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Albany Park elders transform vacant lot

Fri, Sep 7, 2012

The Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly, North River Commission, Peterson Garden Project, and Alderman Richard Mell (33rd Ward), invited the community to the Grand Opening of Global Garden to celebrate the transformation of a vacant lot at Lawrence and Sacramento into one of the largest community gardens on the Northwest Side. The community joined in to celebrate the people who made Global Garden a reality – from the leaders who envisioned a garden, to the organizers who worked to fill an empty lot, to the members who transformed Global Garden into the vegetable haven it is today.

This Grand Opening event on July 26 at 3000 Lawrence Avenue was attended by more than 100 people representing elected officials, funders and in-kind supporters, civic and community organizations, cultural and educational institutions, places of worship, local business owners, and residents of the surrounding neighborhoods. The Global Garden is growing much more than plants; it is growing a community.

The City acquired the one-and-a-quarter acre triangular site with the use of TIF and state funds in 2009. NRC led a community planning effort that integrated the site into the community-designed and governed Multicultural Sculpture Park and Healing Garden in Ronan Park. When CLESE approached Alderman Mell about temporary use of the site for an urban refugee training farm, NRC saw the opportunity to meet a community need. Today, CLESE holds a three-year land lease with the City for its Refugee Agricultural Partnership Project, which teaches refugee families to earn a living by adapting their existing agricultural knowledge to the Chicago climate. CLESE also hosts Peterson Garden Project, which manages an edible garden program and Grow2Give Programs, which will generate over one ton of fresh vegetables for area food pantries this season across four North Side Pop-up Victory gardens. Raised garden beds are available to community members interested in growing their own food. NRC was excited to welcome new partners in meeting community goals and successfully found a bricks-and-mortar home for Peterson Garden Project and its new Learning Center in Ravenswood Manor.

The Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly (CLESE) and 51-member agencies provide direct services to more than 50,000 seniors from over 30 cultural and language groups in metropolitan Chicago. Their mission is to improve the lives of limited English speaking elderly through leadership, education and advocacy. By providing land, tools, seed and instruction, CLESE’s Global Gardens Refugee Training Farm builds on traditional strengths and skills to create real economic opportunity for displaced refugee farmers in their new home. Their long-term goal is to serve as an incubator for independent, refugee-owned farms and businesses.

The Peterson Garden Project is a plot-to-plate resource organization dedicated to recruiting, educating and inspiring a new generation of gardeners who want to gain control of their food supply, grow their own produce organically and make urban gardening the norm – not the exception. The Project installs and manages community edible gardens, offers garden education and builds community, one tomato at a time.

The North River Commission (NRC) is a community-based organization founded in 1962 by concerned residents and neigh-borhood institutions. NRC unites over 100 civic associations, businesses, schools, institutions and places of worship on the northwest side of Chicago to improve the quality of life for all constituents in our community by creating affordable housing, quality education, arts and cultural endeavors, open spaces and stable neighborhood businesses.

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