2011 Buddy House Gardens, Rockford Scrapbook

Buddy House, a program of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ (LSSI) Prisoner and Family Ministry (PFM), is a support and resource center for families living at Blackhawk Courts, a public housing complex on the east side of Rockford. The organic gardening project at Buddy House has helped create a sense of community, pride, hope and possibilities for the people living there, especially the youth. Many of the families living at Blackhawk Courts have loved ones in prison and are dealing with the stresses of incarceration and separation.

In 2008, at the suggestion of a teenage girl who thought a community garden would be a great way to give the youth at Blackhawk summer jobs and grow food for cash-strapped families, PFM staff started the garden. LSSI connected with the Angelic Organics Learning Center in Caledonia, whose people have trained Blackhawk residents – especially the youth – to plant and care for the garden. AOLC staff also teach young people how to motivate, educate and inspire other youth to be leaders and role models in their communities. They also teach people how to cook the nutritious food they are growing and how to bring it to market.

Today, the gardens include 10 raised beds next to Buddy House and a huge 170 ft. x 50 ft. garden near the end of the complex. Every day, different people at Blackhawk come along and water, pull weeds and harvest organic vegetables from bok choy to strawberries to baby collard greens to eat. To learn more about Buddy House and the garden, see “More than vegetables growing in this garden,” which is featured in the July 29, 2011 issue of LSSI’s Good Works.

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