Olive’s Garden for the Hungry looking for volunteer helpers
by BRIAN NADIG
Nearly 14 years after his son Seth created the Olive’s Neighborhood Garden for the Hungry in Jefferson Park, Andy Brecklin continues to lead a group of dedicated volunteers who grow and harvest at least 1,000 pounds of food a year.
Seth installed the garden at Laramie Avenue and Ainslie Street as part of an Eagle Scout project, and after he went away to school, his father Andy promised to oversee the garden. "I told them I’d give 5 years," Brecklin said. "We are looking for (more) community help."
A group of six volunteers perform much of the work, along with about a dozen others who also help, but additional assistance is needed, Brecklin said. He said that volunteers are often in the garden on Sunday mornings and that e-mail messages can be sent to garden firstname.lastname@example.org.
The garden is named after former Jefferson Park resident Olive Borgardt, who would keep watch over the site and allowed her home to be used as the main source of water for the garden. "She was just a little garden angel," Brecklin said.
Volunteers have since obtained a permit which allows them to run a hose from a nearby hydrant when water is needed for the garden, Brecklin said.
The garden also has benefited from other Eagle Scout projects, including the establishment of rain barrels and a lending library, where passersby can take a book or drop one off. The garden also has an area where nonperishable food items can be donated, and those in need can pick them up.
The produce from the garden is donated to the Northwest Church of Christ, 4602 N. Kilbourn Ave. Beets, squash, raspberries, cucumbers and zucchini are among the items grown at the garden.
Also, volunteers are looking into the possibility of harvesting honey from a beehive farm that would be established on a parcel on Laramie, where it becomes Gunnison Street, Brecklin said. The site is located about a bout half of block south of the garden.
The garden was established with the help of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, which worked with former state Representative Joseph Lyons to obtain permission from the Illinois Department of Transportation to grow vegetables and fruits there. The garden is now part of a partnership with NeighborSpace, which assists nonprofit groups with their management of community green spaces.