Blind community proves anyone can garden at Third Eye Sensory Garden

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A community of visually impaired people are proving that anyone can be a gardener through their Third Eye Sensory Garden at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education, or ICRE-Wood, on Chicago's West Side.

"This garden, to me, it symbolizes independence," say Juliette Walker, Co-organizer of the Third Eye Sensory Garden. "It showed me that even though I've been placed in a certain situation in life. I can still do some things that bring me joy."

Everyone involved in the garden lives somewhere along the spectrum of blindness, from "high-partial" to fully blind.

Deb Quantock, a Chicago master gardener, founded the garden in March after becoming an ICRE client. She created the sensory garden so that gardeners and ICRE clients can enjoy the scents, sounds and feeling of everything planted.

"If they've never seen what a sunflower is, they can either remember when they could see. Or else they can make up their own version of what a sunflower would be in their own mind's eye," Quantock said.

"I believe that you can do gardening and almost anything with your other senses."

With almost no starting budget, Quantock found grant funding, donated supplies, and enlisted friends to help plan and construct the garden.

Fellow master gardener Vijay Bhargava donated soil. John Gordon, Chief of the Bureau of Blind Services for Illinois Department of Human Services, constructed the garden beds by hand.

"I love doing this," said gardener Josh Mitton. "It makes me feel good that, you know, not only am I picking fresh food, but I'm helping the environment."

The garden is now being put to bed as the summer season comes to an end. To follow along with their progress in the coming years, follow Third Eye Sensory Garden on Facebook.

To find out more about the services offered at ICRE-Wood, visit the website of the Illinois Department of Human Services.

"We are a garden that not only grows vegetables and flowers and other things," Quantock said. "But we grow together."
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