Members of the Schaumburg Garden Club work a plot of nearly 4,000 square feet out behind Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Schaumburg.
They have been working together to raise fresh vegetables for more than 10 years now, and they contribute all of their harvest to the Schaumburg Township Food Pantry. In fact, they have come to refer to it simply as their "Pantry Garden."
"Most of us are flower gardeners," says Dean Bruckner, who with his wife, Deanna, coordinates the effort. "But over the years we've learned a lot about raising vegetables, from working the soil to just how and where to plant them."
They must have been a quick study. For the last few years, Garden Club members have donated more than 1,000 pounds of vegetables.
"Last year was a down year, and we only were able to donate 800 pounds," Dean Bruckner says. "But this year, we fully expect to donate well over 1,000 pounds."
Administrators with the Schaumburg Pantry say the vegetables are a huge hit with their clients.
"The vegetables are scooped up very, very quickly," says Lin Greidanus, associate director. "People ask about them every day during the summer season."
The Schaumburg Food Pantry serves approximately 450 households each month, she says, but they also accept drop-ins. Staff members place donated vegetables on a table in front, where they make them available to both drop-in and scheduled clients.
"We love being able to offer them," Greidanus adds. "They are healthy and nutritious, and add rich variety to a normal diet."
The Schaumburg Garden Club meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg. Meetings feature special speakers and master gardeners as well as a time for those in the community interested in gardening to learn more from their neighbors.
Their roster includes more than 100 members from throughout the Schaumburg area, though only a dozen volunteer to maintain the garden.
The Bruckners joined the group to learn more about planting flowers. Though they both grew up in families with vegetable gardens, they really wanted to learn more about flowers and how to cultivate them into their outdoor landscaping.
When the Daily Herald began promoting raising an extra row of vegetables for families served by local food pantries, the Bruckners brought the idea to their fellow Garden Club members.
They started out planting a few basic vegetables at a community garden plot offered by the Schaumburg Park District at Olympic Park, but they quickly outgrew that. One of their members who is a congregation member at Lord of Life, secured their larger, current location.
"Every year, the garden gets bigger and better," Dean Bruckner says. "I couldn't have imagined the size we're doing now."
This year they've planted tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans, onions, zucchini, winter squash, broccoli and several types of peppers.
Over the years, they've paid more attention to preparing the soil, Bruckner says, by adding compost and tilling the land, and consequently, they now have rich garden soil and are producing bumper crops.