Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Heroes of the Day: Blessings Abound With Urban Connections Volunteers in Town

Peace flowed like a River at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden yesterday as we benefitted from the hard work of volunteers from Upper Arlington, Hilliard and The Ohio State University during high temperatures and even higher humidity. In particular, we were blessed that one of our neighbors – Urban Connections – whose Ministry House is located one block away on Cherry Street (at the corner of Fairwood) shared with us for an afternoon about ten of their hardworking volunteers who were spending their summer vacation by lending a hand in the greater Stoddart Avenue neighborhood.

This is Vacation Bible School week at UC and they have a houseful of suburban volunteers staying with them to lend a hand. Last week, UC's Cathy asked me if I needed a hand at the Garden. Sure! I replied. I had offered them a pile of wood chips that we had leftover from April and Cathy indicated that they could use them to mulch around their Ministry House and to create paths in their garden area in the backyard. I also gave them a few extra seedlings for their own garden. On Friday afternoon, she emailed me about their availability to get the wood chips on Monday afternoon. Of course, I suggested that I had other tasks which would benefit the SACG and promptly hijacked all of the volunteers who crossed the street to the Garden. . . ..

About four of them concentrated on shoveling wood chips into the back of a pickup truck and unloading and spreading them at the UC Ministry House. My hero from Hilliard then left shoveling duty and replaced 11 of our cedar fence stakes with sturdier metal fence stakes which had been donated to us in May by Trudeau Fencing (also from the Hilliard area). He even located a sledge hammer for the occasion (when my smallish hammer did not sufficiently sink the posts into the brick-laden ground).

Three nice ladies weeded Martha's plot as well as the Holloway family plot before turning to greater weeding duties around the garden. One nice lady planted gladiola bulbs. Two "youngsters" from OSU planted Jupiter's Beard flowers (donated by a Bexley gardener), cleaned up the area around the compost bins and spread extra wood chips in that area to keep down the weeds. Another helped Keyante thin her carrots and pull weeds. Eric helped Dionte plant two tomato plants (and play basketballJ).

Did I mention how hot it was? If there was ever a day to kill any interest in community gardening that new volunteers may have once had, yesterday may have been it. Working in 85 degree temperatures with 95% humidity while they weeded, shoveled, pounded fence posts and planted would destroy the fledgling interest of any normal person. However, the Urban Connections volunteer crew was admirably upbeat and got a lot done for us. A horde of children joined us around 2:30 and some of the "youngsters" began teaching them Peace Like a River. Some of the kids also used the water from our new tank to fill their water guns (which I quickly and strongly tried to discourage). I myself was almost delirious from the heat by the time I left and had stopped speaking in coherent sentences about an hour before that. Nonetheless, I was inspired that several people stopped by afterwards to tell me how much better the Garden looked.

Urban Connections is an urban ministry on the Near East side of Columbus, Ohio. It began in 1999 with a Vacation Bible School in a vacant lot run by volunteers. They have grown from that small VBS to an organization committed to seeing growth in our neighborhood. Its mission is to connect people with Christ and each other and to develop our community together. Currently their ministry programs are based at a house on Fairwood Avenue – just one block from the SACG. I learned about UC last year when Betty and I first visited the neighborhood to invite them to join the Garden. Several mothers mentioned UC ran a great program for their children. UC helps the neighborhood children with their homework, has computers (with internet connections), has a weekly Bible Study and dinner for each age group and otherwise organizes fun activities for the kids (such as the basketball court they built on an adjoining lot). Like most busy non-profit organizations, they are always looking for more volunteers, etc. to work with the neighborhood kids.

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