Father Tom Welk is donating $3000 to purchase a greenhouse in order to provide the Newman University Gardening Club a space of their own.
Welk is the chaplain for the ASC sisters and lives just across the street from the convent. He spends his days helping patients and family members with end-of-life issues at Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice.
Welk is well known for his love of plants and takes charge over the community plots that are beside the convent of the ASC sisters. His love of plants and gardening knowledge have helped fuel his donation, he said.
Ruben Lerma, the president of Newman University’s Gardening Club, has been trying to find a way to pay for a greenhouse over the last year.
“We don’t have an actual space for the things we’re trying to take care of,” Lerma said. “It’s a gardening club, so we need a place for our plants, soil, and tools. I’ve been trying to get a greenhouse on campus for a while.”
There were a few obstacles standing in the way of the greenhouse, but the biggest was the maintenance and upkeep, Lerma said.
“Because clubs do come and go, it’s very important that you have someone willing to take care of the greenhouse in case gardening club is not able to. Father Welk has agreed to do maintenance along with some of the community gardeners from [the convent].”
Welk is donating $3,000 – the greenhouse costs around $2,000 and is 12×10 feet. The remaining funds will be used to purchase extra materials such as attachable metal shelves, screws/stakes for the greenhouse, and automatic vent openers.
Welk said he has two reasons for his donation. The first is that he wants to instill the love of gardening in others and help them see the benefits that come from it. Welk also wants to reach out to the students that come from farms or homes that garden.
“It’s about making something available for the students if they’re already experts at it so they have an outlet or if not they can get some interest in gardening.”
The current proposal plans for the greenhouse to be built on the south side of Merlini to keep it visible to students on campus. Another option is for it to be built on Welk’s land, to make it more accessible.
The proposal went to cabinet March 14, but no information has been released at this point. If approved, the project can move forward.
“I’m hoping, if we can pull it off, that we can build over spring break and have it ready. Which would be amazing, maybe a little unrealistic, but it would be amazing.” Lerma said.
This story first appeared in the March 16th, 2017 issue of The Vantage