Unlike any other year in modern history, 2020 has tested us individually, as a community and as a nation. As Thanksgiving approaches though, it is fitting to share an example of the good work that continues moving us forward; work that feeds the body, mind and spirit of our community. Happy and healthy Thanksgiving.
Hearts and hands working together (albeit socially distanced), along with training, funds, and a hearty dose of resilience has resulted in a bountiful fall harvest that will assist in providing food security and nourish neighbors on the east side of West Chicago.
The seeds of the story were planted pre-COVID, in October 2019. Local residents and members of First United Methodist Church of West Chicago, Michael and Judith Horsley, attended an educational program through Global Ministries called EarthKeepers.
The training program equips United Methodists throughout the United States for environmental stewardship. It serves as both a launch pad for people looking to turn an idea into action, and an incubator for people who want to deepen an existing ministry.
Participants develop plans in conversation with their peers, troubleshooting ideas and sharing strategies. Upon completion of the training, EarthKeepers are asked to launch an environmental project in their communities and can apply for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) grants to support their work.
Judith’s project idea was to expand the two raised-bed gardens built by the Boy Scouts on the property of the First United Methodist Church of West Chicago into a second community garden that would supplement the existing one at St. Michael’s Church on the City’s west side.
Long story short, and many involved community members later, a grant for $4,993 was awarded in December 2019 and plans for spring implementation was set – but for a global pandemic which halted the building of the raised-bed gardens and the recruitment of community members to grow vegetables.
Not to be discouraged, Global Ministries offered an extension to accommodate the community’s ability to push the build date to August 8th and the new gardens were built and planted by volunteers from Northwestern Medicine, The GardenWorks Project, Healthy West Chicago, and People Made Visible.
Tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, Swiss chard, cucumber and winter squash will continue to be harvested through the fall and distributed at the Neighborhood Food Pantry on Fremont Street, and 2021 will bring a renewed effort to offer the gardens to host families.
The project was captured through photographs which document the joy and determination of those who offered their time and talent in the service of others. They may be viewed at www.westchicago.org.