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The GCA’s 2023 Founders Fund Winners Announced


June 07, 2023

Sowing and Growing Evanston Grows: Urban Gardens and Community

The Garden Club of America’s Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide financial support, through a competitive grant program, to projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The projects are designed to restore, improve, and protect the quality of the environment through educational programs and action in the fields of conservation and civic improvement. This year the $30,000 winning grant was awarded to Sowing and Growing Evanston Grows: Urban Gardens and Community in Evanston, Illinois.

The Garden Club of Evanston (GCE) proposed the project on behalf of its community partner Evanston Grows (EG).  Funds will be used to grow more food to share in 2023, extend educational programming, and show how gardening by and for the community can advance health equity. Founded in 2021, EG is a non-profit collective of community organizations and individuals that aims to reduce food insecurity in a city where one of every six residents is at risk. EG currently cultivates eighteen edible gardens that provide free, fresh organic produce to Evanston’s most underserved neighborhoods. EG directly manages three of these gardens, and partners with fifteen neighborhood gardens farmed by and for local residents. This year, EG shared 4,000 pounds of fresh, organic food at its two farm stands in the 5th and 8th Wards, areas where many food insecure residents live and are majority BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color). In addition, EG organizes internships and educational opportunities for all residents of Evanston to learn more about gardening, cooking, and nutrition.

Because demand at its farm stands always far exceeds its supplies, EG aims to grow even more food to share in 2023. This is critical as inflation continues to increase food insecurity in Evanston. A portion of the grant will be used to establish a large urban food garden on an undeveloped 50 x 50 ft plot in the 8th ward. The church that owns this plot has agreed to allow use of the land for this purpose, and distribution will be seamless at the USDA-approved food pantry that is already located on site. This pantry currently serves over 110 families weekly, but lacks fresh produce. EG has secured other funding sources to pay the staff needed to maintain this new garden. 

Additional funds will be used to improve the Eggleston food garden developed in 2022. Productivity and efficiency at this garden will be significantly increased by the addition of a washing stand and large shed, as well as the enhancement of its soil, irrigation, and fencing systems. The new garden, like Eggleston and all the gardens and farm stands that are part of EG, will quickly become community spaces where volunteers and local residents come together to garden, learn to garden, share cooking ideas, or simply share their stories. Making gardening accessible to everyone is central to the mission of both EG, GCE, and the

Funds from the grant will also be used for educational programs in the gardens and elsewhere – including the installation of a native pollinator garden and a butterfly garden. By funding all these complementary initiatives, the grant helps demonstrate how stimulating the growth of urban, community food gardens—and the gardening skills needed to maintain them—not only provides a short-term answer to food insecurity and health inequity in our cities but also a longer-term model that can be sustained.

Two additional grants of $10,000 each have been awarded by The Garden Club of America. Proposed by St. George’s Garden Club, Baltimore, Maryland, funding will allow the Cylburn Arboretum Friends Nature Center to provide regionally appropriate, native plant material and trees for its garden. For kids who may have only seen “street trees” this garden will serve as a sort of launch pad before they enter the “wild wood.” To learn more about this project click here.
Proposed by The Glenview Garden Club, Louisville, Kentucky, The Butterfly and Bee Pollinator Meadow at Chickasaw Park in Honor of Muhammad Ali is a pollinator meadow and family picnic area to be located in Chickasaw Park, a culturally significant part of the park system Frederick Law Olmsted and his firm designed for Louisville. Funds from the grant will go towards pollinator seeds, trees, sunshades, picnic tables, grills, educational signage, paths, benches, installation and annual maintenance. To learn more about this project click here.

The Founders Fund was established in 1934 to provide annual monetary awards to civic improvement projects proposed by GCA member clubs. The award initially was endowed in memory of the GCA’s first president, Elizabeth Price Martin (Mrs. J. Willis) of Philadelphia, who served from 1913-20. Generous gifts from clubs and individuals have since augmented the fund.

The first award of $700 was presented in 1936 for an English-language publication of the oldest known American herbal, the 1552 Badianus Manuscript, by Johns Hopkins Press. Since then, two-hundred seventy-four Founders Fund winners and runners-up have received more than $1.5 million to save thousands of acres of land and innumerable trees, restore historic landmarks, establish civic plantings, and conduct research and educational projects across the country.




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