Outpouring of support after veggies stolen from Boys & Girls Club of Elgin
There was an outpouring of support after thieves raided the garden of the Boys & Girls Club of Elgin, and city officials are considering transferring ownership to help prevent future thefts.
Nearly 50 pounds' worth of vegetables the kids had helped grow all summer, along with a hose and compost, were stolen Sept. 22. The garden was used to feed the kids while teaching them about cooking and nutrition.
"We had a massive response," Club Chief Operating Officer Len Losik said. "People want to donate their time to help us rebuild and make it better than it was. People have donated money and food. It's been great. Fantastic."
A "Rebuild Our Community Garden" GoFundMe campaign has raised $1,700 so far, and plenty others have dropped off checks in person, Losik said. "We've had kids digging in their piggy banks," he said.
Hampshire-based Serosun Farms owner Jane Stickland, who has hosted club field trips in the past, said the farm is donating its surplus of vegetables to the club. "We know firsthand how excited they were (about gardening)," she said. "They worked all year to have that produce and to have somebody take that all away from them. ... We were just like, 'We need to make this right.' "
Other major donors include Midwest Compost and Klein's Farm, both of Elgin, and Lawnscapers Inc. of Peoria, Losik said.
The garden, part of the Elgin Community Garden Network, sits behind the club at 355 Dundee Ave. on city-owned land off Ann Street and Dundee Avenue that the club leases for $1 per year.
Club officials want to build a fence and shed on the property to prevent future thefts. That would require amending the lease or transferring ownership with approval by the city council, City Manager Sean Stegall said.
Mayor David Kaptain said he's in favor of selling or donating the land to the club, and will propose that to the council. "It would make sense for (the club) to have it. It's right next door and it's a good thing at the end of the day."
The club is among nonprofits which have been awarded Riverboat grant money by the city. This year, the club received $75,000. The donation of the community garden could happen in lieu of a partial or full grant for next year, Kaptain suggested.
The club would love to own the land, Losik said. "We're definitely looking at that -- if they were willing to ideally donate it to us to help us with our funds, or if it's a small purchase," he said.
The club also hopes in the future to build a fruit orchard on vacant city-owned land across the street on the west side of Route 25, Losik said. Kaptain said he's open to that idea as well.
The club has set a "volunteer day" to build the fence Nov. 7, Kaptain said, so he's asked city staff members to try to expedite the process. Stegall said he's aiming for the item to be on the Nov. 4 city council agenda.
If that's not possible, the club would postpone that to a later date, Losik said. "We are grateful for all the efforts to help us," he said.