Naperville garden for charity joins network named for Obama

  • Stephen Purduski, Deanne Sereno, Rose Johnson, Jeremy Bolden, Fred Greenwood and Paul Ladniak are planting at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville for the Obama Legacy Initiative.Produce grown at the plots will be donated to the food pantry at the Warren-Sharpe Community Center in Joliet, which Bolden leads as executive director.

    Stephen Purduski, Deanne Sereno, Rose Johnson, Jeremy Bolden, Fred Greenwood and Paul Ladniak are planting at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville for the Obama Legacy Initiative.Produce grown at the plots will be donated to the food pantry at the Warren-Sharpe Community Center in Joliet, which Bolden leads as executive director. Courtesy of Fred Greenwood

  • Volunteers with the nonprofit Obama Legacy Foundation plan to plant this OLI Garden on Saturday on two plots at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville. Produce grown here will be donated to the food pantry at the Warren-Sharpe Community Center in Joliet.

    Volunteers with the nonprofit Obama Legacy Foundation plan to plant this OLI Garden on Saturday on two plots at the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots in Naperville. Produce grown here will be donated to the food pantry at the Warren-Sharpe Community Center in Joliet. Courtesy of Fred Greenwood

 
 

The co-founder of a national effort to name places and things after former President Barack Obama is working with others in Naperville to make one of those namesakes a garden that supports a food pantry in need.

Fred Greenwood of Naperville is co-founder and president of the Obama Legacy Initiative, a nonprofit organization of volunteers separate from the Obama Foundation. The initiative aims to recognize what its members believe are Barack and Michelle Obama's top areas of accomplishment in education and health care by naming things -- mainly schools and gardens -- after the 44th president.

So while Greenwood and volunteers, including Stephen Purduski and Rose Johnson of Naperville, work to build the network of Obama-named places across the country, they're also growing it at home.

At two rented sections in the Naperville Park District's Ron Ory Community Garden Plots, about a dozen Obama Legacy Initiative gardeners will tend crops -- peppers, squash, onions, beets, lettuce and melons -- this summer to donate to the Warren-Sharpe Community Center in Joliet.

"Compared to other food pantries we've been to, they really need help," Greenwood said.

The pantry feeds 800 families a month in an area where some residents who don't have cars must take two bus rides to reach a grocery store offering fresh produce, Purduski said. The organization also helps children and families with after-school programs, parenting programs, cooking classes and an urban farm.

"It's like an oasis in the middle of a blighted area," Purduski said of the Warren-Sharpe facility, 20 miles south of where the garden to support it will be planted.

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Obama Legacy Initiative volunteers plan to plant their garden Saturday, then donate the produce as quickly as it's harvested.

They'll also accept vegetables or fruits grown by home gardeners to help pantry clients in Joliet access good nutrition.

"There's a big health issue with not being able to get fresh fruits and vegetables," Greenwood said.

Gardens are growing in Missouri, Kansas, California and Chicago on behalf of the Obama Legacy Initiative, founded more than three years ago by Greenwood and former Obama campaign staffer Sean Tenner, a Naperville native and Democratic political strategist.

Greenwood said he's working to involve gardeners in Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin this summer. The organization eventually aims to have something named for Obama in every state and every county.

To volunteer with the initiative or donate produce, contact Greenwood at (630) 461-4828 or fred@ObamaLegacyInitiative.org.

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