And that’s a wrap!

Saint Viator High School parent, Jim Flynn, was a first time gardener this year. He surrounded his plot with marigolds and his sunflower grew to be more than 8-feet tall.

A commitment by the Viatorian Community to feed the hungry, paid big dividends this year.

Faced with all the mitigations brought on by the pandemic, Viatorian gardeners spent more time than ever in the community’s garden. They came up with novel ways to increase productivity and wound up with a bumper crop.

“Despite all of the obstacles, over 1,500 pounds of vegetables — nearly double the 2019 amount — and 180 bouquets of flowers were delivered to Wheeling Township and other charitable groups,” said Associate John Dussman. “It was an incredible effort.”

Sharon Murphy and her daughter, Amanda, used repurposed wine bottles as slow drip watering cans.

Mostly, these fresh vegetables included cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, yellow squash, zucchini — and loads of tomatoes.

All of the vegetables were raised for families in need, especially those served by Catholic Charities and the Wheeling Township Food Pantry, which serves households from throughout Chicago’s Northwest suburb.

This year, the need was dramatic, said Julie Villarreal, General Assistance Director for Wheeling Township. She indicated the numbers of people they served over the summer nearly doubled since the start of the year, with a significant increase in the number of first-time pantry visitors.

Associate Joan Sweeney cuts some of her vibrant zinias.

Wheeling Township Supervisor Kathy Penner says the are more than a donation.

“They represent a dedication to nurturing good health, positive outcomes, and the hope for a better future,” Penner said.

Fr. Daniel Hall, CSV, Provincial, conceived the garden in 2012, 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.

This year, the garden sustained the gardeners themselves, who ranged from the Viatorians associates, to staff members, as well as alumni, students and their families at Saint Viator High School, and young men living at Viator House of Hospitality.

“I heard from several of you that the garden was your oasis of peace this summer,” Dussman added.

Associate John Dussman coordinated the garden for the fourth year.

He credited their creative growing solutions, that included planting marigolds around many of the plots to keep away critters, re-purposed wine bottles that served as slow drip watering cans, innovative cucumber growing stands, and a large sunflower plant that attracted pollinators.

“Congratulations to every gardener that volunteered this summer,” Dussman said. “You should be very proud of yourselves.”