Monday, May 6, 2013

Campus + Community Day of Service - Bee Garden

Saturday started bright and early with the students meeting on Campus to make their way over to the Bee Garden in south Urbana together. We were joined by FAA 291 students as well as many Landscape Architecture students. Upon arriving to the site, we were briefed by Maggie Wachter, the resident beekeeper on practical ways to keep from being stung, as well as general bee etiquette. It was quite informative. Before we had arrive Maggie had moved the hives off to the side of the work area so we could do much of the work without worrying about the bees. Unfortunately due to bee behavior, many of the bees returned to one of the areas where the hive previously was located, and made working in that area difficult. Despite this, we got our work underway and began by digging up the edges where the beds were to be located, as well as digging out bases for the hives. Some students prepared the paver base where the hive would sit to prevent beetles from accessing the hives, while other students worked to outline the beds. When these tasks were finished we broke for lunch. After lunch we all go to work laying paper beneath the areas that were to be mulched, and then hauling wheelbarrows of mulch over to the garden. The students put together an efficient system with some students shoveling mulch, some transporting mulch, and others spreading the mulch. This process went quite quickly. Our final task which we could not complete was to till and plant the flower beds. We were unable to complete this due to the muddy nature of the ground. It would be quite difficult to plant and the plants may not take root the way they should. Finally we moved the hives back to the original locations allowing the bees to carry on normal life. Some of the bees seemed a bit disoriented, however for the most part they acclimated quite well. All in all we had a great day of work, and students were afforded to opportunity to get their hand dirty, as well as work with their peers, community members, and faculty making for great conversation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

February 22-23 Outreach Weekend 2013

Here goes another cold and rainy Outreach Weekend! Leave it up to us to make the best of it. We started out the weekend with a great riding/walking tour of the North First street neighborhood and business district. It was a great experience for the students to see this are of town and the real issues that are facing members of their community. The first stop on the tour was at Prosperity Gardens where Nicole Bridges joined us to tell us all about her vision for the garden and transforming the way residents view food. Following Prosperity Gardens we made our way down to the Center for Women in Transition where Mary Wallace joined us to share a bit about what they do. It was an incredibly informative session in which students asked many question and showed quite a bit of interest. Following the Center for Women in Transition, our very own grad student Jose Castillo-Pilcol shared with us his research at the 5th and Hill site. This site has been at the center of controversy in the community, and Jose was able to shed some light on this for the students. We concluded our tour with a riding tour through much of North Champaign and Urbana visiting places such as Douglas Park, the Boneyard Creek, and much more. After our tour everyone was able to dry off and warm up at Jupiters Pizza. Students were able to get to know one another, and talk a bit more about their experiences on the tour. Upon wrapping up lunch the students were divided into 2 groups. One group spent the afternoon working with Nicole at Prosperity Gardens, beautifying the area and prepping for spring planning. They were originally planning to construct cold frames for the garden; however the weather did not allow it. The second group worked at Center for Women in Transition. This group was about to meet some of the residents there, and give them a day off of chores. The students completed the typical chores the women complete on a day to day and week to week basis. It was not only helpful to the women who live there, it also gave the students a firsthand account of the daily lives of the women. Saturday was a much different story. Though it was not rainy, we did have a heavy coat of snow on the ground, and it was still quite cold. On Saturday all of the students worked together at a mobile food bank partnered with the East Illinois Food Bank. We drove down to Gays Illinois and worked to distribute large amounts of groceries to residents in the area that qualify. This was a really eye opening experience for the students, who even got to meet the mayor of the town. Students would help the residents select groceries and carry them out to their vehicles. Rounding out our time in Gays, the Mayors wife took us to visit the one and only “Double-Decker Out House”. It was quite interesting and a nice break for the students. On our way back to town we grabbed a bit to eat at Cracker Barrel and talked a bit more about our experiences. All in all it was a great weekend, and one I’m sure our students will not soon forget.
Students Unloading Food

Our Team

The One And Only “Double-Decker Out House”

