By Shawn Gilley
Contributed by Richard Barry Media Relations Consultant for the YMCA
"Healthy dirt creates healthy kids and produces healthy food," explains Geri McLauchlan, a West Cook YMCA board member, as she coaches a team of Y-kids who joined her in planting an edible vegetable "Garden of Eatin" in the Y's front yard at 255 South Marion Street, Oak Park, June 3.
"This group of Y-kids is learning about planting and caring for vegetables and having great fun," she said.
A team of ten Y-kids worked alongside McLauchlan as she explained the fine points of preparing the soil, planting and watering peas, carrots, tomatoes and even watermelon on the Y's sunny south façade in what was formerly a brick planter.
The Y removed grass and shrubs from its front yard and built raised beds to create the new vegetable garden. The Y's garden, however, will grow more than the vegetables that the team planted.
"We're really building community here on South Marion Street. This is a great community effort by a multigenerational group of volunteers—adults, teens and young kids—who'll weed, water and then harvest the bounty of the Y's garden later this summer," she said.
"This is the second year of the West Cook YMCA's edible urban garden and it's proving to be a wonderful demonstration of the Y's commitment to social responsibility. And, it's also a fine example of sustainability, healthy living and youth development," explains McLauchlan, the West Cook YMCA's former chairman.
"We're grateful to Meijer's Department Stores, a sponsor of the Y's garden this year, which donated equipment and supplies for the project and to the Urban Garden Connection, which contributed seeds and plants.
"Meijer's also plans to sponsor a cooking class at the Y during the first week of August when some of our vegetables will be ready for harvest." she said.
Proceeds from the harvest of the YMCA's "Garden of Eatin," will be shared with the Hephzibah Children's Association of Oak Park, McLauchlan explained.