May is National Preservation Month and this year’s theme is “Discovering America’s Hidden Gems.” While here at Chicago Cares we don’t have any historical landmarks or natural treasures that we’re working to preserve, we do like to think of the gardens that we work with as special gems of Chicago in their own way.

The gardens we assist are as diverse as the neighborhoods in which they reside: some provide good green space to communities, some grow food for those in need, others engage and teach elementary students, and still others provide wide regions of nature that are normally hard to come by in an urban setting.

The following gardens are in extra need of your help this year, so be sure to look for them on the calendar:

Fulton: The Fulton Street Flower and Vegetable Garden spans over two city blocks and provides fresh produce to senior citizens and community shelters in the area. During the project, volunteers assist with maintenance projects, such as watering plants and maintaining the beds to help with overall goal of making the garden sustainable.

Growing Station: As a fairly new garden, Growing Station Community Garden is a small haven in the Pilsen Industrial Corridor and provides garden beds to residents in the neighborhood. As the garden develops, volunteers assist with weeding the garden, mulching, painting garden signs, and helping local gardeners with general upkeep.

Drake Gardens: Drake Gardens is a community garden located on the site of a former synagogue. After the synagogue was torn down, the congregation decided to have the space designated as a garden for the community to enjoy. It provides a calm and inviting space to those in the neighborhood with its bright flowers and wide pathways. Work here varies, but can include weeding, mulching, and planting new flowers throughout the season. Help keep this garden as a vibrant community meeting space! Our work here encourages community members to come out and take ownership of the garden as well.

Growth Spurt: Flowers, trees, and native plant life flank the east and west sides of the front entrance of Newberry Academy, welcoming students and neighbors alike. This garden is used as a teaching garden when students are in session, and through the summer months, it is up to the school community to continue to care for it. Weeding and replanting are usual tasks here, and it is always a very rewarding experience to see the progress made in each project! BONUS: This project happens tomorrow, and there are still a few slots left!

Beaubien Woods: This Forest Preserve site is a great addition to the city. Work varies at this site depending on the day, but may include cleaning paths, planting seeds, and at times, setting controlled brush fires. You may even see one of our nation’s true gems: a bald eagle!

Your work with Chicago Cares as we go into this growing season head on is critical in helping maintaining Chicago as a city in a garden. It’s a great way to get out in the sun and enjoy the some of the little gems of nature that Chicago has to offer.

Today’s post is by Human Services Coordinator, Amy DeLorenzo.