Seniors, Niles schools team up to begin community garden

Published 11:03 am Tuesday, April 13, 2004

By By JAMES COLLINS / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- A new community garden project that will benefit students, senior citizens and the entire community is currently in the works at Southside School.
The Niles-Buchanan area Senior Citizens' Center and Niles Community Schools have teamed up to work together on the project that will provide food to local senior citizens and economically disadvantaged community members.
Senior center board member and volunteer Linda Klute came up with the idea after the center collected hundreds of packages of seeds from a rebate offer through the center's coupon/refunding program.
Klute thought a community garden would be a great way to use the seeds to benefit senior citizens and other community members in need.
She searched for a piece of community land to facilitate the garden and eventually met with Niles Community Schools superintendent Doug Law, who was also excited about the idea.
Southside School was eventually chosen as the site for the project and teacher Candy Seals and her students will be looking after the garden for the rest of the school year.
Seals teaches a pre-vocational program to help Southside's special education students gain work experience and job skills.
She thinks the project will provide a good opportunity for students to become engaged in a work project on the school's property.
Klute agreed the program will be a great help to the community and those participating in keeping up the garden.
Klute said the vegetables will be given to members of the senior center and to economically disadvantaged families through the center's commodities programs: the quarterly Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program and the monthly Children and Seniors Food Program.
Williams Home Center, located right across the street from Southside, is also participating in the project by helping to keep an eye on the garden, providing storage space and assisting with donations.
The garden will be located right in front of the school facing 15th St.
A small strip of land between the sidewalk and the driveway will serve as an area for vine plants and a larger plot of land on the front lawn will be used for vegetables like peppers, corn, carrots and beets.
When the school closes for summer vacation, physically capable senior citizens, community volunteers and troops of girl scouts and boy scouts will help care for the garden.
The project is expected to get underway at Southside in mid-May, when the designated area of the front lawn will be plowed over and made ready for planting.
Law said if the community garden is a success, Niles Community Schools may expand these types of projects to other sites.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the garden or registering for the senior center's commodities programs, call the center at (269) 683-9380.