden Project’s program for growing fresh, organic produce for food pantries and nutrition programs. We dedicate at least 5% of the beds at each garden to Grow2Give. Care for Real in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago has been a long-time partner for the program, and Lyle Allen, Care for Real’s executive director, kindly shared his thoughts below. Care for Real, a 501(c)(3) not for profit, has been providing free programs and services to our neighbors in need for more than 45 years. We manage an innovative food distribution that reaches approximately 65,000 annually. Our organization offers a client choice model, essentially operating as a small grocery store, allowing clients to pick and choose the food they bring home to prepare. The majority of our clients are seniors and families with children under the age of 18. We understand the importance of not only filling bellies, but providing better food options to ensure clients are eating better and living healthier lifestyles. Care for Real is so grateful to Peterson Garden Project for their support and dedication to our mission. Their weekly donation drop offs harvested from their Grow2Give gardens make for especially exciting days at our agency, bringing bounties of fresh, locally grown, organic produce to a population that does not have the financial resources to purchase on their own. From the smile of an immigrant discovering a unique vegetable that reminds them of their own homeland, to the look on a child’s face the first time they truly taste a delicious cherry tomato, I give sincere thanks to Peterson Garden Project for bringing joy (and healthier food) into the lives of our clients. —Lyle Allen, Executive Director, Care for...

10 DAYS TO VICTORY: DAY 6 = GENEROSITY BY LAMANDA JOY...

   Your vote = GIVING! Click HERE There’s a saying that “gardeners are generous people” and I’ve always thought it should say “gardens make generous people” instead. You must share when Mother Nature provides you with so much abundance – how could you possibly let all that hard work go to waste? There’s a movement in our country for gardeners to share their bounty with those who have less. Groups like ampleharvest.org make it easy to donate extra food to local food and nutrition programs. From the start we wanted to be generous. Our Grow2Give program provides hundreds of pounds of food every year to various food and nutrition programs. We started giving fresh produce to the CEDA Albany Park WIC year one. This year we’re still working with the Albany Park WIC office as well as Care for Real, Common Pantry, First Slice and Inspiration Kitchen. Volunteer teams tend the Grow2Give plots in each garden, we provide the education and guidance (thanks to our talented leadership team member, Xan). Our goal this year was to grow a literal ton of produce for this program. With the record breaking heat we’re clocking in around 700 pounds this year… not bad, considering. We’ve got some great ideas about an expanded Grow2Give program in 2013. Your vote to help us win $10k from Chase Community Giving can help make that plan happen. VOTE HERE: http://j.mp/ChaseGivingPGP and please tell your friends. Sharing feels...

10 DAYS TO VICTORY: DAY 5 = COMMITMENT BY LAMANDA JOY...

 Your vote = COMMITMENT! Click HERE Gardens are slow. You can’t rush Mother Nature. Things grow at the pace they grow and all of us are part of the process. Running a garden organization is often not slow – when spring hits it’s all hands on deck to build new gardens, register and orient people, teach them how to garden. And things don’t really slow down until we close the gardens for winter. Even then, during the “dark days,” we’re planning for the next year. Just like the “block captains” of WW2, who organized the thousands of community gardens across Chicago, we have our own corps of volunteers who do the “behind-the-scenes” work to make the Peterson Garden Project operate year round. And did I mention that every single one of them is unpaid? Yes, we all do it because we believe our mission is important. The majority have been with us since the beginning. That’s why I can say “us” and not “me” and why I have the pleasure of asking you to help “us” fund organizational growth for another year. This team of talented, hard working leaders stepped up within the first month of the garden’s genesis. Lester, owner of Looseleaf Lounge, was the first person to send an email saying he wanted to help and he’s been there with his wonderful optimism, since almost day one. Xan, owner of Juno Consulting, found us via Twitter. She volunteered immediately to help us raise funds and lead our Grow2Give program. Lindsay, a talented dancer and pastry chef at The Bristol, became our volunteer coordinator. Her smile can light up a room… there are other equally wonderful people whose contributions have been invaluable to bringing our project to where it is today (you can learn...

10 Days to Victory: Day 4 = HOPE by LaManda Joy...

  Your vote = HOPE Click HERE Once we got our original property and started working I hoped people would respond. And once they did, which didn’t take long, I learned there were a lot of other hopes and dreams already attached to this unused piece of urban land. One of our first volunteers was Brett. He showed up early on and was happily ready to do the labor with us. He worked at a desk job and looked forward to the opportunity to get outside and sweat. We’d go to the bar next to the garden for lunch breaks and talk about what a garden could mean to this neighborhood. And I learned that his hope was that he’d be able to teach his young son how to garden and have a place to spend outdoor time with him. Brett didn’t know the first thing about gardening but he attended the classes and asked lots of good questions of the Master Gardeners and others who knew what they were doing. His joy when “stuff started to grow” was infectious. We all enjoyed watching his small son quickly become a garden expert and one of our chief watering “instructors” – there’s nothing quite like a five year old telling an adult they’re watering incorrectly. When Vedgewater was being built, Brett and family were there from the start getting their hands dirty building the garden. They were excited because the location was closer to their house. Something major had changed though… they were now the veterans and were able to show new gardeners the ropes, make them feel welcome and part of a community and, most importantly, help them learn how to grow food. Brett’s is one of hundreds of people who didn’t know the...

10 Days to Victory: Day 3 = CURIOSITY by LaManda Joy...

How do you teach an entire city how to grow their own food? That was the question I asked myself after I’d seen this photo at our local butcher, Muller Meats. The lady who took the photo lived in the same building as the butcher shop. She lived in the neighborhood her entire life. When she died, knowing Rubin and Irv (the butchers) liked old photos, her family sold it to them. And it has hung on their wall ever since. Once day while I was waiting for an order I noticed it and got really curious. The guys told me about the lady who took it, how it took them awhile to realize it was taken from their building and the view was west of their shop just down the street. I couldn’t get the photo out of my mind. Not only that there had been a big Victory Garden right there in my neighborhood but also that the war drove people to use gardening as a means of collective salvation during dark times. After pondering the situation for awhile it dawned on me that one of the lots in the picture was an empty lot owned by a local non profit. The wheels started turning… I’d begun studying just how Chicago mobilized to teach hundreds of thousands of people to grow food… maybe we could follow those same steps and start a garden right there on the original site? It was just an empty lot after all… By June of that year we’d created what was, at the time, the largest edible, organic garden in Chicago. We had a waiting list a mile long. We’d followed the same steps the original WW2 Victory Gardeners had followed and it worked. Clearly we were...

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