Loyola Students Help Cultivate Hardy Maywood Peace Garden

Peace Garden Photo_4

The Maywood Peace Garden received some special attention from Loyola medical students on Saturday. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Olga Desio, a volunteer master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension program, stood in the middle of the Peace Garden at the corner of 17th Ave. and Madison St. on Saturday, surrounded by hardy native plants and engulfed in the scent of herbs—sage, oregano, lavender, thyme.

The Peace Garden, which has been an ongoing project of Barbara Cole and the young people involved in her Maywood Youth Mentoring nonprofit, has blossomed into an ecosystem separate from the urban environment that surrounds it. Now, Desio said, dragonflies and monarch butterflies are making this small corner plot of land home.

During a July 29 cleanup event, around 20 students from Loyola-Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood braved high-80-degree weather and heavy sun beams to help spruce up this burgeoning habitat.

Loyola medical students clean weeds in the Peace Garden at the corner of 17th Ave. and Madison St. in Maywood on July 29. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

The event was part of the school’s annual day of service. Medical students, many of them first-year students, spanned across the village to roughly five other sites for some summer cleaning and cultivating activities.

Mara Peterson, 21, was due to start medical school at Loyola the following Monday. She had just arrived from her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona during the previous weekend, but she was out at around 9 a.m. on Saturday engaged in what she described as her reason for choosing Loyola’s medical program.

“I graduated from Arizona State University a year ago in May and spent the last year working,” Peterson said. “I chose Loyola because they emphasized community and service. Those qualities are what I think the role of a physician should emphasize.”

Peterson was accompanied by her boyfriend, Austin Johnson, 22, who said that he was out in Maywood helping her unpack and decided to tag along.

Medical students were out in the garden from 9 a.m. until at least noon. | Sebastian Hidalgo/VFP

“This is better than sitting on the couch watching Netflix,” Johnson said in between painting a cement bench that would become a permanent feature of the garden.

Desio said that the cement bench will add a touch of permanency to the living garden, which changes with the seasons. Desio said that the native plants are more resilient to weather extremes in the summer and winter. Each year, despite going long periods without water, they keep growing.

The master gardener said that she hopes that someday she’ll be able to give some of the plants from the Peace Garden—such as lamb’s ear, allium millennium and black-eyed Susan—to community members.

“Spaces like these change empty lots into something that’s really attractive,” Desio said. VFP

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