In a place as large as Chicago, it’s easy to assume that the city is covered by concrete. With famous architecture, tourist attractions, and about 3 million people, a picture of Chicago is often painted around those main ideas.

What people don’t often think of, however, are the numerous green spaces around the city. Chicago Cares has various volunteer opportunities that work with urban community gardens, and one unique opportunity has been created through our partnership with Openlands and Neighborspace.

Neighborspace is an urban land trust that supports community gardens around the city. Working with Neighborspace is Openlands, a metropolitan conservation organization. Together, Openlands and Neighborspace work in over 80 community gardens around the city, providing local support to these independent green spaces.

The Urban Gardens with Openlands and Neighborspace program is the only environmental program at Chicago Cares that works in a new garden every month. One month you might be in Uptown, and spend the next month in Englewood; this truly allows volunteers to see the diverse gardens Chicago has to offer. At the projects, volunteers work with the specific community gardeners that maintain the site. Every garden has a different history, and the garden representatives serve as a great resource for this information, and are able to explain how the garden fits into the specific neighborhood. Building relationships with the site representatives and understanding how the specific garden works, are key touch points for the goal of the program: to have members of the community work in the garden and to ensure that it is sustainable.

At the projects, volunteers participate in the various aspects of gardening that range along a wide spectrum of activities; some include vegetable gardening, perennial maintenance, tree and shrub planting and pruning, composting and landscape sustainability. While participating in these activities, the volunteers are able to really learn the core work that Openlands and Neighborspace inspires, such as community building, sustainability and the development and preservation of open green spaces. By participating in the Neighborspace and Openlands volunteer opportunity, volunteers are really able to see this first hand through the various gardens that they attend.

If you would like to get more involved with this project, check out the next project in April, when we’ll be working at a community garden in Logan Square.

Today’s post is shared by Chicago Cares Coordinator, Aly Moser
and Chicago Cares volunteer and 20th Anniversary Host Committee Member, Ellen Newcomer.