Thursday, June 14, 2012

Heroes of the Day: SACG Benefits from Urban Connections Volunteer Invasion

Can you tell that your Faithful Garden Manager is more relaxed today? Yes, the tiny bit of rain we received on Monday helped a bit by putting a few hundred gallons into our tank. However, another giant weight was lifted from my shoulders by the Urban Connections volunteers who visited the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden yesterday. They hoed the overgrown weeds in four plots, planted squash and rows of beans, and moved the giant wood chip pile from inside the annex.

It’s time for the annual Urban Connections Vacation Bible School. This brings a lot of out-of-town volunteers to stay in the neighborhood for a week and help with all of the youth activities, like a scavenger hunt, a skating excursion, swimming and, yesterday, a visit to Ohio Caverns.  Six of the volunteers -- from the Dover Ohio Alliance Church -- stayed behind to help Cathy and me at the SACG in the afternoon. Luckily, we had beautiful weather (unlike the scorcher from two years ago). I put together a long to-do list and put weeding the four abandoned plots at the top of that list. They did an awesome job and filled three of our compost bins to the top with all of the weeds they pulled. While four of the ladies pulled weeds, two of the teens volunteered to shovel and move wood chips from the annex. (You may recall that we had six loads delivered when we really only needed two). Now we have room for another raised bed and/or a picnic table. While they pulled weeds and shoveled chips, I pulled the pernicious morning glory weeds that had started growing in the paths and Cathy planted tomato seedlings (with compost I brought from home).

Once the weeds had been pulled, two of the young people planted squash and rows and rows of beans. Unlike my general practice, we did not plant them in the mound, but instead, planted them at the bottom of a trench so that we could direct any water directly to the seeds and maximize any rain which falls. Their volunteer leader was then tasked with transplanting the irises and day lilies we received from Epworth United Methodist Church last week, cosmos seeds that I saved from last year and gladiola bulbs I purchased from Strader's Nursery earlier in the Spring. She also worked on weeding our three flower beds. Then, while the volunteers went back to shower in time for their next excursion, Cathy and I planted the rest of my pepper seedlings and the bell pepper seedlings donated by Oakland Nursery through GCGC. (That was more than two flats of peppers we put into the ground yesterday).

After Cathy left to shower in preparation for U/C’s evening activities, I watered in the new seedlings and our cherry trees and started spreading straw (which Cathy had donated). Then I watered the neighbor and food pantry plots and then my plot as the kids returned from their afternoon excursion and came over to the Garden to play in the sandbox and water their plots. Cristen watered the group kids’ plot and Tevon watered the boys’ bed. There was a vast improvement in the kids cleaning up after themselves when they put away the sandbox.

With all of the capital improvement projects we’ve undertaken at the SACG this year (with the addition of the annex and building and filling of seven raised beds), I had fallen behind in weeding and planting the abandoned plots. Most of the food will go towards our food pantry donation, but some of it we may try to sell at nearby Farmer’s Markets as a fundraiser for the SACG.

This, of course, does not mean that we’re all caught up in major work projects. I still have some more beans and tomatoes to plant, more straw to spread, rain barrels to reconfigure (while they are still empty and can be moved), a compost bin to assemble, and limestone moons and half moons to bury in our paths. Then, I can return to resting in my hammock on non-SACG days, sipping a cocktail and reading Game of Thrones. . . . . . Feel free to stop by to lend a hand.

Urban Connections is an urban ministry on the Near East side of Columbus, Ohio. It began in 1999 with a Vacation Bible School on 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 in 2009 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, assigns an adult or college-age mentor to each kid 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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