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

October 28th - November 2nd 2012 Outreach Weekend

This outreach weekend was se up a bit differently than previous weekends due to the nature of the projects. Certain projects needed to be done on certain days therefore we split up the students between these projects, and completed our tour on Saturday morning, rather than Friday. The first time sensitive project involved preparation for the Halloween Extravaganza at Prosperity Gardens. This is always a fun project for us, and we wanted to ensure we would be available to assist Nicole. Students worked to carve pumpkins, spread spider webs, blow up balloons, and do anything they could to make the garden spooky. The second project was the actually Halloween event itself. We invited the students out to interact with residents and the children at the Extravaganza. Students were encouraged to wear costumes. Many of us volunteered at different stations and events for the children arriving while others blew up balloons or did face paint. It was a great event enjoyed by all! The third project included small things around Center for women in transition that needed to be attended to. Students moved old furniture from the front of the buildings to the restore for the center to donate. Students also gave the women a day off of chores and helped them around the facility with any odd task that needed to be completed. This was a great opportunity for the students to engage with the women at the center, and also pitch in at the same time. Finally a smaller group worked at A Woman’s Place, which is the Urbana location of Center for Women in Transition and raked leave and beautified the exterior of the building. Finally we concluded out weekend with a Tour of the North first street neighborhood. We made stops of the project sites throughout the week as well as visited with Nicole Bridges at Prosperity Gardens, Mary Wallace at the Center for Women in Transition, and Claudia and a few residents at the 5th and Hill site. The 5th and Hill site was particularly interesting being joined by the residents who have a firsthand account of the issues the community is facing due to the former Ameren site. All in all it was a great weekend and the students were exposed to a variety of projects and issues facing the residents of North Champaign. – Chase Miller

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Halloween Outreach Weekend!

We had a great start to the Fall semester with an awesome outreach weekend here in Champaign Il. We worked with Nicole Bridges at Prosperity Gardens, as well as Mary Wallace at the Center for Women In Transition. We were also joined by Bob Hughes and a few of his HCD students bringing our total to 21. Though it was a bit cold and wet, we had a wonderful tour on Friday morning. We were joined by John Ruffin, the Neighborhood Coordinator for the City of Champaign. He gave us a bit of information on the North First Street and Church and Hill neighborhoods as well as compared and contrasted them to other neighborhoods in Champaign. We then heard a bit from Nicole Bridges about her work with Prosperity Gardens, and her long term goals and vision for the garden. She is very proactive about achieving this and is incredibly passionate about the work she is doing with the garden. Upon leaving prosperity gardens we drove through a bit of the neighborhood passing some residents and local services. We stopped by Douglas Park. Following the stop at Douglas Park we made our way to the Fifth and Hill site. This site is owned by Ameren and was formerly used in chemical manufacturing. Regardless of what was done on this site, countless chemicals have leeched away from the site or been dumped around the site causing chronic illness to plague the community. Jose Castillo-Pilcol a Graduate Assistant with ARI has researched this and shared a bit of his findings with us on the tour. Or final stop of the tour was at the Center for Women In Transition. We were joined by Mary Wallace who showed us around the center and gave us a brief description of what they do. Students were full of questions, and very interested to learn more about the Center for Women in Transition. Of the three houses they have on site we visited two of them, and were also able to talk with a couple of the residents. As we wrapped up the tour we all filled out stomachs with the local flavors of Fiesta CafĂ©. Students dialogued with one another about their own backgrounds and how eye opening much of the tour was. This was also a great opportunity to warm up and fuel up for the projects in the afternoon After lunch we split into two groups. The HCD students along with Bob Hughes made their way to CWT to help with come painting they needed to do were the FAA students went to Gardens to begin the process of winterizing the garden for the winter. The group at the Center for Women In transition was joined by a few children who live there. They successfully repainted the hallway that lead to many of the short term stay rooms. Students also had the incredible opportunity to talk with the children. The FAA students spent the rest of the afternoon working at Prosperity Gardens, and fortunately the rain decided to hold off. The primary goal for Friday was to clean out the evidence building and organize everything that was stored in there. As we began Saturday, we again broke into the same two groups. The group at Center for Women in Transition finished up the painting that was not completed on Friday as well as completed some odd jobs and organization that needed to happen. The FAA students at Prosperity Gardens began winterizing the garden. Some students emptied out the storage shed to organize it, while others cleared and harvested the remaining plants in the garden. This garden waste was then transferred to the compost bins that we helped Prosperity Gardens build on our previous Outreach Weekend. We all has Pizza for lunch at Land of Lincoln where the students had an opportunity to share what they had been working on In the afternoon all of the students went out to the Fall Festival in Champaign. Some students helped Nicole Bridges with the Prosperity Gardens booth that she set up, while others participated and helped with the fun and games. One particular event that students had fun with was the pumpkin toss into the boneyard creek. Kids would toss a small pumpkin at a target in the pond and students would help to retrieve it. After a long hard day of work we wrapped everything up with a delicious Ice Cream from Custard Cup! – Chase Miller

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Spring 2012 Outreach at Prosperity Gardens!

