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Local Leaders: Willie Marks and Mildred Harris
Community Group: 1900 S. Ridgeway Block Club
NeighborSpace Partnership: 1998
While most community gardens benefit their respective neighborhoods in a wide variety of ways, the 1900 S. Ridgeway Enabling Garden is one of a handful of green spaces in Chicago created with the needs of a particular segment of the population in mind. One of the oldest community gardens in North Lawndale, the space is used regularly by all local residents, but it was created to welcome the many senior citizens who live on the block and in the immediate vicinity. The specially designed beds of flowers and other blooming plants encircling the spacious corner lot are raised several feet above the ground, enabling seniors to care for the plants in comfort and increasing their activity both physically and socially.
But the garden’s benefits are not limited to just the older residents. According to community leader Willie Marks, the presence of the 1900 S. Ridgeway Enabling Garden has played a significant role in the greening of the neighborhood and stimulating both social and educational activities among residents of all ages. It has prompted many homeowners on the block to plant gardens of their own, creating a continuous stretch of vibrant hues that virtually glow in the summer sun. Neighborhood children work in the Enabling Garden alongside the adults, pulling weeds and performing other tasks, as well as learning about the different plants – almost as if they have their own outdoor classroom. One of the immediate goals for the garden is the installation of plaques identifying each plant species and its characteristics.
NeighborSpace worked with the 1900 S. Ridgeway Block Club to keep the space a permanent garden – an important milestone for the community because the garden had evolved into a significant gathering place for not only the seniors tending it, but all residents who had come to appreciate it as an urban oasis.
In Willie’s Words: “You learn as you go when it comes to working in a community garden, and most of what I know I learned from NeighborSpace. They have been tremendous.”
Best Practice Idea: Willie advises that community gardeners should not be afraid to take their ideas outside and see what works and what doesn’t. “Get out there and get started – the beauty of the garden will keep you going. Also, don’t be afraid to learn from your mistakes. You can take what you learn and improve the garden from year to year.”