Building Community Through a Garden
Chicago Bridge had a great opportunity to learn and connect to the Chicago senior community on May 19th, 2012 at the Bethel Terrace Intergenerational Community Garden Launch!
A few Chicago Bridge members (organized by Lauren Kessler), University of Chicago first year medical students, Englewood community members, and the residents of Bethel Terrace senior building came together on a beautiful Saturday to assist in the creation of a new community garden.
Benefits of a Community Garden
The Bethel Terrace community garden will not only help to beautify the neighborhood, and increase access to fresh food for the seniors, but can also serve as a meaningful activity for the seniors of the local building and other community members. Other benefits of a community garden include:
- Improves the quality of life for people in the garden
- Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development
- Stimulates Social Interaction
- Encourages Self-Reliance
- Beautifies Neighborhoods
- Produces Nutritious Food
- Reduces Family Food Budgets
- Conserves Resources
- Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education
- Reduces Crime
- Preserves Green Space
- Creates income opportunities and economic development
- Reduces city heat from streets and parking lots
- Provides opportunities for intergenerational and cross-cultural connections
Not only were the seniors of Bethel Terrace present and active, but the representatives from the Greater Englewood Garden Association, Growing Home, and Openlands were also there to support this effort. One member of the Greater Englewood Garden Association was a 90 year old man who has been involved in many garden projects and came to share his expertise with the Bethel Terrace group. Another member, Beatrice, or Bee, offered her leadership by organizing the volunteers to get essential work accomplished during the launch day.
Carolyn Stewart, the social service coordinator who had vision and determination for this project was able to secure donations from local business to help build the beds, bring in soil, provide equipment, etc. She brought all of the present community members, including the Chicago Bridge to the table to be a part of this project.
Interested seniors were a part of planting the seedlings they had already started to grow weeks before. And throughout the day, there were many opportunities for the senior community to learn about how to plant the vegetables correctly, how to water, how much soil is needed and what type of light works best. This is very important as the hope is the seniors can continue planting and caring for the garden, of course with continued community support.
The Chicago Bridge volunteers brought their muscles to help move dirt, assisted in planting in those hard to reach places, and spent time learning with the Bethel Terrence seniors about gardening and working together.
That beautiful Saturday was a perfect opportunity to build community and a garden. It was easy to see the benefit of the community intergenerational experience for both the younger and older generations. Members of the Chicago Bridge should continue to look for new opportunities to connect and support the aging community.
Thanks to Lauren Kessler for co-authoring this post.