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The Phoenix: Labyrinth Being Built At St. John's Garden

  • Subject: [cg] The Phoenix: Labyrinth Being Built At St. John's Garden
  • From: Alliums <garlicgrower@earthlink.net>
  • Date: Wed, 04 Aug 2004 10:34:00 -0400

Hi, Folks!

Here's the article from today's (8/4/04) copy of The Phoenix.  Remember that agriculture is an infinitely expanding activity and we can ALWAYS use more volunteers on Tuesday nights.

Also, a HUGE thank-you to Tina Abel, Paul Simon, Carol Henzel and Keasha for showing up last night for the Tuesday Perennial Volunteer picture (which unfortunately, wasn't used) and to Bob Noll, Ray Lisiewski , Ed O'Neill,  and Dottie
Doepping for showing up last Wednesday to talk to the reporter and be photographed!

Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden

A mission of
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA  19460


Labyrinth Being Built At St. John's Garden
The Phoenix -- by Kelly Devine

PHOENIXVILLE - Phoenixville's free community garden is adding a labyrinth to its scenic tranquility.

The St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden is located at 412 Fairview Street, behind Bethel Baptist Church and the Fairview Housing Project.

"The St. John's UCC garden is a local mission. It is the church working in a variety of ways within the Phoenixville Community to build relationships, to provide direct food to those in need and to offer constructive, tangible work for youth who can then take pride in an accomplishment that benefits others," said Rev. Linda Gruber, pastor of St. John's UCC.

The medieval labyrinth is currently being constructed by volunteers and adjudicated youths. The project began back in June after a grant in May from the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation. Volunteers are hoping to have the maze completed by October, but the shale and clay in the ground are slowing construction

The maze will be 46 feet in diameter with 16-inch-wide mound walls about knee high. Walking to the center of the labyrinth will take about 15 to 20 minutes. The maze is circular, after the medieval Christian design. Much geometry went into the planning of the turf labyrinth, which will use a special three-inch grass used at Mariott Hotels. Forty-five labyrinths exist in Pennsylvania, including a classical-type stone labyrinth in town on the old steel property.

"This labyrinth will be here 10 years from now, and people will still be using it. It's a permanent thing," said garden coordinator Dorene Pasekoff.

One 20-inch-wide path will lead to and from the center of the maze, leaving no decisions for the confused souls walking its corridors. The location has been measured so that the visual field from the maze is in no way obstructed.

"The labyrinth is primarily used for meditation, writer's block and artist inspiration," said Pasekoff. "It was originally meant to improve mental health, but now that Phoenixville is an art community, it's also going to fit right into that."

The community garden is also used to teach organic gardening techniques to the Chester County Juvenile Probation Program and the Mitchell Program students of St. Gabriel's Hall. Last year, they worked on an herb garden at the site. Pasekoff said the kids like having their own project. The youths are part of the volunteer labor that aids with the garden and labyrinth.

"There's a need for places for kids to do their community service that are closer," Pasekoff said. "Kids sentenced can come to Phoenixville and help their own community."

Gleaning volunteer Ray Lisiewski supplies food, talks to the boys and teaches them life lessons. Teamwork, doing something right the first time and working smarter, not harder are all stressed.

"It's not just doing something, it's learning," said Ed O'Neil, who teaches the juveniles how to safely and effectively use the tools in the field.

"It's people helping people like it used to be," said Lisiewski.

Perennial Garden Volunteers meet at the award-winning garden after work until dusk on Tuesdays from March to October. Many volunteer opportunities exist at the garden for those not interested in having their own plots. Dogs Pepper and Freckles regularly attend the community garden, which is open April through November.

The organic garden has been in operation since 1991. Free 25-square- foot plots are offered to members of the community. Currently, 30 people, mostly families, occupy the twelve plots of the garden. The plots are designed to each feed a family of four.

"I enjoy the friendships I've met here. We share ideas and help each other," said first year gardener Dottie Doepping. "It just feels good to pull something from the earth. It's just a fun thing."

"When you get really good crops, it feels really good. Last year, I had some good pumpkins," said Doepping's young neighbor Kurt.

Ten percent of harvests are donated to people in need through the Phoenixville Area Community Services (PACS) Food Bank, making the garden the primary source of in-season fresh produce to the food bank. The garden also serves as a "plant bank" for the Seed Savers Exchange and the American Community Gardening Association.

St. John's sponsors the garden that sits on the housing authority's land. The community garden is part of the Chester County Food Provider Network and the Chester County Gleaning Program.

"Agriculture is an infinitely expanding activity," said Pasekoff, who invites the community to come out and enjoy the garden. Those interested and willing to learn are also asked to help with labyrinth construction on Tuesdays.

For more information about the St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden, contact alliums@yahoo.com or 610-933-5311.

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