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New Community Gardens at Levy Senior Center

Volunteers at the new Levy Senior Center raised garden beds (photo by Beth Reiman)
Volunteers at the new Levy Center gardens (photo by Beth Reiman)

The first week in May saw the fulfillment of a dream that had taken months to plan, negotiate, and build. The Garden Club of Evanston and the Levy Senior Center Foundation (LSCF) teamed up with representatives from the City of Evanston to plan and install four elevated vegetable garden beds at the entrance of the Levy Senior Center.

On May 6, LSCF board member and retired Highland Park firefighter Bob Anthony led a team to build the cedar beds. Mr. Anthony recruited his brother-in-law, son, and another LSCF board member, Dorrance Halverson, to help with construction; additional assistance came from Evanston Lumber and Barker Metalcraft. Three of the beds are 4 feet wide, 8 feet long, 10 inches deep, and 32 inches off the ground. The fourth bed is also 4 feet x 8 feet, but slightly higher and deeper – 38 inches off the ground and 8 inches deep – to comply with the City’s guidelines for ADA compliance.

The next day, a crew from Nature’s Perspective stopped by to add mulch to cover the ground below and around the beds. They also filled the wooden containers with soil. The mulch, made of reformulated tire rubber, is a rich brown color with a musty smell.

Volunteers said it feels great to walk on (the term ‘bouncy’ comes to mind), which is exactly the point: its shock absorbing qualities are designed to help reduce or prevent injuries from falls. Home Depot was instrumental in helping LSCF obtain the mulch.

Five members from the Garden Club of Evanston stopped by on May 10 to start planting the seedlings, but it was a little too cold for both plants and gardeners, so the effort was postponed until May 14.

The full installation should take about a week to complete. To help pay for the project, “naming rights” are being offered in exchange for a tax-deductible gift of $1,000 per bed. One bed is spoken for, although the donor and honoree wish to remain anonymous.

The gardens are thematically organized and include a mix of vegetables and flowers. The Salsa Garden bed will include multiple varieties of peppers, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and marigolds.

A Native American bed will be replete with corn, sunflowers, and varieties of squash, zucchini, cabbage, and red nasturtium.

The Salad Bowl bed will boast varieties of tomatoes, beans, lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers, and Nonna’s Marinara Garden will entice with varieties of tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme, alyssum, and red wave petunia.

Cie Bond, a third-generation vegetable gardener and watercolorist, designed the beds and painted the rendering as an installation guide.

The LSCF has focused on beautifying the gardens of the Levy Senior Center for several years. In 2019, the Foundation applied for and received a grant from the Lincolnwood Garden Club of Evanston specifically to refurbish the two front gardens by the entrance of the Levy Senior Center. Tim Benz from Nature’s Perspective, another corporate supporter, oversaw much of the planning and physical labor. New perennials, pavers, and timbers were added, dead plants were removed, and the areas were weeded extensively.

The Foundation and its board regularly contribute additional funds and time toward the beautification effort. During the summer of 2020, four LSCF board members committed to a schedule for watering the newly installed plants, and five Evanston Township High School teens volunteered many hours beautifying the grounds surrounding the Center. Both groups of volunteers have committed to returning this summer.

The idea for a community vegetable garden was inspired by a desire to contribute produce to the community, a way to involve seniors with nature, and as an intergenerational project. Seniors living in apartment buildings, especially those who cultivated entrance and backyard gardens earlier in their lives, often miss getting their hands in the soil. With an easily accessible garden area, they will be able to continue to indulge in their hobby, and even include their grandchildren if they choose.

Mr. Anthony contributed his carpentry expertise to build 10 decorative birdhouses, each of which will be painted by local artists and hung in the Hulda B. and Maurice Rothschild Garden at the center of the Levy Senior Center.

Lindsey Jacobs, an ETHS student and active volunteer with the LSCF, arranged for several of the birdhouses to be decorated by the Evanston Art Center.

Northlight Theatre’s set design department built and donated three functional birdhouses, each one for a specific type of bird; those houses will be placed within the front gardens.

No doubt that birds and the Levy Senior Center community will soon be enjoying the Center’s refurbished exterior and interior gardens. Community members are invited to stop by to savor the beauty.

By Wendi Kromash as published in the Evanston RoundTable. Ms. Kromash is a member of the Levy Center Foundation Board.


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