Root-Riot :: Alex Anderson Memorial Garden @ Hephzibah Home

Root-Riot ::  Alex Anderson Memorial Garden @ Hephzibah Home
946 North Boulevard, Oak Park, IL 60301

Created Spring 2014.

From the May 2014 Hephzibah e.Newsletter.

Nurtured by Nature

A community unites to harness the healing power of nature for the traumatized children at Hephzibah Home

According to the National Wildlife Federation, “children’s stress levels fall within minutes of seeing green spaces — and children who regularly spend time outside are happier and healthier.” Research suggests that immersion in the natural world can be as effective as medication or therapy in treating depression and anxiety. Yet many of the traumatized children we serve have never taken a walk in the woods, canoed down a quiet river or planted a garden and watched it grow.

To give these survivors of neglect and abuse more opportunities to interact with nature, a team from the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation’s Community Leadership Program enlisted the aid of Root-Riot (a local organization that creates opportunities for people to discover the joys of growing their own food), the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry and Dominican University to create a community garden at Hephzibah Home. At harvest time, the garden’s bounty will be shared with the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry to bring fresh, healthy produce to people in need.

The group spent several April weekends preparing the garden under the guidance of Root-Riot cofounders Amy Beltemacchi and Seamus Ford. Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry Executive Director Michele Zurakowski pitched in with other food pantry volunteers. Kathleen Mullaney, PhD, director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects at Dominican University, and a group of Dominican University students helped haul in dirt and mulch, taught the children about soil and helped them make stepping stones. Master gardener Don Nekrosius stopped by to give the kids some pointers about worm composting.

“This amazing group of community volunteers has transformed our backyard into a living oasis that will benefit our children immeasurably while producing food for the community,” states Hephzibah Development Director Molly Philosophos. “We are deeply grateful to our community partners for giving so generously of their time, talents and financial resources to bring nature within reach for the children we serve.”


Generosity makes our garden grow: Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation Community Leadership Team members (l-r) Hephzibah Development Director Molly Philosophos, Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry Executive Director Michele Zurakowski, Dominican University Director of the Office of Research and Sponsored Projects Kathleen Mullaney, PhD and Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation donor and grants officer Rhea Yap (not pictured) spearheaded the Community Garden Project at Hephzibah Home.
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is Oak Park’s oldest charity—founded in 1897 when Mary Wessels opened her home to children from a nearby orphanage that had been destroyed by fire. Responding to a need in the community, Mary continued to welcome youngsters into her home and made it her mission to “care for society’s most vulnerable children.” 



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