WCIA 3 News Covered a demonstration by Mike Brunk regarding Composting!
 Despite the rain, we weren't going to let it stop our day of fun-filled learning and community engagement. Friday morning, the students were introduced to Nicole Bridges, who is the visionary of Prosperity Gardens. She explained to us the future plans of turning the old evidence building into a community center that will serve as a center of education and production of fresh food year-round. Shortly after, we toured the neighborhood and Nicole shared community plans and informed us of additional community-based programs and establishments. Later, Mike Brunk, the Arborist for the City of Urbana, met with our team and explained the ins and outs of composting and demonstrated how to compost in our own backyards! WCIA 3 News covered the demonstration and hopefully we can get the word out about the ease of composting!! Prior to lunch, we visited another community-based organization, the Re-Store, run by the Habitat for Humanity. I got to know the students much better during our lunch at the Fiesta Cafe. After lunch we visited the Landscape Recycling Center in Urbana to see "where the [composting] magic happens!" What a massive place! Our final visit during our rain-plagued day was to the IDEA Store on First and Springfield. It's a great little store that recycles anything and everything and generates great adaptive re-use ideas for patrons! Anything from Pringles containers to zippers and dental tools, there's something for everyone!

Saturday we were blessed with a great deal of sunshine that motivated the mass efforts of revamping Prosperity Gardens. Patrick Hatch and I led a crew of students in building a 6' x 3' composting bin!

It took all day, but we got it done and it is the most beautiful composting bin I've even seen! We else edged the flower garden with freshly painted edging bricks, weeded the corn field, built a fence around the produce garden to keep hungry critters at bay, and spread mulch.

Lord & Lacy hosted an awesome Cook-Out Jubilee and neighborhood residents and business owners came out to join us! It was a great weekend and the student learned so much about their C-U community, benefits of gardening, and we really broke the invisible boundaries that exist between the University and Community. For me, it was a great end to an awesome experience over the last three years working with ESLARP and AR.I. I'll miss everyone and am elated to see the progress we are making here an home, in our own neighborhood, amongst our own people. - JG

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hoop Houses for the Prosperity Garden

Here are some pictures of students hard at work constructing the hoop houses at the North First Street Prosperity Garden on Saturday February 25th. The hoop houses will allow the garden to get an early start on the planting for this growing season!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

February 24-25 Outreach Weekend Summary

This weekend 30 University students made the hour long trek out to Decatur Illinois for our first outreach weekend working with Old Kings Orchard Community Center. The community center is situated in the center of Old Kings Orchard Neighborhood; a neighborhood known for its poverty, crime rate, prostitution, and poor living conditions.
When we arrived students were greeted by Alida Graham and several members of the Old Kings Orchard Board. One of the board members, who has been an advocate in the community for years, graciously volunteered her time to give us a historical perspective of the neighborhood and the city. This was a very eye opening time for many of the students. Following the informational session, the board members took us out on a walking tour throughout the neighborhood. In a matter of minutes students were face to face with a level of poverty many of them had never seen before, or even knew existed. We saw men and women living in condemned houses, using windows to gain access. We even saw several men gathered around a large bonfire (these men live at this fire). While on the tour, students were encouraged to hand out flyers for a community “Cook In” at Old Kings Orchard Community Center on Saturday afternoon. Upon the completion of the tour, students had the unique opportunity to eat lunch at The Good Samaritan, a soup kitchen in the neighborhood. This was an incredible experience for the students, as they got to sit down and talk with men and women who literally had nothing.
Later in the afternoon our group split into two. Half of the group returned to Old Kings Orchard Community Center to begin clearing out a room, in preparation for a computer lab installation by Martin Wolske, and a group of LIS students. The remaining students stayed at The Good Samaritan and assisted them with their operations. A few students were asked to sort out donated meat and organize it in the walk in freezer. Other students painted parts of the kitchen storage area and the dining room. These are tasks that need to be completed at the Good Samaritan, however because they are so irregular, they cannot afford to spare the manpower when they arise. When these projects are completed we wrap up for the day and head back to Champaign
On Saturday, when we arrive at Old Kings Orchard Community Center, some students begin preparations for our afternoon “Cook In”, while others assemble groups to visit homes in the neighborhood, in need of smoke detectors. These groups canvassing the neighborhood are accompanied by a police escort, who has worked in the area for several years. Students received answers at about half of the homes they were schedule to visit. When the students entered the homes they were confronted with the reality of how the residents live. Its begins to give poverty a new meaning. As the afternoon draws near, residents begin approaching for the “Cook In”. When they arrive they are served a baked potato and/or a hotdog and chilli. This truly made their day. Students were mingling with the residents while they ate, lending an ear to anything the residents wanted to talk about. Old Kings Orchard provided the students with a short questionnaire they can use as a guide in conversing with the residents. This was a great way for students to get personal with the residents, and really understand the struggles and hardships they face everyday.
Simultaneously, a small group of students worked at Prosperity Gardens on Saturday morning. This group of students began the installation of Hoop house’s in the garden in preparation for the April Outreach Weekend. The students were able to install 6 hoop houses with the help of Nicole Bridges, who is the director of Prosperity Gardens.