Hillcrest Garden teaching life-long lessons - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Hillcrest Garden teaching life-long lessons

DUBUQUE (KWWL) - In a tough economy it's hard enough to find a job but sometimes it's even harder to gain skills to get a job. At Hillcrest Family Services in Dubuque has launched a residential education garden project. The garden is helping Hillcrest clients grow.

As 17 year old Jon Hurt picks zucchini from this garden off 32rd street in Dubuque - he remembers how much he's learned here.

"I've learned how to control more of the weed wackers and lawn mowers," said Hurt.

Four months ago this plot of land was dirt waiting to be maintained waiting to grow.

"We wanted to have an activity that promoted a healthy lifestyle for our kids, to get them active.  That stemmed to 'why can't we have a garden and teach vocational skills at the same time?'" said John Bellini, director of residential education.

In April Bellini and his staff at Hillcrest started the residential education garden project; striving to teach life lessons and skills. Planting corn, radishes, beets, broccoli, squash, tomatoes peppers and zucchini - there is a lot more growing here then produce.    

"We teach them that $100 worth of seed produces $2,000-$3,000 worth of produce so it's very economical to do the work and see it grow and then harvest it," said Bellini.

Once the produced is harvested at the Hillcrest garden is comes to the downtown farmers market. All the money earned here, goes right back to the garden. And continues to teach Hillcrest residents life long skills.

"We're in Iowa, if we can give kids landscaping skills, gardening skills and they can leave here and get employment as soon as possible," said Bellini.

That's Hurts plan, he's already maintaining the lawn care equipment at the garden.        

"I really want to do this the rest of my life because i think I'm really good at it. I think I'm really good at outside stuff because I work hard," said Hurt.

And by working hard in this garden. Jon and so many others are growing.

Bellini says the Hillcrest garden has gain so much community interest, they are receive weekly orders. Residents will continue working on the garden through the fall and plant again in the spring. Bellini says they are always looking for volunteers. You can contact him at (563) 583-7357 ext 290

Online Reporter: Lauren Squires

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