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Transformative Year for Genesis Garden

Rich Egger
"In March, we pivoted to respond to the pandemic, changed our programming, and really kind of became a new organization, started doing a lot of new things," John Curtis told TSPR.

The head of Genesis Garden in Macomb said it has been a busy and transformative year for the group, which is a grassroots organization dedicated to increased awareness and elimination of poverty.

In an interview with Tri States Public Radio, Genesis Garden Executive Director John Curtis said the organization pivoted its focus a bit and added new programs when the pandemic began. For example, it partnered with the Loaves and Fishes food pantry to operate a weekly grocery delivery service for anyone in McDonough County who asked for it.

“At the beginning of the pandemic we were averaging about 150 households throughout McDonough County that we were delivering to once a week. And now we’re up around 220 households,” Curtis said.

He said the delivery service is especially beneficial for people who are required to shelter-in-place. He said it also benefits people who are “…living at rates of poverty that are hard to imagine in a first world country.”

Curtis said every house receives milk, sliced bread, and frozen meat. Eggs are also included most weeks.  He said the amount delivered to each home depends on how many people live there. He said Genesis Garden has been getting much of the food from the River Bend Foodbank in Davenport and Midwest Food Bank in Peoria.

Curtis said Genesis Garden this year also:

  • Opened Genesis House, which is its shelter near downtown Macomb. He said six families have spent some time there before moving on to more permanent housing.
  • Created five Victory Gardens in Macomb, providing free vegetables, herbs, and flowers for the community.
  • Began Kids Cook. The program was done online, teaching children and their families how to cook from scratch.

Curtis said as Genesis Garden transformed, it received help through its partnership with the Peace Corps Fellows program at Western Illinois University’s Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs. (full disclosure: John's wife, Karen Mauldin-Curtis, manages the Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows program at WIU)

“They supplied AmeriCorps volunteers who’ve had incredible experience overseas and have great training,” he said. ”They really allowed us to expand that programming and do so many new things at one time.”

In addition, he said more than 200 people have volunteered with Genesis Garden since April.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.