September 16, 2014

One community garden provides more than fruits and vegetables

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Two vacant lots have been turned into gardens and provide affordable produce to area residents. Spring 2014.

Two vacant lots have been turned into gardens and provide affordable produce to area residents. Spring 2014.

By Karyna Rodriguez/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — One person can make a difference. Nicole Bridges embodies that statement more than almost anyone I’ve ever met.

Nicole runs Prosperity Gardens in Champaign, Illinois. I first heard about Prosperity Gardens when I worked on a story about the nonprofit for The Daily Illini. I interviewed Nicole and was inspired by her dedication and selflessness.

Nicole is a Champaign-Urbana native. She graduated from the University of Illinois and spent a few years in Africa for the Peace Corps. When she came back to Champaign, she felt that she had to do something about the poverty issues facing her community.

Although it wasn’t her brainchild, she started Prosperity Gardens largely on her own. She turned two vacant lots into gardens that provide affordable produce to the residents. She has teamed up with local schools to provide a hands-on agricultural learning experience to children and “at-risk” (a word she doesn’t like using) teens. She has even employed several of these teens over the years.

Prosperity Gardens allows Nicole to face issues of poverty, unemployment and ill health – even if just in a small way.

Take a look at some of the great work Nicole is doing in the community and how she is slowly changing it.

This project is the culmination of University of Illinois students’ work during spring 2014 as part of the multimedia reporting course taught by Professor Charles “Stretch” Ledford. The students were instructed to select a topic of interest and use audio and video to share that story. The resulting multimedia projects give an in-depth look at small segments with the Champaign-Urbana community.