Gale is 'green machine'
By Felicia Dechter
East Rogers Parkers Clara Hayes and Gregory Roberts have quietly been nurturing and adopting hundreds of tiny infants at Gale Community Academy, 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace.
The babies--which are green and live on the school's third floor--appear to be thriving, and growing like weeds. Perhaps that's because Hayes and Roberts--along with other Gale parents and community members--have become green machines and are busily raising several species of plants, vegetables and flowers to drum up some funds for the school.
"This is great. It's really exciting," said Roberts, a parent volunteer and father of three daughters at Gale, which serves about 660, pre-k through 8th-grade students. "I'm like an expectant father, walking around the waiting room because my wife is having a baby."
About one-fourth of the school's third floor houses the working greenhouse, which was built on the top floor of an annexed school building in 1997.
The space had been used as a storage facility for the last couple of years until Clara Hayes, the parent role resource and development coordinator at Gale whose two children already graduated from the school, came up with the concept of clearing it out and going green.
Hayes, who is an active volunteer with the school, felt the need to bring more parents into Gale, so she decided to put on another cap--that of a gardener--to help raise money for the school, where more than 85 percent of students are from low-income families.
"I wanted a fundraiser to raise a significant amount of money," said Hayes, who also hopes to form a garden club. "Because we're a science and math academy we really needed to get started and bring life back to our science lab."
Hayes and others even visited various local nurseries for tips, and she hopes to have about 1,500 plants, herbs, vegetables and flowers ready by Friday, April 29, when the plant sale kick-off will be held during the open-to-the-public, Gale Spring Fashion Show. That day also will include the unveiling of a community quilt.
By next year, Hayes hopes to raise about $10,000, she said, and judging by what's been done in the greenhouse thus far, that number just might be attainable.
After clearing the huge space out, sometimes even giving up their Saturdays to do so, parents, and community members got busy planting seeds, using an impressive design created by John Hookwater, director of Neighbors United in New Possibilities, a nonprofit arm of the Rogers Park-based Many People's Church.
A warming bed was built, and an incubator, by hand. Wood tables were created, with watering holes and a drain system. Seeds were planted and soon, tiny sprouts peeked up which were then transplanted for room to grow.
"It's been so exciting also because growing plants is cross-cultural, and all these different skills are coming together," Hookwater said, adding that he's hoping to grow year-round plants eventually, such as Poinsettias and Easter Lilies.