Alaina Gross ’25, Staff Writer

Looking for ways to get involved at IU? Thankfully, there are many opportunities available on campus for students to volunteer and contribute to the school community, especially in Immaculata University’s Campus Ministry. If you like spending time outdoors, planting gardens, meeting new people, and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then you have to volunteer in the greenhouse. The McIntyre Greenhouse was dedicated in honor of Sister Rosita Maria McIntyre, a former Biology Faculty Member. Built in the 1960s at the same time as Loyola Hall, the greenhouse itself houses a wide variety of plants and protects the greenery from the harsh winter conditions. The small glass building is located just behind Loyola Hall near parking lot F. Students are able to attend on Mondays from 3:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon to aid with a wide range of tasks. The group is led by Sister Susan Cronin and Campus Ministry’s Assistant Director, Amanda Bielat. Sr. Susan provides students with interesting facts about what is necessary when starting and maintaining a garden of your own!

So what do students do in the greenhouse? The answer to that question entirely depends on the season and semester. During the spring, students clean up the plant beds located next to the greenhouse in preparation for planting. Students dig out weeds from the beds while also turning and breaking up the soil, making the earth a bit more hospitable for the seeds. Meanwhile, a group of volunteers gather in the greenhouse with Sister Susan to plant the vegetable seeds in small pots. After a short time, these plants will have grown and developed into “starters” meaning that they will have matured enough to be planted. In the meantime, compost left over from the fall is added to the soil to provide nutrients for the seedlings as well as balance the soil’s density. After some growth, the starters will be transplanted into the beds. Peppers, cucumbers, swiss chard, squash, okra, zucchini, and a multitude of tomato plant varieties will spend the next several months growing into ripe and ready-to-harvest produce. In addition to vegetables, flowers are also planted around the greenhouse to welcome in the spring season and add an extra pop of color to our campus.

Source: Alaina Gross

During the fall, volunteers pick the now ripe vegetables and prepare for the winter season. Even after several meetings, some cherry tomatoes and small peppers can still be found hiding in the bushes. Students will take down poles and supports that were used to guide some of the plants’ growth (i.e. tomatoes and peppers). All stalks and branches are uprooted and dug up, leaving the beds practically empty. Any rotten vegetables are collected and added to the compost bin located in front of the greenhouse. Finally, students collect and organize all of the produce in plastic baggies. All vegetables are delivered to a local food bank to provide fresh produce for lower income families. In fact, during 2020, over 700 lbs of produce was picked and provided to families in need!

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the group throughout my freshman year and have found the entire experience to be so enriching. In addition to all of the people I have met through the club, I have also gained a great deal of knowledge about how to manage my own garden! My friend, and fellow volunteer Bella Carey stated, “I am so grateful to be able to participate in such a wonderful opportunity that provides for the community.” In addition to working in the greenhouse, we also walked down to the Mary grotto located on campus and cleaned it in the spring. It’s been so wonderful to spend more time outdoors and appreciating God’s green earth, and I’m very excited to volunteer again next semester. So, to all those interested, bring your green thumbs and let’s get planting!

Source: Alaina Gross