Give Back Gardens at Hoffman Park
Volunteers Reap Satisfaction from Serving Others Through Gardening
Cindy Doetsch had no idea before a warm evening stroll that she was about to discover a small community garden that would capture her interest as well as her heart.
“I was walking my dog when I came across a sign in Hoffman Park requesting volunteers for the Give Back Garden. Most of my gardening experience is with flowers – growing vegetables is new to me. Still, I thought, ‘I can do that!’” Doetsch said.
The Give Back Gardens of Hoffman Park opened in 2012 with the rest of the Community Garden plots. Located near the parking lot, six designated garden plots are planted and maintained each summer by volunteers. An average of 1,200 pounds of fresh, organic produce is harvested from their efforts annually and donated to the Cary-Grove Food Pantry.
Doetsch began her journey with the gardens in 2014 and is one of the long-standing volunteers to take part in the effort to provide fresh produce to those in need. Currently, a small group of dedicated volunteers tend the plots on a regular basis including Doug Moore, and Cecilia Rygula and Helena Kedrok who tend the garden with the Girls Scouts of Northern Illinois. Other volunteers, called “bumblebees”, help with weeding and watering whenever they are able. Among the Bumblebee volunteers are Camp ECHO and Northern Illinois Special Recreation participants.
Garden preparation begins long before the first seeds are sown each year as Doetsch draws a planting diagram for her plot in February. Weather permitting, planting begins in mid-May following the last frost.
Her love of gardening blossomed nearly two decades ago after the World Trade Center fell. “I have a clear memory of planting a seed tray in my kitchen while the images of the twin towers played over and over on television and I felt such a stress. Finally, I just turned off the TV and focused on the soil and the seeds and I felt instantly better. I always think it started right there for me and anytime I’m in the Give Back Gardens at the park I feel the same way,” she said. “I just like anything related to nature and having my hands in soil. Nature doesn’t really change and there is something soothing and reassuring being connected to that.”
While Doetsch anticipated a sense of peace in planting and tending the garden each year she was surprised with the bounty of joy and satisfaction she experienced at harvest. “It’s so gratifying to
know that you had a part in providing this beautiful, fresh, organic food to a family that might not have access to it any other way,” she said. “I remember dropping off a really big bag of green beans at the food pantry and, as I was leaving that day, I saw a family eating some of them in the parking lot with their child. I heard the child telling his parents that the beans tasted so good. It almost made me cry to fully witness the impact of this work.”
This is part one of a multi-part feature on the Give Back Gardens.
Article written by Ellen Riedl, Cary Park District