“Think of this as a shout-out to all those potential Windy City Harvest partners still on the sidelines,” a Chicago Tribune editorial recently said. The Tribune featured the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest urban agriculture and jobs-training initiative as part of its New Plan of Chicago series, calling for ideas — such as more urban farming — on how to address some of the challenges facing the city and how to make a difference.
In this season of gratitude and end-of-the-year reflection, the Garden has much to be thankful for, including Windy City Harvest, which operates on eight acres at a dozen locations throughout Chicago and Lake County. More than 100 at-risk teens were mentored in 2014; the program also trained 41 hard-to-employ adults such as ex-offenders, 92 percent of whom found jobs and are making a difference in their communities. This year, Windy City Harvest grew and harvested 74,000 pound of produce on eight acres within challenged communities and donated more than 1,800 boxes of fresh vegetables and fruits to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which helps feed low-income women and children in need. In a wonderful example of how we’ve come full circle in the giving cycle, two Windy City Harvest participants, Rosario Maldonado and Fernando Orozco — who received WIC benefits as children — now run farms that help provide produce to WIC.
Chicago Magazine recently named the Chicago Botanic Garden as one of the best charities in Chicago, noting that “more than a million visitors each year enjoy this breathtaking 385-acre site … but the Chicago Botanic Garden is about much more than pretty plants.” The article also cited the jobs training and access to fresh foods through Windy City Harvest and the education opportunities from preschool to Ph.D. at the new Regenstein Learning Campus.
In addition, the magazine pointed out something truly special about our neighbors and friends: Chicago-area residents are generous — and like to give locally. See for yourself this #GivingTuesday, a global campaign encouraging people to give back to their communities. You too can #GivetotheGarden with a tax-deductible donation to support programs such as Windy City Harvest. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn on #GivingTuesday to learn more.