My husband and I were thinking about 2012 goals for our family, and agreed that
volunteering was something we wanted to do more of. My first thought was Habitat for Humanity - I wanted to build veggie gardens for Habitat homes and educate the homeowners on how to support their families by growing their own food. Without knowing for sure if they would be accepting of the idea since their main focus is on shelter, I quickly registered for a new volunteer meeting.
Then, on a trip to the Glen Ellyn Library with the kids, I found the book Reclaiming Our Food, by Tanya Denckla Cobb. I had taken the kids to the "adult section" of the library, which I hardly ever do because they are very, shall we say, boisterous children, and I am worried they will disturb the other patrons. We usually stay in the kid-friendly areas of the library. But this time, I was looking for a landscape graphics book, which I quickly found and headed back to the staircase to the children's area. On the way, we passed a shelf housing new arrivals and Reclaiming Our Food jumped out at me. I grabbed it and checked it out without reading anything more than the title.
It proved to be a serendipitous find, because I think this book has changed my life.
Many of my friends know that I battled stage 3 breast cancer back in 2003. Since then, I've been on a mission to gain more out of life. I've been fortunate enough to have a happy marriage and two beautiful kids (who I thought I'd never meet). And in the last few years, I've found my calling career-wise in the field of landscape design. I love designing gardens and have met some awesome people since I started Tina Koral Gardens. You'd think that would be enough, and in most ways, it is. But something was missing. I wanted to help others who needed it, and teach my kids how important it is to do so. So when I opened this book and read the very first section, "Giving Gardens to People in Need," I was inpired to do just that. I talked to the hubby and he agreed that it was a good idea, because we believe everyone deserves access to organic, fresh vegetables. And this project would combine my love of gardening and growing vegetables with his interest in carpentry. I called Habitat to tell them that I would not be attending the volunteer meeting, and set to work planning our new project.
My husband and I have committed to building five kitchen gardens this year for five individuals or families in need. This is not a new idea - as I mentioned earlier, I had read about The Home Gardening Project in Reclaiming Our Food. There are programs like this all around the country, but as far as I know, none in the Chicagoland area (if you know of any organization that is giving vegetable gardens, please let me know).
I've already purchased some tools and accessories, and now we will set to work obtaining raised bed garden kits, soil, compost, seeds and starts, and a basic gardening book to provide to five local families at no charge. We will identify those in need with the help of the fine folks at our local food pantries. We will solicit local businesses for supplies or monetary donations.
I will keep you updated as plans progress. If you want to help in any way, or have any ideas, please let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.