Alicia Rasnic loves to garden. Her experience out in the garden played a key role in a new project Bridge Communities started earlier this summer.
Rasnic, a long-time Glen Ellyn resident, began volunteering with Bridge Communities five years ago. She learned about the nonprofit from a friend who invited her to its annual Garden Party.
“Because I was retired, I wanted something to get involved with, and Bridge seemed to be a really good opportunity,” Rasnic said.
When she signed up to volunteer with Bridge Communities, Rasnic was asked to participate on the development committee doing outreach in the community to raise awareness of the nonprofit and secure donations and support from area businesses.
Over the years she has participated in a number of committees at Bridge Communities, a Glen Ellyn-based nonprofit, which according to the organization: seeks to inspire and affect change by advocating for homeless families, along with providing resources and collaborating with business, faith-based partners and community organizations.
Last year residents at an apartment complex Bridge Communities owns in Glendale Heights wanted to plant a garden, but it didn’t do well because the residents weren’t sure how to plant it or tend it, Rasnic said.
Then, a new family moved in to the apartment building who was interested in continuing the project, planting and tending the garden, she said.
Rasnic and another volunteer were recruited to supervise the planting at the garden this year.
“When we first went out and was just weeds,” she said, adding “It started out I was told by the person who pulled me in, ‘You just have to be able to tell the people which end of the tomato plant to plant,’ but it was more work than we anticipated.”
The plot was originally 30 square feet and Rasnic determined such a large garden wasn’t necessary. So, the weeds were killed off and the soil was tilled to make way for the garden. Rasnic’s husband John—who does a lot of work for the nonprofit behind the scenes—tilled the soil to prepare it for planting.
The Home Depot donated vegetable plants for the garden and one afternoon Rasnic and some other volunteers from Bridge Communities along with the residents set to work planting the garden.
One family is overseeing the garden plot, but all of the residents are tending to it to ensure the plantings grow and can be harvested, she said.
The Glendale Heights apartment complex is also the site for a learning center and other Bridge Communities clients visit the apartment building regularly. Rasnic said there is the hope that other residents will want to bring the idea to their apartment complexes, provided they are also Bridge-owned residences.
Residents gained more from the gardening experience than the fresh tomatoes and green beans, Rasnic said.
“Obviously, they gained a real sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It was something they have been able to initiate and follow through with. … It builds a nice sense of camaraderie.”
Since she became involved with Bridge Communities, Rasnic said she gained a great deal of respect for the employees who are very dedicated and committed to the cause of ending homeless, something they are always involved with whether working in the office or out in the community.
"I guess with any nonprofit or volunteering that people do, the end result is like the greatest reward of all. Seeing the garden come along is really neat,” she said. “Hearing the stories of the women we celebrate at the [annual] luncheon are just incredible. Nobody gets paid for doing it; the volunteers are just the greatest group of people. I have the greatest respect for the volunteers and for the homeless who they help to get their lives back together. It’s just a really rewarding experience.”
Do you know someone who does great things in Glen Ellyn? E-mail Local Editor Mary Ann Lopez at email@example.com.