In February 2014, Planting Possibilities was awarded a nearly $25,000 grant from the Lake County Community Fund by the Legacy Foundation to fund the construction of a teaching greenhouse and the implementation of a horticulture education program for youths with intellectual and developmental disabilities residing at Campagna Academy.
We held our classes taught by Jim Hitz twice a week in our classroom at the Campagna Center. The students planted and maintained our half-acre garden along with our team of dedicated volunteers.
Jim also helped guide the students through a landscape design and plan for landscape restoration at their residential cottage, where the students then helped remove the old plants and plant each new plant. They were also responsible for tending to their new landscape through the fall.
The half-acre garden produced many vegetables which were used in various dishes at local restaurants. Pepino’s, a Schererville restaurant owned by board member Joe Daniele, hosted a field trip where the students created their own handmade pizzas with tomato sauce made from the tomatoes they had grown.
Tomatoes from our garden were sold at our flower sales and at a roadside stand at Campagna Academy, generating enough revenue to cover the cost of seeds and other growing expenses. The Cottage on Dixie in Homewood, IL purchased and used our tomatoes in several dishes throughout the season, providing the funds for us to purchase the plants for our students’ landscape restoration project.
Through late fall and into early winter, we will use the greenhouse to grow lettuce for use in Campagna’s cafeteria and to house and nurture a few house plants. These small projects are a great way to keep interested Campagna students engaged until the 2015 growing season begins, as well as to explore future income-generating projects.
Finally, as an incentive or reward for the Campagna students who participate in our program, Mark Neiner brought together approximately 10 local youths with developmental disabilities to play basketball together every Monday with the Campagna students. Coach Slavko Tomich and Assistant Coach Joe Daniele volunteered to help get the team ready to be a Special Olympics team in time for the upcoming basketball season.