Victory Garden

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Year Established: 1994
Local Leader: Rosa Perea
Community Group: Centro Comunitario Juan Diego
NeighborSpace Partnership: 1999

Victory Garden in the South Chicago neighborhood is one of three community-established and NeighborSpace-conserved gardens within six blocks of each other that provide local residents with much-needed green space. Just a street removed from the constant bustle of the dense retail district on Commercial Avenue, Victory Garden is a sudden experience of peace and quiet – a living symbol of this active, diverse community’s efforts to make the South Chicago neighborhood inviting and nurturing to new and existing residents. This is especially important since many young families with children live in the area.

The garden also represents another “victory” by residents over a do-nothing attitude. After sitting vacant and increasingly weed- and trash-filled for years, neighbors on the block gathered to discuss what to do with the empty lot that had become an eyesore. According to Rosa Perea, a local leader who lives directly across from Victory Garden, the unanimous decision was to turn the space into a multi-use community garden. The three-story building directly to the garden’s south keeps most of the space in shade year-round, so the eventual emphasis was on planting beds of hardy annuals and perennials such as marigolds and mums. Several maturing trees shade a few benches for those seeking a place to rest and keep cool in the summer, and the back of the garden is lined with evergreen bushes to form a natural barrier to the alleyway directly to the east. NeighborSpace played a significant role in the development of Victory Garden by providing not only physical necessities such as a water source, but equally important moral support through all the ups and downs of the garden’s evolution. Says Rosa, “NeighborSpace is a big support and encouragement system for us. They are people who really do want to help.”

In Rosa’s Words: “When I think of NeighborSpace I think of those who work there. Each one of them has made it a point to be available, they’re caring, and go out of their way to help out with what they can. It truly is a privilege working with them.”

Best Practice Idea: Rosa says a big key to success is often quality over quantity – in other words, having the right people involved in working on a community garden. “You need to identify people who love to garden and keep them involved so that they can help with maintaining it.”