Community Gardens – bringing neighbors together one connection at a time

Hi! My name is Erin, and I’m the new Communications & Fundraising Americorp VISTA at Gateway Greening this year. Although I’m normally found haunting the office, last Saturday I managed to escape to the Bell Demonstration Garden for the first volunteer work day of 2016 There’s nothing like taking advantage of a sunny day to work in the garden after a Midwest winter!

Being new to Gateway Greening and community gardens in general, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from the experience. I tried to imagine how the day might go… maybe I’d learn a new skill? Meet some interesting people? Get over my irrational fear of chickens? Regardless of how the day turned out, I was sure it would wind up being a memorable experience, and I was right – but not for the reasons I’d imagined.

There were a lot of great moments throughout the day as volunteers, Americorp VISTAs, and staff worked together to wake up Bell Garden. Corny garden jokes and calls for “more greens for the compost!” were flying fast as everyone worked to turn soil, cut back perennials, and every other task imaginable in a spring garden. It was great to see everyone out and having a good time! But the best thing was seeing people who had never met before, sharing backstories and getting to know their neighbors.

1st Saturday (10)


Moving and securing frames for this year’s bean crop.

For me, the most memorable moment was watching two of our volunteers discovering that they lived in the same neighborhood – one that had an existing garden! Within moments, Gail and Emily were swapping contact information and chatting about the possibilities. We can’t wait to see them in action in their own neighborhood at the Botanical Avenue Garden!

1st Saturday Connection (9)


Volunteers Gail Keelin and Emily Peters, neighbors meeting for the first time in Bell Garden. Classic connection!

By the end of our busy work day, it wasn’t the skills I’d learned or even the chickens I’d met (not scary at all!) that struck me. It was the overwhelming sense of community and connection I experienced that I found truly memorable.

1st Saturday (2) Connection


Manning the pitchforks to turn the soil!