Our devoted Volunteer Garden Managers, Rev. Lori Staubitz and Winzell Beckett, have been working at Montgomery Neighborhood Center at least once a week since spring 2013. You will usually find them in the garden Thursday afternoons – or evenings during the winter. They believe that showing up at a regular time to work in the garden helps them become a true part of the community and makes it easier for the kids and seniors to join in the garden work.
During the last 6 months, Lori and Winzell have built relationships with Montgomery's Senior Coordinator, Viola Curry, folks who gather at the center, next door neighbors who water the garden and play garden work music, and the children who walk through the garden daily on their way home from school or to play basketball or play on the playground next door.
Montgomery, a program of Southwest Area Neighborhood
(SWAN) and located on Cady Street
in the PLEX neighborhood, was opened in 1961 as a gathering space to "promote
and foster neighborhood life and to guide its development." Lunch is
served weekdays to dozens of residents over the age of 60.Along with a hot meal, the folks who gather
share friendship, stories, emotional support, sewing projects, and a tea pot
collection.The median household income
in the area is barely over $15,000.Of
the 200 school-aged children who live in this neighborhood, about 50% live in
When we started working here, the first project Lori and Winzell took on was to help the senior women get their garden in order. It needed fencing for protection from the resident woodchuck and it needed to be rearranged and adapted so that it was easier for aging bodies to work in.
Then, they got to work transforming the grassy lot into a lush garden space - planning and planting the beginnings of an edible food forest, building raised beds, planting pear trees and Swiss chard, perennial vegetables like sea kale and fennel, edible flowers like violets, and herbs like red clover for tea.
This winter, Viola arranged for the children to be brought over from SWAN to Montgomery once a week after school. She and Lori are preparing food with the children, reading stories like Stone Soup, making tea, sewing and crafting garden related items, and starting seeds for the garden – with some they can take home. Along with practical skills, the children are learning about working together in a safe and peaceful environment. The winter program is an important part of our garden work because it continues the pattern of weekly work together, which keeps the children coming.
When spring thaw comes, Lori, Winzell, and the children will return to the garden to build and fill garden beds with fruit and nut trees and shrubs, perennial and annual vegetables, and edible and medicinal flowers and herbs. They will also add educational signs to help identify plants and show folks how to harvest and use them.This funding will help us buy trees, shrubs, plants, and seeds to fill up the garden beds. Your generous gift will also help us build a sun shelter, picnic table, educational signs, and welcoming entrances from both the sidewalk and the parking lot. With this funding we can also purchase local, seasonal foods and materials for our children's winter program and teach gardening classes to neighborhood children and adults.
Your donation will help us complete this garden project successfully and as a model of what we hope all of our gardens will become - oases of lush green spaces filled with free food in Rochester's current food deserts, created in partnership with garden neighbors, helping folks rediscover the joy, peace, and empowerment of a full belly and happy spirit that comes from growing, harvesting, and eating fresh, healthy foods, and giving the neighborhood children a safe place to be engaged in positive, life-giving activities that help them value peace and the empowerment of connecting with nature and growing food. Thank you for deciding to be a supporter of our work.
Risks and challenges
The landowner of this site (SWAN) is in transition to new leadership so there is some risk that the new Executive Director may not embrace our work. We feel confident that we will be able to build collaboration with the new director once s/he has been hired. We have a signed agreement for the garden to fall back on. Worst case scenario, which is hard to imagine would happen, we would try to purchase the land or move our project to another site.
There is the risk of vandalism in the garden. To reduce the likelihood of vandalism, we are talking with and inviting in all of the neighborhood youth to join us in the garden. Lori and Winzell have excellent skills for cultivating relationships within a diverse community. When the youth value the work we are doing there and the food and beauty, we believe they will join us to keep the garden thriving. So far our approach is working. Except for breaking a few small twigs off of one pear tree, the garden has been undisturbed.
Commitment, flexibility, and persistence are valuable assets that I personally possess as do our Garden Managers Lori and Winzell.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)