Giving Garden helps struggling families
By Don Rush
As the days grow shorter, colder and the leaves start to change colors, many local gardeners are wrapping up their growing season. So, too are the volunteers of the Giving Garden.
For over 22 years volunteers have grown vegetables on W. Drahner Rd., to help area families.
“I was at St. Joseph’s Church and one woman was asking for volunteers to help her with a garden to help those in need. I like to grow from seeds, so I said ‘sure.’ When she left, I took over,” Stephanie Abate said.
Abate is a master gardener who runs the Giving Garden located on the Oxford Community Schools property, formerly known as the Dominican Sisters Convent at 775 West Drahner. The garden plot is about 80 by 100 feet. Volunteers have tended the garden and harvested the fruits. Abate said this year the garden provided about 1,000 pounds of produce to the Remnant Project Ministries Food Pantry of Lake Orion.
The food pantry is operated out of the Community of Christ Church on 531 E. Flint St. According to the pantry’s website, “Remnant Project Ministries Food Pantry of Lake Orion distributes food to those who are currently struggling to feed their families due to health or financial issues. We serve many terminally ill people, as well as senior citizens and those that cannot find work. We serve about 25 to 35 families a week, many with children.” When available they distribute between 1,000 to 1,300 pounds of food a week.
Abate said the garden had been let go for a year during the property transfer from the Dominicans to Oxford Community Schools.
“Yeah, we had a lot of weeds to clean up this past spring,” she said.
Abate said the produce grown is organic. She and volunteers like Mindy Denninger, start plants from seeds in a greenhouse located on the property before planting in the garden. She starts the seeds in April for a late May planting.
Denninger and others this year have helped Abate and also gained “volunteer hours” to complete requirements for certification as a Master Gardener through the Michigan State University Extension Program. “Learning gardening techniques from an expert like Stephanie is wonderful. Serving the community, meeting some wonderful new people, and spending time outdoors in this peaceful and historic place makes helping here an activity where you get so much more than you give,” Denninger said.
Abate said she always welcomes new volunteers at the Giving Garden, “No experience necessary,” she said.
There is still produce that needs picking and they will need help when they button up the garden for the year. Volunteers can Abate by email firstname.lastname@example.org or just show up to the garden on Saturdays mornings at 10 a.m.