The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir April 26, 2009

 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

 

Dallas International Street Church Gospel Choir

 

My friends Sandy and Oliver have given me, over the last 5-1/2 years, literally carloads of clothing, blankets, shoes, and toiletries that I’ve given away to our friends who live on the street and under the bridges in Dallas. They are the most ongoing and prolific donors imaginable for people experiencing homelessness in our city. Oliver, a chef, works many Saturday nights, so Sandy and I go out to dinner then from time to time, and last night was one of those times.

 

When Sandy and I met to go to dinner last evening, she’d brought with her a clothing donation (no surprise) for the Glory Thrift Store at 2704 Second Avenue (75210), the thrift shop of the Dallas International Street Church. “Let’s go down to the Thrift Store right now,” I told her, “and I’ll show you the site for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, which is nearby!”  She was game.  

[https://theintermittentvolunteer.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/the-garden-south-dallas-texas/]

 

We arrived at the Street Church, and two men I know from Pastor Karen Dudley’s discipleship were standing out front. I’d forgotten about their live televised church service every Saturday at 7:30 P.M., which I’d attended several weeks ago and really enjoyed.  “We missed the bus to the TV show by two minutes,” the guys told me.  “We’ll drive you!” I told them, and we headed over to the Access 34 Television studio.

[http://www.gospelondemand.tv/]

 

Inside the tv studio, we said hi to everyone, and, before the broadcast, Pastor Karen got all of us started singing — the choir, the audience — “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  Every time I’m in the presence of the DISC Gospel Choir, I can’t help singing, clapping, practically shouting along with their joy-filled sound, and last night was no exception.  By the time the broadcast started, everyone in the studio was swept up in the Love and the Spirit carried around the room by the choir’s beautiful voices and the sense of celebration in each face.  By the time they’d stopped singing, they had, as usual, brought me to tears.

 

Next time WFAA Channel 8 has its Gospel Choir Competition, we could all write in and support them in being part of it!

 

KS

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The Garden: South Dallas, Texas April 17, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009


“The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein;…”  ~~ Psalm 24

The Garden:  South Dallas, Texas

 

Gardeners, Mandy in Front


On the morning of April 2, 2009, I blithely put up a blog post here about gardens (“The Magic of Gardens”.)  I quote myself from that article:  ”The idea [of a community garden] is something that’s beyond my purview to [help] organize … right now,” – and I was convinced of that at the time.  However, by the same afternoon, I had received e-mails from staff members of two of the best nonprofit agencies benefitting people who are homeless in the City of Dallas saying that they were interested in being involved.

 

Janet offered the possible involvement of some volunteers.  Pat informed me that Pastor Karen Dudley, Founder and Senior Pastor of the Dallas International Street Church in South Dallas, had been wanting to start a community garden for years, and, most importantly, that she had access to land where it could be done.                                                                                           [http://www.kdministries.org/]


I realized that perhaps…  a community garden with and for Pastor Karen’s congregation and neighborhood and the street people of Dallas and was an idea whose time may have come.

 

Pastor Karen is a friend and someone I deeply admire (see “Miracle on Second Avenue”), and by the next afternoon, she and I were in the meadow adjacent to her church property, looking at a possible garden site.  A week later, several people met at the Street Church to discuss what was involved in undertaking such a project.  By the end of the meeting, these generous women, including Pastor Karen, had taken out their checkbooks and given us a significant start on a “Seed Money Fund.”  

 

Driving home, I phoned my church, The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, and asked Outreach Director, Martha Lang, whether they might be willing to contribute to our community garden’s Seed Money Fund.  I sent her a proposal that night and received a reply that she thought they could help.  Miracle of miracles, it is two weeks to the day since “The Magic of Gardens” was written, and… The Garden: South Dallas, Texas (so dubbed by Pastor Karen) seems to be coming to life.

 

Generosity of Friends


 

~~  Our Seed Money Fund is up to $550.00, raised from the Garden Committee and Church of the Incarnation.  $300 of this money will go to purchase organic soil from a Dallas company;  the rest will go for concrete blocks to construct the four raised beds for the first phase of The Garden.  (The soil on the land is not tillable.)

~~  We are incredibly blessed to have a work force of homeless individuals coming for a Garden-Raising Day (remember old-time barn raisings?) the first week in May to clean up the land and construct the beds.  This has been arranged by The Stewpot of First Presbyterian Church in Dallas, and the group will work alongside Pastor Karen’s congregation (most of whom have also come from the streets of Dallas).  Our nonprofit friends are also providing work gloves and some tools!

