by Kody Acevedo
MESA — While the Chicago Cubs are busy on the field this spring, their wives are busy in the community.
A group of Cubs wives, including Jessica Bryant, wife of Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, spent Monday morning building a new greenhouse for the Mesa Urban Garden.
“We love being here in Mesa,” Bryant said. “It’s fun to be able to give back and do something for the community (and) that all the charity work that we do here stays here locally.”
The Cubs partnered with a local organization called LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) to find community projects for the team to work on for the duration of the spring. Terry Benelli, LISC executive director, thought the Mesa Urban Garden would be a fun first project.
“It’s really special for the community to realize that the Cubs are not just here to play ball, but actually be involved in the community,” Benelli said. “It’s good to see them out in the community being a part of what we do down here.”
The Mesa Urban Garden, located at 212 E. 1st Avenue in downtown Mesa, is a popular community event space and a source of locally grown food for families, food banks and nearby restaurants. The property has about 100 garden beds that people rent each year.
Ryan Winkle, a Mesa councilmember for District 3, started the Urban Garden with group of others five years ago.
“We had pitched the idea of an urban garden (and) community engagement center and that’s what this kind of became,” Winkle said. “Over time, we kept on getting more people and more people involved and people just love it.”
Winkle said the garden started as a way to help people lick their wounds following the recession of 2008.
“There’s a lot of people that have come through here that have (fallen on hard times) and then they got back together just because of the community interaction and getting involved in downtown (Mesa),” Winkle said. “It was a pathway for a lot of people to get involved in a larger city effort.”
Today, the garden continues to grow with more space for improvement. The new greenhouse that was assembled with help from the Cubs was donated by a local family that didn’t have space to keep it.
“On the move over it kind of fell apart,” Benelli said. “But we just haven’t had the time to actually sit and put it together. We really needed a group of people to come out.”
That’s where the Cubs stepped up. According to Benelli, the Cubs have a great partnership with LISC, which also has offices in Chicago. LISC often partners with the team on projects in the Windy City.
The Cubs name is a huge boost for Mesa.
“Especially in downtown (Mesa),” Benelli said. “This an under-served, low and moderate income area, and often times you don’t get big names like that.”
Bryant said player’s wives and families stay busy during the season giving back.
“We do things at least once a month,” Bryant said. “So, whether that’s selling autographed baseballs to raise money to go to a charity, or we go the Ronald McDonald House — things like that. We’re always doing something just to help whatever community we’re in at that time.”