The dedication of Second Baptist Church’s community garden on July 20. Pastor Mark Dennis, center, led the dedication of the garden, where flowers and vegetables are already growing in the raised beds. Seventh Ward Alderman Jane Grover, not pictured, donated two rain barrels and some of the flowers for the garden. RoundTable photo

It was a time for seconds – Second Baptist Church, located in the Second Ward, found a second use for its vacant lot at the southwest corner of Church Street and Pitner Avenue: a community garden. The garden, now comprising five tripartite raised rectangular beds and one larger stone circle bed, will beautify the neighborhood with flowers, provide fresh vegetables for the church’s Monday and Tuesday soup kitchens and allow Evanston Township High School students to work the soil and reap the harvest in two of the beds.

Church historian Rhonda Craven gave a brief history of the property. Second Baptist Church purchased the property in 1952. Tenants remained in the building there for several years, but the property fell into disrepair and the building was demolished in July of 1982. The land remained vacant until June 22 of this year, when the Church broke ground for the garden.

 Church Trustee Arlene Jackson, co-chair of the garden committee, said that after she wrote the letter seeking tax-exempt status for the property, “I knew my work was over, because I had never gardened.” She added with a laugh. “My pastor and God had a different plan. … I surrounded myself with gardeners … in this project that turned out to be a labor
of love.”

Stephanie Quan, deaconess-in-training at Second Baptist, recalled the significance of gardens to Christians: the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane. “This effort is an ongoing one, which will flourish … as a labor of love and a place celebrating God’s love.”

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes attended the dedication. “Thank you for donating your time. Gardeners are great people,” said Mayor Tisdahl. “I’ve been watching this garden, and it’s really exciting to see something happening here.”

Second Baptist senior pastor Reverend Mark Dennis led a dedication ceremony
at the garden on July 19, allowing everyone who had worked on the garden to
take a tiny cut at the ribbon until it finally gave way.

“This is a great moment in the life not only of this church but of the community,” said Pastor Davis. “It’s taken 50 years to develop this land.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...