~~  The Garden is being planned to be wheelchair accessible:  one of our Garden Committee members, also an experienced gardener, uses a wheelchair, and she will advise us.  Many individuals experiencing homelessness, whom we hope will come and work with us, use one as well.

~~  We have received invaluable input, research, information, donation of materials and enthusiastic support both from our Garden Committee members and from friends.  All of this is much appreciated.

 

What Do We Need?


 

~~  To increase our Seed Money Fund in order to buy hoses to reach The Garden and soaker hoses for the beds to save water, to put a second level of concrete blocks on a few of our beds to make them higher for those in wheelchairs, to afford to construct additional raised beds beyond the four that our budget allows for now

NO DONATION IS TOO SMALL (unless you want change for a penny!)

~~  Donation of new or used fencing to enclose The Garden in stages to ward off theft or vandalism

~~  Donations of healthy plants or seeds from other gardeners (we’d love to try some heirloom seeds)

~~  Gardening tools of all kinds, garden carts or wheelbarrows for transporting soil and plant materials, or anything else you can think of!

 

Who Is the ‘Community’ in ‘Community Garden’?


‘Who Is the Community’ in the ‘Community Garden’ called The Garden: South Dallas, Texas?  It is Pastor Karen’s church congregation and the friends and neighbors who live around the church (a neighborhood which would benefit greatly from fresh produce, as there are few supermarkets nearby), but also the true and full sense of community for The Garden: South Dallas, Texas, extends beyond geographical borders to include the entire homeless community of Dallas.  One may not typically think of people spread across the city in different geographical locations as such, but a community it is – 

it is a spiritual network of human beings spread across Dallas, the members of which sometimes stay in shelters, sometimes in alleys or behind dumpsters, sometimes under bridges in cardboard homes.


If you wonder whether this is a community, ask a person who is homeless on the streets of downtown whether they know a person who lives under a particular freeway overpass in a cardboard home several miles away. Percentage-wise, I’m guessing they are more likely to know that individual than many of us would be likely to know someone on our own block in the suburbs.

 

Our mission, our vision, our commitment, then, is a little different from that of the typical community garden, and also includes the desire to bring together people from disparate parts of the city with differing backgrounds to help us all come to know each other and to realize:  we are the same — not ‘us and them.’  So come and work with us!


Possibilities for the Future

 

~~  We would like for The Garden to include benches, picnic tables, and walking paths for the enjoyment of  gardeners, congregants, friends, and neighborhood families.  Our dream is that it can become a beautiful and peaceful refuge for the community, with flowers, berries, fruit trees and herbs as well as vegetables.

 

~~  In time, we would love to have a produce stand out front that the gardeners can operate as a small business.  

~~  We hope that a second phase of The Garden can contain raised beds for neighborhood families to rent for a nominal fee and manage on their own, such as is done in the East Dallas Community Garden and others.  Our first four beds will serve the Street Church, the neighborhood, and the homeless community at large across the city.

~~  Perhaps in the future our gardeners can attend Master Classes in gardening at a community college, or go to work for landscaping companies or garden centers.  Thus The Garden could come to help with job skills training.

 

For Now, a Hope for Healing

 

In a time of ’food insecurity’, growing what can sustain you has real power in and of itself.  Along with this, perhaps someone who is in transition in their lives will come to dig or weed or plant in The Garden and remember…  she or he had a garden as a child with their family, and it was a good thing.  A healing reconnection to the past could be made by someone who has been alienated from his or her loved ones.  Perhaps someone will realize, after feeling for a very long time that he or she can do nothing right in society’s eyes or their own… they have a skill, a gift and can make a contribution.  Few things are more powerful than feeling that we matter and that we have something to give.

 

E-Mail:  thegardensouthdallas@earthlink.net

Karen Shafer

 

P.S.  Within 48 hours of writing “The Magic of Gardens”, I received this e-mail from my grandson, Louis, who is six (Cora is his cousin, also six):

“i herd about the homeless garden wen you get started can we help? and is cora helpeng.  love, louis.”

Good news travels fast!!!

 

“…What I do you cannot do:  but what you do, I cannot do.  The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things.  But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”   ~~Mother  Teresa

 

Link:  Dallas Homeless Network Blog [http://dallashomelessnetwork.blogspot.com/2009/04/garden-for-homeless-community.html]

 

The Magic of Gardens April 2, 2009

 

Thursday, April 2, 2009

 

The Magic of Gardens

(Someone, Please Steal This Idea!)

