Forest Park Community Garden (FPCG) was started by two local gardeners, Jessica Rinks and Gina Thomas, in the summer of 2009. In its first year we built 15 raised beds, 12 of which were rented to residents in the community and 3 were planted and maintained by volunteers, the food grown there all donated to our local food pantry. We had no water that year so gardeners were only able to water their plants using what they could carry from home. In the second year we built 15 more beds and were lucky to have 10 rain barrels donated which were filled by the fire department each week. Having a solution for water helped us keep the plots rented but because the space was unsecure we experienced a fair amount of theft of vegetables that year. There was also no space to store tools which meant gardeners had to lug all their tools back and forth every trip. As an organization we explored options for improving security and providing storage but because our only revenue was the small plot rental fees we charge residents along with fundraisers like plant and bake sales, our options were very limited.

In November of 2010 we were asked by the Village of Forest Park to partner with them in applying for a Model Communities grant aimed at implementing programs to help improve the health of residents. Obviously this was an exciting opportunity for FPCG since it would help advance our mission of teaching the community how to build organic sustainable food systems. We were over the moon to learn that the Village of Forest Park had been awarded the grant and that we would now have the resources to expand FPCG in a manner that was consistent with our original vision. Still, though we had some funds available for supplies, we were struggling to find a way to get the work done without exhausting all the grant money in labor costs. And then another gift, seemingly out of nowhere, Comcast contacted the Village of Forest Park to ask if there were any opportunities for their annual Comcast Cares volunteer day. They preferred something outside and would love it if it were gardening related. Unbelievable.

On Saturday April 30th, Forest Park residents, FPCG gardeners, Village employees and elected officials joined Comcast volunteers and together transformed what was nearly a blank slate into a vibrant and thriving garden. 21 new raised beds were built, which will be made available to residents who need a place to garden as well as 3 new accessible beds, a beautiful flagstone path leading to a large flower-shaped garden which was planted with edibles that can be harvested by anybody in the community. The flower-shaped garden will also be used as a teaching garden and to grow fresh food for the local food pantry. Additionally, we planted hundreds of native plants which will draw pollinators, butterflies, and birds to our garden and used as demonstration gardens for an education program we are also planning to develop to teach our community about the importance of native plants.