Remember being hot this summer? Breaking a sweat?  Telling your friends that you couldn’t wait for winter?  Betcha wish you hadn’t spoken too soon on that one…

Even though I’m from the Midwest, every year, winter comes as a surprise.  Every year I’m wishing I lived in a warmer climate where the sun shines year round, where you don’t have to wear multiple layers, long coats, hats, gloves, boots, and other bulky things that make coworkers and friends look like walking marshmallows.  But somehow I still live here, daydreaming my winters away with visions of beaches, parks, picnics and the many gardens Chicago Cares is fortunate enough to help beautify.

Ms. Robinson’s garden is one of the most visible Chicago Cares projects that I point out to people. Located at Flannery Apartments just between the Armitage and Sedgwick Brown Line stops, it’s an instant landmark for north side commuters.  Although the project is titled on the Chicago Cares calendar as “Gardening with Seniors at Flannery” it has been suggested the name be changed to “Gardening with Ms. Robinson” as she is often the only senior out in the plots when we arrive and work.

Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse is the only organic teaching greenhouse in the city.  Head gardener Kirsten Akre and Chicago Cares Leader Darcy Nickel fearlessly lead adult volunteers in tasks that are critical for the students to have a good experience.  Last fall, this included removing a large patch of invasive species, harvesting some fruits and vegetables, and arranging scarecrows the children had made.

Gingko Organic Gardens is another place to experience the joys of urban gardening and to “grow” your knowledge about various vegetables. I always walk away from a Ginkgo project with ideas on how to make sure my basil can last longer, natural ways to protect my tomatoes against critters and bugs, and I think I’ve finally figured out what “aphid soaping” is. Ginkgo also donates their produce to another partner of ours, Vital Bridges’ North Side location, a choice pantry that offers food to individuals living with HIV or AIDS.

These projects –and more!– thrive on people who feel accomplished when looking at a freshly weeded patch of garden, Chicago citizens who long for a more pastoral existence, those of us who work on harvesting and replanting even when the temperature reaches 80 degrees by 10:00 am.  Yet they also require gloves, tools, tomato baskets, brown yard waste recycling bags, organization and expertise, and many other things.  Your donation through the Chicago Cares I Care campaign of $10 can buy 25 yard waste bags, $20 can buy 6 tomato plants, and $50 can buy a set of tools for a community garden that includes 2 hand trowels, 2 pruners, and 1 garden rake.  These small contributions go a long way in beautifying our city, educating folks of all ages, and feeding people.  Despite the current temperatures, you can be sure once the sun starts staying out past 5 pm, we’ll be back to wishing it was winter – maybe.

Visit our I Care campaign to make a donation today. Or click here to fundraise for Chicago Cares.