Garden party plants seeds of generosity

  • Written by Joe Boyle

mulching photo 5-31

                                                                    Photo by Joe Boyle

A group of students from Morgan Park Academy apply mulch along the fence near bushes and trees during the Park Lawn Garden Party held Friday at the Oak Lawn school.


A garden party drew volunteers Friday that were more than happy to make Park Lawn a center for plants and vegetation in preparation for the summer months.

Volunteers arrived early Friday morning to begin the process of mulching along the fence and working on plants on the property of Park Lawn, 10833 S. Laporte Ave., Oak Lawn. Members of the Morgan Park Academy Service Council worked all morning by mulching along trees and plants on the grounds to get ready for the summer.

“We look up organizations that we can help by looking at websites and then we contact them,” said Julianna Zigmar, a junior at Morgan Park Academy and a member of the council. “We work with national services and at the local level. We have members working at several locations today, like the Ronald McDonald House and Misericordia. We like to help out and have fun, too.”

Park Lawn provides services that promote independence, choice and access to community living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Staff members and volunteers at Park Lawn hold programs like the Garden Party to individuals who attend classes there to feel more involved.

Mark Dynia, the marketing director at Park Lawn, said the efforts of the Morgan Park Academy students was a great asset. He also applauded the efforts of the Acres Group, who donated the mulch that the students worked with.

“This has just been an awesome day,” Dynia said about the efforts of the students and volunteers. “And the kids are having fun. Some of the students said they are learning a lot. Some of the kids told me that this is the best day they ever had. The weather has been great, too.”

Dynia and other staff members at Park Lawn were pleased that the Morgan Park Academy students also interacted with individuals at Park Lawn. After a couple of hours of mulching and caring for the gardens and plants, the students took part in drawing activities with Park Lawn individuals and played a variety of games.

Participants also began working on the vegetable and flower gardens, Varieties of tomatoes, peppers and herbs were planted and will be sold at the Village of Oak Lawn Farmers Market this summer. The farmers market is held from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays at the Village Green.

Oak Lawn resident Cathy Faxel has volunteered at Park Lawn since the mid-1970s. She became involved with Park Lawn when her sister began going there. Her sister died in 2000 and Faxel had been away from Park Lawn for several years. She said she is glad to be back.

“It was great coming back here,” Faxel said while she was bringing out treats for the students and the individuals at Park Lawn. “It’s like a second family here. Everyone is so generous and care for each other. This place is really special.”

The activities that also took place on Friday were pot painting, water balloon toss, basketball and other summer games. With the weather near 90 degrees, the Morgan Park Academy students and individuals at Park Lawn were able to interact and play outside.

Park Lawn has been part of the Village of Oak Lawn’s Farmers Market for the past three years. Dynia said that this year Park Lawn will be implementing new and exciting changes for the participants.

“We have developed a program for interested parties to participate in an Entrepreneur Group,” Dynia said. “We thought this was a great opportunity to take advantage of another way to teach folks about employment and bolster vocational skills. This group of six individuals has to interview and sign a letter of commitment in order to participate.”

The group from Park Lawn will continue at the farmers market through Oct. 10. The Park Lawn group reassessed past items sold at the market, inventoried all products, and created new products to sell. The Park Lawn group will be at the farmers market each week from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The group has also designed Park Lawn T-shirts and tablecloths.

“This is a team effort and each participant plays an essential role, which includes crafting, money/inventory management, sales and marketing at the farmers market,” added Dynia.