Volunteers Help Keep Elwood Children’s Garden Growing

Hydrangeas planted by volunteers April 20 proudly stood out in the mulch spread along the grounds.
Hydrangeas planted by volunteers April 20 proudly stood out in the mulch spread along the grounds.

By Stephanie Irvine

Though the weather was a little brisk, there was abundant sunshine on April 20 during the Village of Elwood’s special community planting day at the Elwood Children’s Garden.

The volunteer-based planting event was held to landscape a new extension of the pollinator garden.

“The Village applied for a grant to expand and enhance the existing pollinator garden area by 1,000 square feet and to provide further pollinator learning stations within the Children’s Garden,” explained Village Administrator Julie Friebele.

In addition to the $10,000 ComEd grant, which was awarded through Openlands, the Children’s Garden Expansion and Multi-Use Learning Center project was funded by $69,500 in monetary donations from members of the community.

The Children’s Garden expansion is also home to a newly erected multi-use building, aptly named “The Hydrangea House.” The Hydrangea House building was purchased and assembled by the village’s public works department and is complemented by a smaller gardener’s shed for storage.

“We thought it should be (named) something that coordinated with the garden,” said Sheila Meyers, Children’s Garden Coordinator, of how they came to name the new building.

The new multi-use building is intended to serve the community as a conservation learning center, capable of hosting small gatherings and even wedding ceremonies.

The inside of the Hydrangea House building, which features vaulted ceilings with chandeliers, is in the process of being finished. It is expected to be open soon for events.

The plantings around the Hydrangea House included a variety of flowering hydrangeas and connected to the existing Children’s Garden landscaping and pollinator garden.

About 25 to 30 volunteers came out to spread mulch and plant the grounds with 43 pollinator shrubs and nine pollinator trees purchased from a local nursery. Volunteers were treated to lunch after their morning of hard work.

Volunteers included Children’s Garden volunteers, Elwood Mayor Doug Jenco, Friebele, numerous other village staff and their families, Elwood Fire Chief Chris Locacius, and representatives of local businesses, such as from the Walmart Distribution Center.

“We care a lot about the community,“ said Jonathan Bradley, Walmart Developmental General Manager, who was present with his son and members of his Human Resources team.

“This building (Elwood Distribution Center) has a reputation of giving back to the community through not just grant money, but volunteer work hours.”

Bradley went on to explain that Walmart also gives back through Habitat for Humanity, and the volunteers present for the planting also built the walls on a Habitat for Humanity house being constructed in Elwood.

The pollinator section of the Children’s Garden provides a space for visitors to learn about pollinator plants and how they help the environment. Pollinator gardens offer insects, like bees and butterflies, the nectar and pollen that are vital to their survival. These types of gardens also help enhance biodiversity.

Underscoring the importance of pollinator gardens like Elwood’s, The United States Department of Agriculture cites that “35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce,” and goes on to explain that pollinators are in danger.

“The Children’s Garden Project, founded in 1997 in cooperation with the Village of Elwood, Elwood School District, and Jackson Township, provides an enlightening and educational experience for the young and young at heart who enjoy nature and gardening,” the website for the garden reads.

“This is our 27th year and we’re growing. It’s still a really fun place to come to and a lot of fun to be a part of,” said Meyers at the event.

The Children’s Garden hosts a number of events throughout the spring, summer and fall, including story times, music, and yoga. Next month, the Garden will hold its annual community planting day on May 18.

The Elwood Children’s Garden is located within Lloyd Erickson Park at 801 N. Chicago St. It is open daily from dusk to dawn except on Tuesdays, when the garden is closed until noon for maintenance.

“I’d like to thank all of the volunteers that came out, our village staff that showed up and donated their time on a Saturday,” said Jenco.

“I’m really happy with the turnout,” he added.

Learn more about the Children’s Garden and see its full calendar of events online: www.villageofelwood.com/161/Childrens-Garden-Project-of-Elwood

Stephanie Irvine is a freelance reporter. Photos by Stephanie Irvine.

Volunteers spread mulch to finish off the planting.

Danielle Randall, Shuaraa Lillard, Dominique Randall, Jonathan Bradley, Tim Mallaney (in the window), and Jacob Bradley, volunteers from Walmart, pose for a picture.

Looking west from the existing Children’s Garden, the path to the Hydrangea House is freshly mulched.

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