It may be the end of summer, but the Viatorian Community Garden, on the grounds of the Viatorian

Associate John Dussman returns to coordinate the garden ministry this year

Province Center in Arlington Heights is just getting started.

Beginning in mid-July, the 14 beds in the garden began to produce and by the Labor Day weekend, those numbers added up to more than 600 pounds of fresh vegetables.

Nearly all of them were donated to the 400 families served each month by the Wheeling Township food pantry, located a little more than a mile from the Province Center.

Fr. Dan Hall, CSV, conceived the idea of a garden, five years ago as an initiative to help provide nutritious vegetables to families in the Northwest suburbs, struggling to put food on the table.

“It’s all about feeding the hungry,” Fr. Hall said at the outset.

Members of the girls’ junior varsity lacrosse team are the latest to get into gardening for the hungry

Right from the beginning, he drew support from a wide variety of gardeners, from the Viatorians themselves, to staff members, as well as alumni, students and their families at Saint Viator High School. The newest group to roll their sleeves up and garden is made up of members of the junior varsity girls’ lacrosse team and their coach, Mrs. Kathy Gallagher.

Sharon Murphy and her daughter, Amanda, are first-timers with the Viatorian Community Garden. Amanda graduated from Saint Viator High School in May, but she and her mother are enjoying working on their hands-on service project together.

Amanda Murphy, a 2017 Saint Viator High School graduate, discovered a love of gardening

“We had great fun growing zucchini, lettuce, Swiss chard, tomatoes and acorn squash,” Sharon Murphy reports. “Amanda was back from college this weekend and admitted, how much she missed the garden. We’re already brainstorming over what to grow next year.”

And it’s not just vegetables that they are cultivating. Viatorian Associates Joan Sweeney and Patty Wischnowski are growing colorful zinnias with a border of lavender-colored Russian sage flowers, which they turn into small bouquets and donate to the food pantry.

Zinnias from the garden make for colorful bouquets

“We think of it as food for the soul,” says Joan.

To date, the pair have hand tied nearly 80 bouquets and they hope to match their output from last year, of reaching 200. Wheeling Township officials report that the bouquets are given to Meals-on-Wheels recipients and that it brightens their day.

All of which pleases Associate John Dussman, who is in his third year of coordinating the ministry after taking over for Fr. Hall.

“I am thrilled with everyone’s efforts so far,” he says. “I know our efforts are appreciated by the families at the food pantry.”