EVANSTON — Members of Soroptomist International of Evanston have committed their time and energy to a new project that will benefit women who find themselves in the temporary residence of SAFV’s shelter house. Partnering with the SAFV (Sexual Assault and Family Violence) Task Force, local Soroptomists are working toward creating a Peace Garden at the shelter house.
Some time ago, Soroptomist past-president Tammy Koncitik was visiting with SAFV Director Angie Fessler about the need to improve the landscaping at the shelter. There is an existing small area close to the house with playground equipment and grass for the children but nothing special for the women.
Since the women who temporarily reside at the shelter are going through a traumatic time, the idea of giving them some place to find peace and calm surfaced from Koncitik’s and Fessler’s conversation. They began to call it a “peace garden” and that was the beginning of the partnership to create such a place.
Fessler got the cooperation and support of the SAFV board of directors, and Koncitik brought the idea to the Soroptomist group and says they were all excited to begin the project.
“This is such a good project for Soroptomists, as helping women and girls is our whole mission,” Lynne Fox said.
Fox was chosen to chair a committee of 11 members to create a plan and begin to seek donations from around the community. According to Fox’s husband, Andy Bailey, “Lynne has put her heart and soul into this project.”
The committee has received substantial donations; both in-kind and cash. They began with a grant that SAFV had been given from the local Rotary Club who partnered with Aspen Grove Nursery to donate 13 trees to the shelter site. The members of Rotary and Soroptomist together with SAFV staff planted the trees around the shelter.
Fox said they still need a donation to put fencing around the trees to protect them from the deer and gravel to serve as the ground cover. The pavers for the 9-foot square patio were already on site when the idea for the garden was begun.
Soroptomist member Tara Saprony and her husband Tom are donating an arbor with a bench, which they will build with lumber from South & Jones.
Evanston Public Works Director Gordon Robinson provided the mulch for the trees and salvaged broken concrete pieces for the retaining wall and steps.
The local Walmart donated five lilac bushes and five spirea bushes.
The group is currently searching for help with a small amount of excavation and earth moving needed before the patio is built and shrubs are planted. The other major costs for which they are seeking donations will be the purchase and placement of a gravel ground cover designed to provide minimal maintenance, and sand for settling the pavers.
Recently, Evanston Soroptomists received a donation of $300 from Spanky’s Bar and an anonymous $200 donation to be contributed toward the garden.
The Soroptomists also received a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor that will pay for an irrigation system that will ultimately irrigate the entire site. A local Eagle Scout has volunteered to do the work of installing the system and as an Eagle Scout will raise any additional funds that might be needed, if his proposal is approved by the Boy Scouts.
Members of SAFV and Soroptomists have put in many hours killing and pulling weeds, transplanting iris and preparing the patio site. All volunteer work is on hold for now while they wait for the excavation work to be completed. When that is finished, volunteers from both groups will build the retaining wall, lay the patio and lay the steps.
“What I love is the broad spectrum of people involved and the willingness of those we’ve contacted to help with this project,” Fox said, “because they see the value of what SAFV does, the shelter, and how nice it will be to provide the women this peace garden. When I saw a Boy Scout step up, it really touched me that he would think about the women, too.