CHICAGO (WLS) -- Juan Villa has been a member of the El Paseo Community Garden in Pilsen for years.
He comes just as much for the fruits and vegetables as he does for the fellowship. Most of the seniors are from countries in Latin America.
"We have the time to come here and talk about all kinds of different cultures," he said.
The garden was founded in 2009 and has grown into a community hub.
During the height of the pandemic, the garden was a godsend for seniors who were fearful of contracting COVID-19.
"The garden actually provided a very safe area for people to come outside and get some fresh air," said co-director Paula Acevedo.
The pandemic also brought about a surge in the number of volunteers. El Paseo has over an acre of land.
"So that's a lot of maintenance between garbage pickup, litter, mowing, weeding," she said.
Now that the pandemic has subsided, Acevedo said there's been a dramatic drop in volunteers.
"Now people are back to their daily lives. They are back to vacationing. They're back to concerts and festival and just even work," she said.
Couple that with gentrification that's been happening in Pilsen. Acevedo is working to make sure this garden stays true to its mission and grows.
Acevedo is inviting the community to El Paseo's 13th annual harvest festival on Saturday, September 24. It will feature live music, dance performances and food and drinks.
"When people come and join and get involved here you really have that sense of family," she said.
Villa agrees. He particularly enjoys the potlucks at El Paseo made with food picked from the garden.
"It is very important because a lot of people do enjoy this part of this garden right here," he said.