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
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.
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]