HOMEWOOD | When Junior Girl Scout Troops 60051 and 60059 met to discuss how they would earn their Bronze Awards, it didn’t take long to agree they wanted to do a green project.
The troops decided to sponsor a plot in the Tolentine Community Garden of Olympia Fields. There they would plant vegetables, which would be harvested and donated to the local shelter.
Although Troop Leader Cynthia Armand is an avid gardener, she wanted to ensure their garden yield would be bountiful. Questions like, “What to plant? What materials to use in the plant bed? How often to water? How to control pests organically?” needed to be answered.
Armand knew to call the University of Illinois Extension, Cook County Master Gardeners, having met Maureen Guger, a volunteer Master Gardener at a prior local Park Pride Day.
Armand contacted Margaret Burns-Westmeyer, Master Gardener program coordinator, and Nancy Pollard, Extension educator-horticulture.
“Extension trains Master Gardeners in best gardening practices so they can share their knowledge and skills with both individuals and organizations,” Burns-Westmeyer said.
The Girl Scout troops were teamed with Maureen Guger and her husband, Al, both volunteer Master Gardeners. Maureen and Al delivered an educational presentation to the Girl Scouts during their troop meeting. The presentation focused on plant selection and questions regarding planting and caring for a vegetable garden.
On June 14, Maureen met the Girl Scout Troops 60051 and 60059 onsite at Tolentine Park to provide directions in preparing the garden bed and planting. The girls — Sydney Armand, Makayla Brown, Victoria Craig, Jalani Jackson and Justice Wrather — took turns watering and caring for the garden on a weekly basis. By early August they were harvesting crops. The girls were surprised to see the amount of vegetables generated by their small garden.
South Suburban Family Shelter in Homewood was selected as the beneficiary of the garden’s harvest, which included bell peppers, mint, basil, rosemary, green beans, eggplant, tomato, kale, squash, onion, garlic and zucchini. Multiple deliveries were made to the shelter.
Vicki Meilach, community outreach coordinator for South Suburban Family Shelter, said clients were delighted to receive the bountiful donation of vegetables throughout the summer.
"We appreciate the Girl Scouts choosing SSFS to be the recipient of their hard work and labor of love,” she said.
Troops 60051 and 60059 are well on their way to earning the Bronze Award, and the members have learned a great deal about gardening and helping others in need.
“This was a great lifelong lesson in teamwork, helping others and making a positive difference in their community” Cynthia Armand said.
More information about the University of Illinois Extension Cook County programs can be found at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/cook/ or by calling (773) 768-7779.
South Suburban Family Shelter is a nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive, coordinated services to victims of domestic violence and their families. These services include 24-hour hotline, emergency shelter, counseling for adult victims and their children, abuser intervention program, court advocacy, medical advocacy, prevention program, Safe From the Start, professional trainings and speakers bureau. All victim services are provided free of charge, and all services are available in English and Spanish.
For additional information about South Suburban Family Shelter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (708) 794-2140, ext. 303.