Members of Forest Park Community Garden were amazed and delighted when they got Wednesday’s tweet: Whole Foods in River Forest had raised $4,200 on April 22 for the garden at one of its Community Support Days.
“It was crazy, we didn’t expect to get that much at all,” said Executive Director Jessica Rinks.
The grocery store donates five percent of the total revenue for the day to a community not-for-profit, Rinks said. “We expected maybe a few hundred bucks,” she added.
“Not only are they giving us this awesome donation, but they have an employee volunteer shift on May 15 where they’ll send a dozen people to come down and do some work in the garden,” Rinks said.
Rinks said the garden’s board of directors has a wish list that includes putting down some “long-time weed control” to help combat the grass and bindweed that are already coming up. The supplies would include garden weed barrier fabric and new mulch, Rinks said.
“Then we have talked about hiring someone to maintain [the common parts of the garden] and help weed it.”
Rinks said she was also grateful for the cash infusion because it would let the garden host more classes and events.
“The classes are a big part of the garden’s mission that we haven’t been able to do this year,” Rinks said. “We’ll probably roll some money into that as well.”
Classes the garden plans include worm composting and food canning demonstrations as well as a “mid-season pest and disease management class in July when the crops are coming in,” Rinks said.
Rinks said she was signing up interested green thumbs for plots in the garden at a table at Whole Foods Tuesday. Only a handful of the $50 plots remain, Rinks said. “It’s first-come-first-served,” she added.
Rinks said the Community Garden got into the Whole Food philanthropy orbit by participating in a fundraising effort through the Whole Kids foundation this winter. That effort raised $500, which was later matched by a separate $500 gift from Ferrara Candy Co.
“I think the Whole Foods River Forest store became more aware of us because of that campaign,” Rinks said.
The Forest Park Community Garden was started in 2009 by Forest Parkers Rinks and Gina Thomas in a small unused corner lot at Circle and the I-290 expressway. In November, 2010, the garden partnered with the Village of Forest Park and received a Model Communities grant from the Cook County Health Department. The garden now has more than 50 raised beds, including three accessible beds and a flower-shaped “Giving Garden” for growing food for the Forest Park Food Pantry.