One thing that we have tried to do at Dream Center Peoria (DCP) is to make something different and unique with Outreach programs we have. Our aim has been to place kids from the inner City into environments and situations that will stretch them and see the world beyond what they see at home or neighborhood. Over the last few years I have had the idea of having an organic garden teaching kids where food comes from and how it can help people grow and live. To have them involved in preparing the ground, planting seed, maintaining the area, weeding, watering. Then we harvest the fruit and veg. Then this is were it get's exciting. We take the produce and with our culinary arts class in FreedomArts, we teach kids how to cook the produce and that will also feed over 60 kids that are in our after school program. It will also be used in our Homeless shelter for the breakfast program.
As we looked at 2013, I felt we needed to do something that we could do at the Dream Center facility. If you have never been to DCP you would see very quickly that we are in the heart of the City. 140,000 square feet, 7 stories of concrete with very little greenery around us. So I felt we had to get creative.
Early February I was challenged by watching 2 or 3 TED Talks on this very topic:
- Edible Landscapes
- Bronx Green Machine
- Jamie Oliver
All of a sudden I started looking at the building in a different way. One day I was parking my car at the back of the Dream Center and I looked to my right and saw this roof with steel beams on it. The old air conditioning units use to sit on them. I then started to imagine seeing raised gardens, fruit and veg growing, kids weeding and watering. I saw a greenhouse with full of life during the winter months also. I started to see this old roof with life, vibrance, color and activity on it.
I then started to talk through the idea to a few of the staff, volunteers, our facility crew and even a structural engineer and they all thought I was crazy...... In a good way!
We secured a grant from Leaders Change Peoria to help with the start up cost's for building the raised beds and fencing and Riverside Community Church got behind the idea also in helping us get a greenhouse, education table and seeds.
We started brainstorming a name and I felt we needed to let people knew what we were doing within the title. And so the new project will be called "VegiCity"
Over the last 3 weeks we have been building raised beds, filling them with over 10 truckloads of soil and mulch, building a secure fence, doing promotional work and getting ready for planting which will happen in the early May. We have had some of the kids involved in all of this and some of the looks that we have had from the neighbor have been very funny.
We wanted it to be bright, cheerful, vibrant, life and fresh. So after the logo was created (thanks to Jeff Woods) we went to town on the color. We are at the early stages but we can not wait to see the vegetables and fruit that will be springing up on this roof very soon. Soon we will have kids involved in seeing and eating food from "Seed to Plate"