Fairview Heights, Illinois, November 2, 2015 – In May 2015, the Illinois Center for Autism (ICA) began work on establishing gardens at both their Fairview Heights and Belleville campuses. Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the MTS Foundation, the Adult Clients of ICA are weeding, watering and harvesting eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and a variety of spices, on a regular basis. The grant also allowed ICA to hire a Master Gardener to assist in this endeavor. Allen Beasely, aka Doc Garlic, has offered his time and talents to help teach staff and clients much of his gardening expertise.
“We are very excited about the possibilities this grant has to offer. Our clients are learning to respect our earth, prosper from it and use the produce to prepare healthier food for all our clients, including our school age children. Our plan is to one day be able to grow enough produce that our adult clients will maintain a small produce stand free to our neighbors at both campuses, “ explained Rachel Newsome, Director of Communications and Development. “It’s important that our clients learn, too, how much it means to give back to our community.”
The original grant includes a greenhouse and additional gardening space at the Fairview Heights Campus. ICA wants to give local families the opportunity to utilize their future produce stands without incurring the high cost of vegetables and other produce that one might find in the local market.
Presently, the produce is being used in a newly developed program where Adult Clients at ICA assist in preparing breakfast and lunch daily for all of the school-age children. Growing some of the food necessary for a well-balanced diet, helps to offset some cost to ICA and continues to enforce healthier eating habits beginning at a young age.
The Illinois Center for Autism has served children and adults with autism for 38 years. Located at 548 S. Ruby Lane in Fairview Heights, we are a non-profit, community-based mental health treatment and education agency. For more information about our services or autism, visit the Illinois Center for Autism website at www.illinoiscenterforautism.org.