Friday, May 21st, 2010
By Shelley Grieshop
Giving Garden
Volunteers hope to grow community spirit to help families
  CELINA - A special garden is being planted in Celina to provide fresh produce to low-income families in Mercer and Auglaize counties.
Three employees of Sources Community Network Services in Celina are spearheading "The Giving Garden" project to benefit clients of CALL Food Pantry in Celina and Agape Ministries in St. Marys.
Unfortunately, the charitable endeavor hasn't gotten off to a great start due to recent weather conditions.
"Rain's been our enemy," laughed Sarah Valentine, one of the women organizing the project.
As soon as the 30-foot-by-75-foot plot outside Sources door on Brandon Avenue is dry enough to plant, Valentine, co-workers Debra Kemper and Shannon Current and community volunteers will grab shovels and go, they said.
"We're going to put in tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, green beans, radishes, lettuce . . . maybe even some melons on the ends," Valentine said.
The women estimate the overall project to cost $5,460; funding is 100 percent through donations.
"We've been really grateful for the donations we've received so far from the community," she said.
After getting the word out through church bulletins and other means, several area businesses and individuals stepped up to provide top soil, seeds, plants, tools and other items, Valentine said.
Tim Clutter, the director of CALL Food Pantry, said he hopes some of the people who use CALL's services sign up to help take care of the Giving Garden and get "some dirt under their own fingernails."
"This will give them some useful skills that will benefit them in the future as they get back on their feet financially," he said. "I have heard of a proverb that goes, 'Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.' This is definitely a teaching program."
Harvesting nutritious food
from the garden isn't the only goal of the organizers. Container gardens also will be distributed to food pantry clients wishing to plant, tend and eat their own homegrown vegetables and fruit. They've already received about $500 worth of seeds and other items for the container gardens, the women said.
The women also are asking area residents to plant a little extra in their own backyard plots to donate to the food pantries. Clutter said the Celina food pantry benefited from such actions last year.
"One gentleman donated five acres of sweet corn while many other generous people brought in fresh produce from their own gardens," he said.
The bounty of produce received added great nutrition and freshness to the normal canned vegetables CALL provides its clients, Clutter added.
Valentine, Kemper and Current initially envisioned a small garden in an empty flower bed near Sources front door. But after further discussion, they decided to expand on the idea and use it as a required project for their leadership program.
The women participate in the Community Action Leadership Academy (CALA), a statewide, hands-on organization that helps members build a variety of leadership skills while earning education credits. Each participant is required to complete a project during the 12-month curriculum period.
The women hope their garden is bountiful and their project continues for years to come.
"Our main goal is to get the community involved in this project so everyone benefits," Valentine said.

How to help:
Organizers of The Giving Garden project are asking for help with a community garden to feed needy people in the area. Anyone interested in participating can call Sources Community Network Services at 419-584-1550.
Project organizers are currently seeking:
• Volunteers to help plant, tend and harvest the garden to be planted near Sources Community Network Services, 420 N. Brandon Ave., Celina.
• Donations of various plants, tools (old and new) such as hoes, shovels, spades, rakes, tomato cages and hoses, as well as cash donations.
• Residents willing to donate extra produce from their own gardens to feed clients of Call Food Pantry in Celina and Agape Ministries in St. Marys.
- Shelley Grieshop
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