Strangers are the stuff that friends are made of…

The Peterson Garden Project is an amazing adventure. Like the many community gardens that are springing up around the country like mushrooms, our project is one example of how people want to connect with their community and do good.

I’m the lucky person who gets to talk about The Peterson Garden Project around the country, in Chicago, via blogs, radio and other media. But there is a team of people who are the real heart of the project.

I’d like to introduce you to the machine that makes The Peterson Garden Project hum:

Starting from the left:

Maribeth helps with our community outreach and is responsible for a new garden we’re starting this spring at The Field Museum. The garden, called Edible Treasures, is a community garden for Field employees that focuses on “seed with stories” – our cultural heritage in seed diversity. There’s a lot more to say about this garden so I’ll save that for another post but, one word, AWESOME!

Lindsay is a pastry chef and dancer. She coordinates our volunteers and events. She’s sunshine. Despite long hours at a restaurant making edible art and dance rehearsals, she still manages to make our volunteers feel like they’re the only people who matter. Because, in a volunteer-run organization, they are the only people who matter!

Leigh works as a marketing director for our local hospital. She is also interested in how community gardens impact people and has helped us with research for two summers in a row. We’ll be releasing our 2011 findings soon.

Lester was the very first person to reach out when we launched The Peterson Garden Project in 2010. His long, supportive emails brought lots of smiles when I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. Today, Les is on our board and manages our business affairs. He still makes me smile consistently.

Leah works in PR for a large architectural firm. She kindly, but firmly, makes sure our story is told in the right way. When we were planning our groundbreaking in May of 2010 it looked like it was going to rain so I called and said maybe we should cancel. She kindly told me to go home and put on my Rosie the Riveter outfit and get to the garden. The sun did shine and there was a lot of press there to cover the story. Leah is almost always right about everything.

Xan’s favorite hobby is driving us all crazy. She’s too smart (and too adorable) for her own good. She manages our fundraising efforts, manages the Grow2Give program and keeps us all entertained. I am delighted by her kind heart.

That’s me, LaManda Joy, in the dorky purple hat. Clearly I have no pride and therefore I’m an excellent candidate for spokesperson. 🙂

Patrick (and Mark – not pictured) are our creative directors. They make everything fantastic from planning events to helping with our marketing materials. Their talent is kind of scary good. They know how to make an event an experience and create a vibe that makes our community feel good.

There are others not shown – Sally who manages our (virtual) “office”, Rebecca who helps with budgeting, Ellen who helps with our newsletter, Nancy who takes pictures of the garden every day, Barb who is our garden mom, Sue and Debbie who help with education… the list goes on. We’ve never been short of good souls who want to lend their talents to make a difference.

This wonderful, hard-working team of people and I are about to embark on an adventure for 2012. In addition to the Field Museum garden we’re starting five Pop-up Victory Gardens as large or larger than our original garden. And the cool thing is, next year, we’ll have a list of even more wonderful, good hearted, hard-working people who were once strangers and will be friends.

That’s the magic of community gardens.