Community gardens prepare to grow | Local News


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In theory, Kenny Rice thinks the world shouldn’t need him.

“There is enough food, water, clothing and shelter for every human being on this planet,” Rice said last Sunday during the Oneness event at the Scottish Rite Cathedral. “But greed gets in the way of that.”

That’s why Rice, who received the Oneness Uniting Community Citizen Award for her efforts to revitalize neighborhoods, has made it one of her priorities — along with DON Services — to lead the creation of two community gardens. One, on the Lower East Side, has been providing produce to neighbors and anyone in need since 2017.

A second, on the south side of town at the corner of Home and Friendship streets, was established in 2020 with support from 10,000 Friends and the Lawrence County Conservation District, and will seek to enter a new phase this spring.

“We’re looking for groups who might be able to adopt a bed for two,” said DON’s Janice Hassen, “to just come more regularly and help us weed and water.

“We need to find a champion for this neighborhood to step up and take over this garden. I think if we could have a champion who went there every day, or on a certain day every week, the kids (in the neighborhood) would start to identify with that and they would start coming.

DON hopes help will come from one of the three groups he has approached about the idea. One is a local church that helped clean up the site in 2021 and has also committed to returning for a season opening day of work on May 21 as well. Hassen said the master gardeners at the local Penn State extension, which she works for, should also help.

Then there’s Daisy Troop 52826, who Hassen says has agreed to adopt two of the garden’s beds, plant seedlings, and then be responsible for weeding, watering and harvesting.

Members of the troop helped close the garden last fall, while planting garlic.

“We like to do community service, something local, whenever we can,” troop leader Marissa Reeves said of her charges, aged 5 to 7. “My girls are daisies, so we’re learning to garden, and it fits in.

“We have adopted a few beds that we will grow vegetables in and take care of all summer.”

She expects the girls to work in the garden at least once every two weeks. They’re looking forward to the experience, Reeves said.

“A few of them helped last year when we closed the garden. They dug their elbows in the mud and they loved it. We are going to be as active as possible there.

Still, Rice noted, the goal is for the space to become a true community garden.

“In addition to these groups,” he said, “we will also depend on the community to come out and help us help them.”

To that end, Rice and her team have taken steps to make the site more than just a vegetable garden.

On May 21 clean-up day, for example, there will also be food, entertainment and other activities to help neighbors interact and get to know each other. This, in turn, could lead to another initiative.

“We’re trying to get them to start South Side Community Watch, like we did (on the Lower East Side) and other things to get them involved,” Rice said.

Visits to the garden, Hassen added, do not necessarily mean work.

“We have a picnic table,” she said. “Neighbors tell us that they bring their children and have lunch at the picnic table. That’s what we want them to do. Kenny deliberately designed an open space where we didn’t put any beds.

“We could have put 10 more (the garden has eight) but we thought maybe if they went further and had space where they could play ball or do something active, it would also bring them to the garden, and eventually they would start working in the garden.

Shelley Vendemia, another member of Rice’s team, said that once neighborhood kids visit, they’re naturally curious.

“Children want to learn,” she says. “They want to know how to plant, they want to know how to water. They want to be active. »

Rice added: “It helps kids learn to respect the garden and learn where the food really comes from – getting back to nature instead of going shopping at Walmart. Tomatoes are not grown at Walmart.

Yet no one has to toil in the garden on the South Side or the Lower East Side to get their harvest. They also don’t have to live nearby; vegetables are available to anyone who needs them.

And while the work can be taxing, Rice — who is also the Elm Street program manager for DON — it’s also rewarding.

He told the story of watching children spread a blanket and have a picnic in the Lower East Side garden, where he watched them talk, play and explore. And, after taking a break on a hot July day at the South Side Garden, an ice cream truck pulled up in front of him and a boy jumped up and brought him a bomb. The truck driver told him, “This is for you. Thanks guys for what you do in the community.

“These are the moments that are worth it,” he said. “I have thought several times about abandoning these gardens. It can be work. But stories like these make the day.

“We get validation in a little pop bomb. It made everything we had done before worth it.

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