Lee from Chicago, IL

Truck repairs so I can work in 48 community gardens

I need to repair my truck. With my health issues and my truck not working, I can’t get to my garden sites and my income is based on that.


Jackie's Update on Lee's Truck: Apr 17, 2012

Dear Benevolent Donors,

I would like to take this time to Thank the Benevolent Donors who helped Lee get his truck fixed.     Just in time for Spring, he kicked off the season unloading various vegetable plants and flowers for an “Green and Nutrition” display at our outdoor Easter Ecumenical services at People’s Park in South Chicago.  Your support helped  him start the planting right.   You should know that your gift also helped him bring the plant give-a-ways for our attendees on his truck and they loved it!


On behalf of Lee and the Community,

We Thank You so much


Jackie Samuel

Claretian Associates

Pictures of Lee's truck and garden Apr 10, 2012

Jackie's statement when Lee's need was funded: Feb 27, 2012

I want to thank you all so much for helping Lee get back on the road. His work means so much to him and to the community.


I am a cancer patient and am supposed to be going through Chemo at this time but it makes me too sick.  My health issues are not stopping me from doing my work.  It is my lack of access to a working vehicle that is preventing me from getting to the sites.  It is not feasible to take public transportation because of the large tools and soil and other materials I need to transport. I need to keep gardening to earn a living—this is how I pay my bills.


The funds will be spent on repairing my truck.  It needs a new oil pan, as well as a number of other parts and a major tune up.  With my health issues and my truck not working, I can’t get to my garden sites.  I can’t get paid if I can’t be there since my income is based on my ability to do my work in the gardens and in indoor sites in the winter.


I have been working in Chicago with food advocacy groups here for the past 43 years.  The number of people I have been able to work with here is huge … after years of scholarships with Will Allen of Growing Power and his daughter, Erika Allen, who has contracted me to work with her here in Chicago, I continue to work as the lead gardener for countless sites here in the city.  These include Altgeld Gardens, where I am the lead gardener, Youth Ready Chicago, where I’ve trained more than 500 children and young adults who got paid during the summer to work the land, the Veterans Memorial Community Garden, where I teach veterans to care for their plots, the Regional Botanical Gardens, and the Washington Park and South Shore communities. It is impossible for me to get to all of these places without my truck in working order and I have no money to fix it.  I am currently working on a new plot on 55th and King Drive, which will be a garden In honor of the late Maggie Daley.  I can grow on any surface and in any season. I want to keep working with children and seniors, teaching sustainability and community building.

Most of the garden work I do throughout Chicago is in partnership with nonprofit organizations that survive through grants.  Much of the funding for this work has unfortunately been cut since they no longer have grants to keep these gardens going.  It is a vicious cycle, though. If I can get to the gardens, then they can request support through grants, but if I can’t get there, then there is no longer ongoing training happening.  I need to make sure that I can train others to be able to carry on my work.  My truck has been broken, which makes it impossible for me to get to the worksites. I do work throughout the winter with these groups, and right now, I can’t bring the materials I need with me in my truck or drive myself to these places, many of which are far from my house.

I came to Chicago at the age of 17 from a small farm in Arkansas and had already discovered my love for agriculture and horticulture.  At that time, I was growing things in tires. From a small farm in Arkansas...I won 2 awards from Home and Garden after I came to Chicago.  I received my bachelor’s degree in horticulture and two master’s degrees in horticulture and horticulture management, and have been working in this field ever since.  I am now a Master Gardener and am responsible for more than 48 gardens in this city.  I have a website and stay in touch with sustainable agriculture folks around the country.  I was featured in a photo essay in Time Magazine this week with some of them.  I have won numerous awards and have served on a number of Civic Boards.  I rent a one-bedroom house and have several grown children. I was diagnosed with lung cancer years ago, but survived that.  Now, I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. My goals are to leave a legacy of having taught sustainability and community self-sufficiency to youth and seniors throughout the Chicago region.

Need funded!

Thank you for helping Lee fund this need.

$745of $720

Need funded!

18 supporters


This need has been validated by Jackie from Claretian

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Validated by Jackie from Claretian (What does this mean?)

I have known Lee for about 4 years.  I met him working in the garden in the Bush area.  He doesn’t believe in calling it a green thumb.  He is a master gardener. He is very knowledgeable.  He can educate you about gardening and plants beyond belief.  Even though we claim him as OUR master gardener, he is actually the mater gardener for most of Chicago.  It would be horrible if he were not able to drive to all of his sites to help these communities get out of the food desert situations they are in. 

He is a very generous spirit and gives so much back to the community.  This would be a wonderful time for someone to give back to him.  He has worked with youth in the community who have been overlooked and forgotten.  I have seen youth who knew nothing about gardens work with Lee and then go home and plant a garden.  These are kids who have had problems with law enforcement and have been labeled “high risk individuals,” but when they work with Lee, they manage to turn their lives around and learn how to give back to the community and become community participants.  I have had him come out to festivals and he always brings plants that the average person can grow and plant at home.  Or he’ll bring some exotic fruit that you’ve never seen before. People come up to him and he educates them all. He would explain everything and share all the information and people get interested.  Lee gives workshops on a monthly basis.  His birthday celebration was feeding the homeless in a community garden.  He is an amazingly giving spirit and so worthy of support.

About Jackie

I am the NCP Director for South Chicago at Claretian Associates. I have been doing this for 4.5 years. Personally, I have seen a disconnect between community education and community development. I want to bridge those gaps. I have attended numerous community meetings and realized that no… Read more

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