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Founders Fund Current Winner

2018 Founders Fund Winner

Proposed by Kenilworth Garden Club, Zone XI
Seconded by Evanston Garden Club, Zone XI

The opportunity to create an engaging outdoor experience for society’s most vulnerable children and adults has inspired the Kenilworth Garden Club to propose a therapeutic garden on the campus of Misericordia Home. Located on 31 acres on Chicago’s north side, Misericordia is one of the nation’s leading communities serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For the past 40 years, its mission has been to offer a continuum of care and broad spectrum of services to 600 residents from diverse racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. Outreach programs provide over 200 families with counseling, social, and recreational services.

Our project will transform a concretem courtyard into an easily accessible horticultural therapy garden that invites learning, pleasure, and community. Regular meetings with Misericordia’s leadership team and staff, in conjunction with the landscape design expertise of Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, have produced a site- specific garden plan. It includes wide, smooth pathways; raised beds to accommodate both ambulatory and wheelchair-bound residents; tool storage; garden art; and plants that provide fragrance, texture, and visual appeal, as well as those that attract birds and pollinators.

Activities will include interactive classes with a Master Gardener, hands-on learning experiences, programs designed to provide life skills, vocational training, and meaningful involvement with community and school groups. Residents will learn how to enrich soil, plant seeds, tend and thin seedlings, water, weed, and harvest produce. A sensory garden area will allow the more profoundly disabled residents to enjoy the garden in whatever way that they can experience it— some by working in it, some by drawing and painting the flowers, and some by just getting outside to enjoy nature.

Vegetables and herbs from the garden will be used to make healthy snacks for the residents. Select produce will also be used in bakery goods that are sold in the community. Homemade salsa and cut flowers grown in the garden will be sold at market days on campus. Residents will conclude the fall season with a reflective discussion of their work, where they will have a voice and choice about what will be planted in the upcoming season.

Kenilworth Garden Club is the catalyst for turning this concrete area into an impactful two-phase project. Phase I, the west courtyard, will become the therapeutic garden. Phase II will comprise the building entry and the east courtyard, which will include a padded walking path for physical therapy and a space for residential dining.

The benefits of the sustainable urban garden to Misericordia’s residents are immeasurable: increasing awareness and enjoyment of the outdoor world; promoting communication and socialization; improving focus; and reducing stress and anxiety. Perhaps this garden’s most important benefit is lifting the human spirit as it connects residents, caregivers and aides, volunteers, visitors, families, and friends in a purposeful and beautiful environment.

All photos by Mary Lois Hakewill


In addition, there were two exceptional projects that came in as runners-up this year. You may download the Word Document versions of the GCA's official press release for each of these projects below: