Churches plant gardens to feed those in need

Published 5:00 am Friday, April 24, 2009

Two local churches are putting their space to use in order toput food in the mouths of the hungry during the strugglingeconomy.

But it’s not in the traditional soup kitchen way.

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church on East Cherokee Streetand Grateful Ministries International Church on South First Streethave both donated pieces of their land, hoping that the produceplanted there will “be fruitful and multiply.”

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St. Francis’ garden is a little patch in the yard of theiractivities center. Garden Committee Head Jiminnette Phillips saidthe project, nicknamed “Peas for the People,” will bring forthproduce such as new potatoes, corn, peas, radishes, cucumbers,squash and carrots to supplement the church’s already active foodpantry.

“The St. Vincent DePaul food pantry serves the needs of thepeople who fall through the loopholes,” Phillips said.

The church’s food pantry, which began operating as an extensionof St. Vincent DePaul Ministries in 2002 serves about 450 families,and more than 1,000 people each year.

Phillips said the idea for the community garden started when oneof the church’s parishioners commented that it would be nice toprovide people with fresh vegetables. So with the help of theBrookhaven Master Gardeners, the little garden that will feed athousand was formed.

“This is our first year, and we hope it will continue, dependingon the success of it,” Phillips said.

And Father Matthew Simmons said the little garden is close tothe hearts of the church because of the identity of their patronsaint.

“It has been very significant to us because St. Francis ofAssisi is so tied up in people’s minds with animals but also withnature, and has been considered a patron saint of environmentalcauses,” he said. “So hopefully with the community becoming moreenvironmentally minded, we see it as an important way we can bringthe spirit of St. Francis to the community.”

Meanwhile, out on South First Street, another community gardenis in the works.

“That’s truly a community garden right there,” Phillips said ofthe 8-acre plot of land donated by Grateful Ministries that, alongwith the “O” Foundation, will become another source of food for thehungry.

“We thought it would be something good, we’ve got the propertythat’s just sitting there. If it could be a blessing to somebodylet’s roll with it,” said Pastor Terrell Brinson, adding that theidea came from “O” Foundation President Rose Powell.

Powell said the community garden project is something that shehas wanted to see happen for quite some time.

“This is something we’ve been trying to do for two years,” shesaid, adding that the garden will serve a lot of differentneeds.

First, she said, the vegetables that come from the plot will goto feed the needy. Secondly, community members who are interestedin having their own garden but who don’t have room for it will begiven a piece of garden of their very own to plant and tend, aslong as it is maintained and weeded.

Third, if all goes according to plan, part of the acreage willbe cultivated by area teenagers who need something to keep thembusy during school breaks.

“They need summer jobs,” she said. “And that’s what we did whenI was young. I learned how to garden.”

But overall, said Brinson, it’s a gift to people who have toworry about where the next meal is coming from.

“Just mainly because of the economy now, and we’re in acommunity where there is a lot of lack, we just want to be able todo something,” he said. “It’s small to just be able to tend agarden, but once we raise a harvest, different ones thatparticipated can go out and get something for their family. It’sjust our small way of giving back to the community.”