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Heartland Health Centers at PGP

Thank you to Laurie Odell from Heartland Health Centers for this guest post!

Getting a call a couple of years ago from Becky Rico at Peterson Garden Project was pretty exciting as she said they wanted to get a community garden going in Uptown!! As a member of the Community Advisory Board for our 845 W Wilson community health center and a friend since our days working together in Albany Park, Becky knew we’d be interested so we got to work. But until last fall we’d been spinning our wheels looking for land. Our dream was to plant it right next door to our health center. Those 3-4 adjacent lots had sat vacant for well over 30 years, a perfect spot. We saw it as a wonderful opportunity for the community, especially our patients. Finally the land in front of the former Stewart School was made available and, despite constant Mother Nature delays, planting at GrowUptown should begin Saturday, June 23.

When the 1st community meeting to launch GrowUptown was held at our health center on Wilson back in February, the room was packed with interested community members. LaManda laid out the vision, rules, costs, etc., and of course we wanted to know how people of low income could get in on this.  Peterson’s standing policy is that scholarships can be applied to waive the cost of membership and that Heartland could also buy our own plots that our patients could use.  We’ve been doing this for 2 years now at the Rosemont garden with our patients from 1300 W Devon. They love it! And they love the cooking classes we hold at Devon, too, sometimes using their produce.

I called for volunteers at the GrowUptown community meeting to work with our patients and several hands went up. We now have a group of 4 community garden researchers  – Haley, Jessica, Mary Kay and Molly –  as well as Melissa, a community- minded nurse who lives 2 blocks away. They are all set to team up with at least 8 Heartland patients. They’ll decide together what they want to grow, get seeds and seedlings into the ground, weed, water, and tend the plots all summer and fall. They all expect to both learn from and teach each other, and if the rain ever stops, for the time being anyway, they are raring to go.

A final note: We’d like to get cooking classes going at our Wilson clinic and hope this will be the impetus for a successful kick off in the near future!