By Kristin Boza
Giving back to the community takes many forms. Three local garden groups are growing for a cause, whether it be for the environment, educational purpose or to feed the needful. Kellogg Elementary School, 9241 S. Leavitt St., Morgan Park Presbyterian Church, 11052 S. Longwood Dr., and Bethlehem Lutheran Church, (9401 S. Oakley Ave. are all “growing for good.”
Kellogg Students Gain a Valuable Growing Education
Kellogg School is a neighborhood pioneer in creating and maintaining a thriving garden. Students in the Garden Club learn — and educate peers — about where their food comes from, the effort needed to cultivate a garden, and even how to market and sell the fruits of their labor.
Five Kellogg Garden Club students, including 3rd graders Nate Friedrich, Donato Colitto and Messiah Tibers-Ausar, and 8th graders Maya Terry and Meah Tierre have helped vault the garden to much more than a fun and educational after school activity. Thanks to a grant that was written and earned by the students themselves, the Kellogg Garden Club will be introducing bee hives to their vegetable plots and butterfly gardens.
“The Whole Kids Foundation awarded the Garden Club with a $1,500 grant for the bee project,” said Cory Overstreet, Kellogg principal. “The grant includes all the materials for two hives, including the bees. Our Garden Club will partner with the beekeeper at Southside Occupational Academy High School, and a community member and Kellogg parent will also learn how to be beekeepers.”
Students and Garden Club leaders will learn how to support the bees, all while educating their peers that bees aren’t so bad. “We’re bringing the bees here because some kids are scared, but now that I learned about them, I’m not afraid of bees anymore,” said Messiah. “We’ll have a stand at the Farmer’s Market [on 95th St.] so we can sell the honey,” said Nate.
Meanwhile, Maya and Meah are spearheading an 8th grade legacy project with the hives. “We’re going to decorate the hive areas and leave our mark to show that we, as an 8th grade class, are coming together,” said Maya. “We want to be sure each 8th grader puts their touch of creativity on the hives, which will be a great memory when we come back to visit,” said Meah.
The award-winning Kellogg garden knows that it truly takes a community to make the garden grow. “It’s really special because the club is led by parents and community members, and all of our students from kindergarten through 8th grade,” said Overstreet. “Our dining manager even uses the produce to make salads for the students’ lunch, and they’re all learning to eat what you grow.” Gardening is becoming a great part of the curriculum for students of all ages, and Kellogg recently earned another grant to build a tower garden inside of the school. This indoor garden will be tended to by kindergarten through 4th grade students who will grow tomatoes, herbs and peppers.
Garden Ministry at Morgan Park Presbyterian Church Donates Produce
Many area families are served by the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry. Fresh produce is in great demand.
The Garden Ministry at Morgan Park Presbyterian Church has partnered with the Share the Harvest program for four years to grow, cultivate and donate fresh produce to the food pantry all summer long.
“We are partnering with the Fourth Presbyterian Urban Youth Mission to bring volunteers to do the heavy lifting with us as we expand our vegetable and pollinator gardens by 200%,” said Morgan Park Presbyterian Pastor Ben Heimach-Snipes. “Anyone from the neighborhood can support this healthy ministry by volunteering during Vacation Bible School, being part of our garden team, growing vegetables at home to contribute to the harvest, or donating to the church or directly to Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry.”
The garden is taking center stage for the church’s annual Vacation Bible School week, Jun. 24 to 28. Children enrolled in the free program will learn about gardening and will contribute to tending to the plots.
The church’s garden team, including Brenda Taylor, Martha Kubajak and Cynthia Koroma, will hold an orientation event on Sat., May 4, 10 a.m. , and congregants and other neighbors can sign up for a plot and/or tending duties.
The garden produces tomatoes, cucumbers, collard greens, squash, zucchini, bell peppers and jalapeno peppers for the food pantry. For the most part, volunteers care for their own plots, but Taylor and her team also schedule volunteers to water the entire garden each week and tend to the plots if someone is out of town.
“Nothing goes to waste in our garden, and we’re always experimenting with different varieties of produce to grow,” said Taylor. “We’re really enjoying it and we’re putting the land we have to good use. We want as many people as possible to help out and will expand our plots so everyone can participate.”
The official planting day is Sat., May 18, and volunteers can also receive seedlings to plant at home. For more information, contact the church, firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-779-3355.
Bethlehem Lutheran Church Offers Produce to Fulfill a Mission
Another source of fresh produce for the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry comes from the gardeners at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 9401 S. Oakley Ave. Organizer Marilyn Klein leads local gardeners to create a vibrant organic garden that’s been cultivated for years.
“We have congregants who replenish our soil and mulch it with leaves, and we ensure we engage in ‘companion planting’ which means that our plants complement each other,” Klein said. “We always have a long row of chives that are not only edible and attractive, but they deter garden pests that could affect the plants.”
The gardeners enjoy producing and contributing loads of collard greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and green peppers to the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry as well as the Greater Tabernacle MB Church food pantry. “Collard greens are one of the most requested items, and they are easy to grow. We start them early when it’s still cool out, and they last well into the fall. They’re also easy to harvest and great to eat!” said Klein.
“So many people don’t have the opportunity for fresh items; although we donate food all year long, it’s important for these families to have access to fresh produce so they’re not just eating canned goods,” Klein said. “We’re doing this because we care for each other and we’re in kinship with all people. We see this bountiful experience that we’ve been given, and those who have received much should share with others.”
Planting day at Bethlehem Lutheran is Sat., May 25. “We welcome any help from the neighborhood, and it’s a really fun time. We start early in the morning and one of our members puts out a breakfast feast for everyone,” Klein said. “We also welcome the support of neighborhood Master Gardeners, who are able to get their required volunteer hours from working in our garden. Students who need volunteer hours are also welcome.” To volunteer, contact Marilyn Klein, 773-238-1856 or email@example.com.