Louisiana Chapter Helps Church’s Community Garden
They say “timing is everything,” and for WoodmenLife Chapter 1218 in West Monroe, LA, it was.
“I’ve always tried to find ways to beautify and support our community with our chapter’s service projects,” said Christie Brinkmeier, president of Chapter 1218. Thanks to her efforts, the chapter was able to get hundreds of packets of seeds donated from various stores and seed companies in the area. So Brinkmeier decided to contact the local 4-H club directors about the possibility of a community garden. “The timing could not have been better,” she said.
A Community Garden Takes Root
As it turned out, the 4-H clubs were building raised beds for a local church’s community garden. “I called the pastor of the church and we discussed the goals of the garden and WoodmenLife’s National Community Focus of fighting hunger,” Brinkmeier said. “We agreed we could help each other, so we created a partnership for our chapter to help with the project.”
The project is the “Let’s Grow Monroe” community garden at Assembly Church.
To get started, the chapter’s 2015 Make A Difference Day project helped clear debris from the garden, install some new raised beds and till and remove weeds from the existing beds.
“When we first started to prep the ground for the garden, we were hitting concrete blocks,” said Assembly Church Pastor Stewart Robinette. “So we went with the raised bed concept to get around that. WoodmenLife helped us get things ready to install 12 beds and move 8,000 pounds of dirt! They also donated seed packets and money for the dirt, which was a considerable cost savings for us.”
Since last fall, Chapter 1218 has stayed in touch with Pastor Robinette to support the garden’s growing needs, and the chapter is making the community garden their focus for 2016.
“We want to see the community garden succeed,” Brinkmeier said. “We’re going to help install a prayer/mediation flower garden and we’re working with Arrow Public Art, a group of students from the local university, to create a mural on the concrete wall that surrounds the entire garden.”
In addition, when the area recently experienced major flooding, the chapter stepped up to help get the garden ready for spring planting. “The garden was covered in about two feet of water and they lost one of the raised beds,” Brinkmeier said. “Once the waters receded, our members helped clean up the trash and debris that was left behind in the garden so they could bring in new soil to replace what had washed away.”
A Growing Opportunity
While timing played a role in Chapter 1218’s connection with a community garden, Brinkmeier believes there are opportunities for the idea to work elsewhere.
“Start with your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they can connect you with the right contacts. Find a church that does a monthly food distribution or connect with a local 4-H club to see if they’d like to partner with your chapter to start a community garden,” she said. “The ‘Let’s Grow Monroe’ garden still has a lot of work to do, but our chapter is committed to continuing what we started. This garden has so much potential, and we ultimately want it to be a safe haven for those who need it in our community.”