Chicagoland

Parish tends garden to feed those in need

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
August 22, 2018

Parish tends garden to feed those in need

As part of the parish’s centennial celebration, St. Paul of the Cross in Park Ridge began a vegetable garden to provide fresh, organic produce to the patrons of their food pantry. It is maintained by parish volunteers who sponsor and tend to raised beds and a butterfly garden throughout the growing season. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
The St. Paul of the Cross garden. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Mary Ann Tanquary waters some of the plants that butterflies are attracted to in the garden. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
One of the boxes where vegetables grow. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Polley checks on some of the vegetables. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Part of the 45 distinct planting areas — raised beds, garden boxes, even table gardens — for which volunteers can take responsibility. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Nancy Cottrell tends to herbs in the garden. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
More than 100 volunteers work together to raise close to 1,000 pounds of vegetables that are distributed through the parish food pantry and the Catholic Charities food pantry in Des Plaines. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Part of the 45 distinct planting areas — raised beds, garden boxes, even table gardens — for which volunteers can take responsibility. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic
The garden is on the parish campus, occupying the site of a vacant house the parish bought and then tore down. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Michael Polley, Mary Ann Tanquary and Nancy Cottrell pose for a photon one of the benches in the garden. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

A garden is a growing thing, developing and changing and bringing new life to its environment and to the people who tend it year by year.

That’s certainly been the case with the parish garden at St. Paul of the Cross, Park Ridge, where more than 100 volunteers work together to raise close to 1,000 pounds of vegetables that are distributed through the parish food pantry and the Catholic Charities food pantry in Des Plaines.

When she started the project, Adrienne Timm, director of social ministry for the parish, wanted to find a way to build community among parishioners while providing fresh produce for families in need. She was not particularly excited about doing a lot of digging in the dirt herself.

“I just wanted to grow a few tomatoes,” she said.

Tomatoes are still among the most popular vegetables grown at the garden, she said. People who use the food pantry tend to want familiar vegetables that will fit with what they usually cook: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, maybe a few zucchini, pumpkins for Halloween and lots of potatoes. There also are herbs, and when the garden is active, those who use the food pantry can get a bouquet of fresh flowers, too.
“Everyone wants to get something pretty,” Timm said. 

The garden is on the parish campus, occupying the site of a vacant house the parish bought and then tore down. It has 45 distinct planting areas — raised beds, garden boxes, even table gardens — for which volunteers can take responsibility. 

“We have some areas that are waist-high, so if we have senior citizens who can’t bend down to garden, they can still help,” Timm said.

Mary Ann Tanquary said she and her family took responsibility for a growing area five years ago. 

“I liked the idea because we weren’t doing it for ourselves,” she said. “We were doing it for other people.”

This year, she has taken charge of the butterfly garden, an area that includes milkweed and other flowers that attract monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

“The flowers attract the butterflies and they and the other pollinators help the vegetables grow,” Tanquary explained. “And they look beautiful.”

Tanquary said that when she started, she was looking for a way her family could volunteer together. Her children now are in high school and college; one year, one of them used the garden to earn required service hours.

That’s a common reason for families to volunteer, Timm said. Others are novice gardeners who want to learn to grow vegetables.

“It’s a really good education in gardening,” she said. “Every year is different, and every year we have some families with no gardening experience. Then years later, they are helping other people.”

The parish brings all the volunteers together for a spring clean-up day and a planting day a week later. The planting includes a prayer service with a blessing for every seed and seedling and every gardener as well, Timm said.

After that, gardeners are responsible for making time to take care of their areas, weeding and watering and harvesting. Experienced gardeners, including Tanquary, are available to answer questions and give advice.

“Some years, when there’s a drought, you have to go water almost every day,” Tanquary said. “Not so much this year.”

But there is weeding and thinning and other work to be done, she said.

“Gardening seems to feed on itself,” Tanquary said. “There’s always something to do in a garden.” 

The garden includes a statue of St. Fiacre, the patron of vegetable gardeners. Tanquary said she likes to work near the statue. “I enjoy going when I’m stressed out,” she said. “It’s a peaceful place to be.”

Topics:

  • parishes
  • garden

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