The North Lawndale Greening Committee helps residents, businesses, organizations, block clubs, and churches beautify the community and grow produce. We help them obtain plants and labor through teams of volunteers.
The North Lawndale Greening Committee is an organization that was started in 1995 to increase the amount of green space in the Chicago west side neighborhood of North Lawndale. A large percentage of the land in this community is vacant lots. The North Lawndale Greening Committee was instrumental in transforming vacant lots – full of garbage and weeds, and used by youth and young adults for loitering – into beautiful and productive community gardens.
Membership levels in North Lawndale Greening Committee (NLGC) have varied over the years, but in any given year the organization usually has about 25 committed members.
Currently, there are more than 20 community and home gardens in North Lawndale. One garden is a vegetable garden on land owned by a developer and the other stretches across land owned by the Chicago Transit Authority. There is also a private lot owned by the couple that maintains the garden (Slumbusters).The North Lawndale Greening Committee has helped create and maintain 12 of 14 North Lawndale community gardens protected by NeighborSpace. This means that NeighborSpace has acquired the deed from the city of Chicago and holds the perpetual title to the lots. NeighborSpace is an organization that works to ensure that community gardens and other communal spaces in neighborhoods throughout Chicago are saved for their current use, despite development pressures.
Generally, when the North Lawndale Greening Committee starts a new community garden, they would begin by cleaning up a vacant lot in the neighborhood. After some initial cleaning and preparation of the space, the group contacts the local alderman to see about the possibility of acquiring the lot. With support from the alderman, the North Lawndale Greening Committee then looks to NeighborSpace for additional assistance.
Member Gardens of the North Lawndale Greening Committee have received grants and donations of materials and labor from a number of organizations over the years. As already stated, NeighborSpace has provided technical assistance for acquiring title to the lots. Openlands, a non-profit devoted to preserving and enhancing open space in the greater Chicagoland area, has provided soil for a vegetable garden, volunteer labor, and technical assistance. Many of the gardens of North Lawndale have received grants almost annually from GreenNet, Chicago’s Greening Network, over the past seven years. The group also receives seeds, vegetable seedlings, annuals, perennials, and bulbs for its gardens from the City of Chicago.
The Department of Environment, in partnership with GreenNet, receives donations of plants, seeds, and bulbs from local companies, and distributes them periodically from spring to fall. All community gardens registered with the city are eligible to receive plants and seeds in order to beautify their neighborhoods.
The North Lawndale Greening Committee has run a summer youth program, the Youth Garden Corps, since 1998. This program offers summer employment to teenagers from North Lawndale, teaching the youth the ins and outs of urban gardening. Usually five to ten youth are employed during the summer, working four to five hours a day, five days a week. Youth Garden Corps members are paid, and at least a few have gone onto horticulture-related careers.
The North Lawndale Greening Committee is not currently looking to acquire or maintain any more community gardens, but would like to focus its efforts on growing vegetables. The group would like to purchase a greenhouse in the near future for cultivating vegetables year round. NLGC hopes that with a year-round gardening space it will be able to expand its Youth Garden Corps to a year-round program, offering youth the opportunity to not just maintain and harvest crops during the summer, but learn the entire growing process throughout the year.