 

I love to garden in the winter, and in our North Texas climate, that is probably a good thing.  One has to get an early start on the Texas heat, and it’s always tricky striking a balance between getting a jump on the drought and blistering sun with plants that are liable to bolt, and trying to ‘cheat’ our freeze date of March 17 by planting tender things like potatoes early — then remembering to cover them if we get a late freeze.  There was one year when my kids were little — by the first of April, I had a burgeoning garden over which I was blissfully prideful, only to watch a late freeze take it down in mid-April!

 

This year, my son-law-law and grandson beat me to the punch.  They had their onions in by mid-February, and now theirs are way ahead of mine.  Still, by the second week in March, I could see the beginnings in my small vegetable patch of sugar-pod peas, carrots, Swiss chard, onions, tomatoes inter planted with nasturtiums, Italian parsley, radishes and bibb lettuce — all planted with the help of my three grandchildren.  And in the perennial bed, lavender, rosemary, lamb’s ear, echinacea, artemisia and perennial marigold had over-wintered successfully and were leafing out.

 

Then my granddaughter found some potato plants growing out of small pieces of potato skin in the compost pile, and she pulled them out.  One already had teensy baby potatoes growing on the roots, not an eighth of an inch long.  She and I were pretty thrilled with this discovery and stuck the plants into the dirt at the end of the veggie patch.  Four out of five are still going strong!  

 

Today, she and I found a cloves of garlic sprouting in a basket in the kitchen, took them outside and stuck them in the ground.  Later, we were thinning the lettuce plants, and she asked, “Do we take these and put them somewhere else?”  “We can eat them if we want to, since we didn’t have salad for dinner.”  Her eyes widened with tremendous excitement after a lifetime of being told she absolutely could not eat plants she picked up in her nature studies!  We were washing dirt off lettuce sprouts and popping them in our mouths for the next half hour.

 

And what of my rather fatal tendency to research seed catalogs in the dead of winter, make detailed lists, shop for seeds, plan, diagram, plant, and chart a garden fervently in late winter / early spring, set up elaborate systems of hose hookups for watering…  then get busy with other things and skip the rather vital part of actually doing the watering for several days at a time in a climate where three days without water is a death knell to many plants?  Hallelujah!  My grand kids as almost-first-graders are responsible enough now to head straight out to the garden, grab the hose, and give things a good soaking themselves.

 

When my girls were small, Steve, their dad (an expert gardener who puts me in the shade) kept a really marvelous and large organic garden.  We literally had three or four varieties of fresh vegetables for dinner most nights during peak season.  One mild winter day, my daughters and I went out to sit in the garden plot and ‘watch nature.’  All the vegetables from the previous fall had long been harvested and consumed.  Then one of us noticed some carroty-looking sprouts coming out of the ground and pulled them up.  There were several sweet, cold carrots that had managed to winter over!  We wiped the dirt off and ate them on the spot.  My girls are twenty-eight and thirty-one now, and we still talk about that day and how good those carrots tasted.

 

These days, as soon in the afternoon as I get a chance, I head out to the garden.  It is such a tonic.  There is something healing about being there that helps me leave everything behind — something that goes beyond words.  

 

Recently, while I was out there deadheading winter growth off of some perennials, I began to think of the healing effects of being in the garden, ‘watching the lettuce grow,’ and I thought how great it would be for people in homeless shelters to be able to plant and manage a community garden, while they are in the process of transitioning from the street into housing.  My fantasy spun off into all the elements required to grow strong plants:  getting the proper soil balance and consistency, providing the right combination of water and sun to help a particular plant thrive, finding a healthy harmony between management and ‘letting things be’ — just like the right balance of elements for a happy and successful human life.  Gardening seems to be art as well as science.

 

I thought of the sheer magic of sticking a seed into the ground and seeing it transform itself into a flower, herb or vegetable that can be enjoyed for its beauty or brought to the dinner table (or eaten on the spot, like my girls and their carrots, and mine and my granddaughter’s lettuce sprouts!)  I thought of how people in shelter settings could learn to work together — and of how the healing power of being in a garden would facilitate that. 

 

Then I pictured a stall at the Farmer’s Market in downtown, where the good people of Dallas were lined up to support formerly homeless individuals who had grown prize-winning organic produce and were offering it for sale.  All of the things that had gotten them to that point with a garden would be part and parcel of a skill set that could help them toward self-sufficiency in their lives:  cooperation, organization, planning and executing a project, seeing it through to completion, a bit of ‘prayer and magic’ for an auspicious result, and earning some cash off it all to boot.

 

The idea is something that’s beyond my purview to organize and pull off right now.  But I wish someone would steal it and run with it — maybe someone at the Bridge or other shelter facility or non-profit agency downtown.  If it happens, I’ll come and help with the weeding, and I’ll be the first in line at the Farmer’s Market stall, cash in hand!

 

KS