Edna White Community Garden Reflects Community Spirit as Garden Walk Starting Point  

 By Tim Moran  

 The Edna White Community Garden has become the traditional starting point to kick-off the BAPA Beverly/Morgan Park Garden Walk. That won’t change in 2024, as the site just east of the 22nd District Chicago police station on 111th Street will serve as the first of nine stops on the ever-growing summer event planned for Sunday, July 21, this year.  

“It’s a great open space, easy for people to park or leave your bike,” said Kathy Figel, executive director of the Edna White Community Garden since the early days of its inception in 1993.  

“A lot of people like to go in groups, so the garden has been a good spot to meet up.”  

Expect to see all the popular mainstays at the Edna White Community Garden this year, like the bee house with five hives, a butterfly garden complete with monarch butterflies and “lots of milkweed,” Figel said.  

New to the garden this year will be a specific bed designated for the non-profit community group called “The Burrito Brigade” that prepares weekly hot meals for people in need. Figel said the garden bed set aside for them is raising carrots, kale and other vegetables to supplement their meals.  

Some of the garden features will, of course, look a little different as nature itself changes slightly from year to year.  

“Every year, I feel it gets a little different,” Figel said. “It’s a spot that is supposed to change, but a spot that reflects the community.”  

A year ago, the garden showed its community side as it served as a spot for migrants who volunteered at the garden and stayed there as they awaited permanent placement.  

“We were able to embrace them,” Figel said. “And it certainly helped the community as a whole in giving them a place to be. The garden was able to handle hundreds of people who needed the help so much.”  

But after more than 30 years of managing the garden, Figel said she is “ready to pass it on.” She missed six weeks of prime gardening time last year and is currently recovering from surgery she had in mid-June.  

Larger community groups like the environmental club at Marist High School and a group of St. Barnabas students who created a sunflower circle earlier in the summer have helped keep it going as Figel is reaching out to find people who are able to understand all the parts of running a community garden to continue its legacy.  

“It’s vital to get the younger generation involved,” Figel said.  

The garden has come a long way since the early 1990s, when Figel and others began work at the original site that is now the police station. Having since moved a block east on the north side of 111th Street, it has become a somewhat rare sanction for bees and butterflies within one of the largest cities in the world.  

“Reading things like us having more insects than any place in Chicago… that stuff makes me proud,” Figel said, noting the garden’s healing qualities as well.  

“It’s just amazing that we can be here on a busy street, in a tough spot right between a high school and police station and still be a place for peace,” she said. “We have people who come from the police station frustrated, then walk through the garden and become more relaxed. I also see officers sitting there in the evening by themselves, and I wish even more would come through.” 

 

 

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