Illinois church uses garden ministry to feed community
Manteno Church of the Nazarene began a gardening project that has blossomed into a local food distribution to serve community members in need.
Nick Boros, a professor at nearby Olivet Nazarene University, serves as the master gardener. He and his wife began the project four years ago without knowing how crucial it would become for local families.
They initially began donating all of their produce to two local foodbanks. That has now expanded to 15 different organizations during the growing season.
“The need is greater than ever before in our current society and economy,” Boros said. “People need help surviving and keeping their families afloat. The Church has been called to feed the people, and we must acknowledge our means to do so.”
They grow peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, and greens. This year, they were able to install a drip irrigation system that is timer-controlled.
“This helps to keep the weeding to a minimum, and no one needs to be there to water the plants,” Boros said.
Over the years, the garden has grown substantially. They have gone from one 30x60 foot plot to seven plots.
“We currently donate to food pantries, soup kitchens, and various MOPS organizations and TEEN MOPS programs while helping out people within the church who are in need,” Boros said. “We are hoping to expand this year to include a school-based program to provide fresh vegetables to school age kids that need extra support in the summer.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a greater need in the community food banks, and places like the garden have needed more volunteers. Boros has seen an increase in volunteers that coincides with the need. The garden has also turned into a multigenerational effort.
“Our volunteers have multiplied, ranging from retired landscapers to teenagers who believe in doing more for the good of society, to 2-year-olds pulling weeds who do not realize the impact of the task,” he said. “Even though the need has only seemed to increase, the gratitude of those in need has also increased insurmountably. It is a very humbling experience for all our volunteers — both young and old.”
The Manteno church is less than 10 miles north of Olivet Nazarene University. While Manteno and Bourbonnais are relatively well-off areas, the surrounding cities of Kankakee and Bradley are not. In Kankakee, one in three people live in poverty.
“We are a blessed Church and wish to bless others,” Boros said. “God created us to love others, to invest in ‘the least’ and care for all. This is a humbling way to love.”