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Planting Seeds: Leo

It’s not just the flowers that grow at Little City’s Dorothy Rose Horticulture Center – it’s the people too.

People like Leo, who had a hard time focusing and had some erratic behaviors before discovering all the benefits the Horticulture Program had to offer. It didn’t take long for Leo to channel his energy and focus into getting dirty and watching his hard work grow into beautiful plants and vegetables.

Horticulture Manager Sean Kretovics said Leo has grown as much or more than any other participant in Sean’s year and a half on the job.

“I always ask people two questions before they sign up. Do you like the outdoors and do you like to get dirty. Leo loves both,” Sean said. “He just took off right away. He would come every day if he could.”

It’s easy to see Leo’s enthusiasm for horticulture, especially when he is working outdoors in Little City’s Edible Garden. That is where Leo can weed, dig holes for a new row of plants and vegetables and even find the occasional worm, which always brings a huge smile to his face.

But the program also offers different benefits for different people. Sean said he often sees a focus and calmness in participants as they connect with nature and get to witness what they plant grow. It also teaches motor skills and mental skills. The gardeners learn how to identify plants and remember the different care each one needs to grow.

Every skill level is catered to, with nearly 90 people enrolled in the four different classes offered including Plants 101, Plant Science, Vocational and Introduction to Plants.

With Sean at the helm, the program has grown to just more than the horticulture center and edible garden on the Palatine campus. Work is currently being done to build gardens at both the Countryside Center and Lakeside Center and the seniors in Golden Opportunities have also started taking classes.

Leo working the soil at Little City’s edible garden.

As participation grows for the horticulture program, Sean plans on continuing the annual plant sale, starting small farmer’s markets and building a hoop house for year-round growing.

“We don’t want to become a commercial greenhouse, but the idea is to get as many people involved as possible,” he said. “You can see how people change and grow. Leo is a leader now who teaches other people and works really well with the volunteers who come.”

The expanding popularity of the Horticulture Program will allow people at the Palatine campus, Countryside Center and Lakeside Center to experience the many benefits of working with plants and nature.

"There are so many capable and caring staff at Little City, past and present, who have helped Clifford. He has made a lot of progress in mastering his behavior."

Colleen, Mother of a child living in a ChildBridge Group Home