Growing Community Gardens to Help the World
September 19, 2012 4:35 pm CT
By Guest Blogger Shawna Coronado, ShawnaCoronado.com
In the far South Side neighborhood of Auburn Gresham in Chicago, there has been a major effort by involved community leaders to revitalize the area. When I was invited to the Morganway Community Garden for the GMC Growing Chicago Gardens event, I could see the garden has faced quite a few challenges. For one, it is located in the middle of a downtrodden city area with unattractive views. Despite this, a few local volunteers have done everything they can to build this community a little green space and to restore some natural beauty to the block.
Two of the leaders at the Morganway Community Garden are Pamela McCarroll and Juanita Love. The dream of these garden gurus is to inspire the community by making the garden a refuge in a sea of black top. The garden was founded 15 years ago, but sadly, the garden fell into disrepair. It wasn’t until Juanita moved back to the community seven years ago that the revitalization process began.
Juanita told me, “It’s about people helping people.” At 71 years young, Juanita has a perpetual twinkle in her eye and is more fit than most women half her age. At the garden, she helps neighbors plant and grow okra, tomatoes, broccoli, squash and watermelon, but mostly she spreads joy. She is a pillar of strength in the community, one who couldn’t wait to start the day’s adventure. So we did!
We climbed into the GMC Terrain and drove to the local home and garden store to pick up plants and garden supplies. On the drive, Juanita could barely contain her excitement. She explained how although local organization NeighborSpace had previously donated materials to the garden, they still needed so much more.
When we arrived at the store, the enormity of what we were doing struck me. Like kids in a candy store, Pamela and Juanita ran around the garden center excitedly grabbing items needed for the garden. While standing in the checkout line, Pamela covered her face and said, “I’m gonna cry, Miss Love, I’m gonna cry… seeing all of this, it makes my heart runneth over!”
As tears spilt out the corner of her eye, I leant over and hugged her. My eyes stung and filled with tears as I thought about all things in my life that mean so much to me. I felt like Pam did: grateful.
That day we did something magical for the community and for the garden. A garden that is so much more than a garden. It is a balm for the soul and connects a neighborhood together.
Seeing the beauty and happiness that a few plants can create is enough for me to believe that we should be filling our urban communities with more gardens. More happiness. More passion. More good. Ask Pamela or Juanita and I am sure they’ll agree.
Check out our video from the Growing Chicago Gardens event!