Who We Are
Rabbi Robin Damsky is the founder and executive director of In the Gardens. She began this project in response to the need for fresh, healthy, organic food in the inner city and beyond. Having turned her personal property into an edible, organic, permaculture landscape in 2011, she has been employing the needy, educating the community, making interfaith bridges, and donating food to the local food pantry and homeless shelter for five years.
Robin is also trained in teaching mindfulness practice through meditation, movement and song, and offers classes and retreats to groups and individuals. She was ordained by the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and has completed the Institute for Jewish Spirituality’s Clergy Leadership Program in mindfulness practice. In the Gardens offers edible garden design and mindfulness practice to schools, businesses, congregations and homeowners in areas with limited fresh food access and throughout the community.
Judy Grobe Sachs is a premier volunteer and the administrative assistant for In The Gardens. She recently retired from 40 years of learning, research, and service at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She discovered chemistry in high school, math and physics in college, and computers in graduate school. Her continuing interests are learning, literature, food and cooking, and family. Mostly family.
She is excited to work with Rabbi Robin and In the Gardens, both for the challenge of the work at hand and the opportunity for learning it affords.
Board of Directors:
Dr. Sobyl Bunis was schooled at Cornell University in Psychology, Sociology and Child Development. She then worked as a recreational counselor for emotionally disturbed children, teaching at the American School in Malaysia. She is a graduate of Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles. Her current practice of 29 years in Holistic Chiropractic and Natural Family Care combines chiropractic, neuro-emotional technique, nutritional programs, detoxification and homeopathy to provide health and well-being.
Dr. Bunis is also a 2013 graduate of the San Luis Obispo Permaculture Design Course offered by the San Luis Obispo Permaculture Guild. It is based around three core ethics: Care for Earth, Care for People, Share the Wealth. Sobyl owns and works her own permaculture garden, which is engaged by and supports the greater community. She also teaches permaculture through the San Luis Obispo Permaculture Guild and is involved in designing permaculture garden sites in Central California.
Dr. Cynthia Klein-Banai has been the Associate Chancellor for Sustainability at University of Illinois at Chicago since January 2008. Prior to this she was Assistant Director for Chemical Safety in the Environmental Health and Safety Office at UIC for seven years, where she oversaw environmental compliance, hazardous waste management, the laboratory safety program, and chemical safety training. She has also worked as an environmental consultant. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Division of Environmental Health and Safety, she worked for two years on a study on pollution prevention in laboratories.
Cynthia has a BA in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis and an MS in Environmental Science from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In 2010, Cynthia completed her PhD in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at UIC, where she conducted her research on sustainability metrics for higher education. She takes her sustainability commitment home, as she has grown fruits and vegetables in her own garden for 25 years, including raising hens. She founded the West Suburban Temple Har Zion Food Pantry garden in 2013 that provided over 400 lbs. of produce last year.
Qiana Carswell is currently the Product Development and Distribution Manager for Chicago Style Vegan Corporation, a Chicago based food distribution company that focuses on providing healthy, cholesterol free alternatives to traditional comfort foods. Her career as a Materials Scientist has been extensive. Throughout her career she has been instrumental in Research and Development, Quality Control, and Standard Operating Procedure development for several scientific startups, academic institutions, as well as Food and Drug Administration and International Organization for Standardization corporations.
Qiana currently manages the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry Garden established 2014.
Margot Andersen, MSW, is passionate about cultivating resilience in others. Margot received her Masters in Social Work from Loyola University. She is also a registered yoga instructor (RYT). Margot specializes in teaching resilience skills such as mindfulness, meditation, acceptance and self compassion to people experiencing anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or loss. Having experienced significant life challenges, including the death of her son, Margot embodies emotional resilience and exudes positivity and strength. She is studying Jewish mindfulness with the Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
A masterful storyteller, Margot is also a motivational speaker, weaving poignant and humorous stories.
Theodore Jevon Bolden is one of our interns. He says: My family and friends call me by my middle name, Jevon. I became passionate about horticulture a number of years ago after a visit to Yosemite National Park with friends. Currently, I am a student at Triton College, studying sustainable agriculture technologies. I have already received a certificate in sustainable food production and plan to graduate in the spring. I was drawn to this field because it is mentally rewarding. I enjoy the transformations that the landscapes and plants undertake when my efforts are applied to them. This work is a labor of love for me, and working with In the Gardens is giving me a chance to do this work for others while learning more about permaculture.
Intern Kevin Hodges says: I was born and raised in the West Side of Chicago. I came to growing food through Windy City Harvest, which first interested me due to my need for employment. I learned that if we continue to live on the earth the way we have been, our future isn’t so secure. The machinery and technology that currently produce our food have made us forget about how to grow our own food the way our ancestors once did; they grew everything they needed to survive. I also realized that there are many good works that go unnoticed. Working here with In the Gardens is giving me the opportunity to help feed people who are hungry, who may go under our radar.