DeKALB – A DeKalb facility that offers programming for adults with special needs is now operating under the umbrella of the DeKalb County Community Gardens.
The Gracie Center, created in 2012, now will be folded into the gardens' Walnut Grove Vocational Farm in Kirkland. The vocational farm gives adults with developmental and physical disabilities vocational and daily skills in horticulture and agriculture, which help them attain jobs and remain independent.
"The gardens and The Gracie Center have worked very closely for years," gardens executive director and founder Dan Kenney said in a news release. "So we are very excited to bring all of the operations under one umbrella."
The center is most known for its Pop Up Shop, where participants prepared and sold popcorn that they had raised from seed in partnership with the DeKalb County Community Gardens. The organization also held monthly Crew Cafe's where they prepared lunch for community members, according to the release.
While those programs may continue in some form, crew members from the center will now be more fully integrated into the work at Walnut Grove Vocational Farm, which is managed by Heather Edwards, program director, according to the release.
At the farm in Kirland, they'll prune plants, sow seeds, package plants for planting, care for chickens and more, Edwards said. She said they also will have opportunities to staff the Genoa Area Community Food Hub, which opened last week and also houses the Genoa-Kingston Food Pantry.
Participants also will learn basic carpentry, landscaping and cooking skills, and regularly will venture into the community to learn about job opportunities.
"Gracie Center crew members helped with those tasks quite a bit over the years, so they will fit right in," Edwards said in the release. "As we get the food hub up and running, they will also learn skills that could help them find jobs in stores or restaurants. We are very excited at all of the possibilities ahead."
DeKalb County Community Gardens is a nonprofit that operates 57 pieces of land around DeKalb County to grow their own food, distribute it, operate a traveling food pantry and address food insecurities to end hunger across the county.
The gardens' initiatives provide access to fresh, local and sustainably-grown organic vegetables and have produced more than 500,000 pounds of food for local food pantries, daycare centers, schools, community meal locations, senior centers and housing units, as well as for Meals on Wheels.
This article has been edited to correct that The Gracie Center has no affiliation with Northern Illinois University. The Daily Chronicle regrets the error.