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2005 at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic CommunityGarden and Labyrinth

  • Subject: [cg] 2005 at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic CommunityGarden and Labyrinth
  • From: "Alliums" garlicgrower@green-logic.com
  • Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 16:10:57 -0500
  • Thread-index: AcYLHP9Js6Gwo75qSomtnu3Ux6ja7Q==

Hi, Folks!


St. John's United Church of Christ requires a "year in review" report from
each committee chair.  Here are the highlights of 2005 with the community
garden and labyrinth





The 2004 Season at St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community


In 2005, besides our normal work of growing vegetables to feed the hungry
and maintain our extensive heirloom plant collection, we dedicated the turf
labyrinth and continued our work with adjudicated youth. Here's a summary of
our very eventful year!


The Turf Labyrinth Dedicated!


The labyrinth was formally dedicated for community use on June 4.  Before
the event, the Mitchell Program of St. Gabriel's Hall came on several
Saturdays, as well as their usual Wednesday/Friday schedule to plant grass
and herbs on the mounds, sink the two benches into concrete and install the
Labyrinth Mailbox which contains the Labyrinth Information sheets that
explain how to use a labyrinth for walking meditation.  Our special guest
was State Representative Carole Rubley, who presented us with a certificate
of recognition for our participation in "Make A Difference Day."  Mib
Campbell and colleagues provided the outstanding music for the day and the
Mitchell Program handled the catering responsibilities beautifully, ensuring
that everyone had plenty to eat and drink.


Besides being mentioned in The Phoenix after the dedication (6/7) and the
Community Courier after the Peacemaker Award (9/26), the Philadelphia
Inquirer ran two stories on our labyrinth - one by Reid Kanaley on June 3
and a review of area labyrinths by Don Sapatkin on October 29.


Our labyrinth was accepted onto on the World Wide Labyrinth Locater at
http://wwll.veriditas.labyrinthsociety.org/ in April. Just plug in
Phoenixville's zip code (19460) and you'll see our listing - we'll add a
picture once the herbs fill in the mounds in 2006.


The labyrinth is now a regular stop for the Fairview children who tend to
alternate between playing running games on the labyrinth (up to 10 children
at a time!) and using the new playground equipment in their official
playground.  In good weather, one usually finds about two adults/day using
the labyrinth, although based on the notes left in the Labyrinth Mailbox,
the labyrinth has become a daily meditation exercise for several area adults
and parents from Bethel Baptist Church are encouraging their small children
to run the labyrinth before services.


Be sure to visit the labyrinth in March when the rare daffodils bulbs
purchased from the Delaware Valley Daffodil Society will be in bloom.





The Perennial Area Volunteers began the growing season in March.  Over the
season, we had up to ten adult volunteers and three dogs who came out every
Tuesday night from 5:30 pm to dark through October to tend the herb/fruit
tree/perennial areas and guide the youth sent to us by Chester County
Juvenile Probation to work off their community service. We expanded our
community service times to Sunday afternoon/evenings to accommodate a
Phoenixville High School junior doing community service for college
admission and three adults from the Chester County Adult Probation Office. 


Overall, it was a difficult year weather-wise - for the first time ever, we
were forced to cancel both the Spring and Fall Work Days because of cold,
steady rain.  The summer was extremely hot, especially in July and August
when "Code Red" heat advisories from the National Weather Service forced us
to cancel community service times for our youth helpers.  However, like the
Labyrinth Dedication, when we were able to host an event, it was a memorable


On May 21, we hosted Phoenixville Communities That Care "May Family Day Out"
Flowering Planting Workshop where participants learned how to select plants
at a garden center and then plant them for maximum impact over the season.
Afterwards, participants planted nearly $200 worth of annuals in the
labyrinth horticultural beds and around the garden so that by the Labyrinth
Dedication on June 4, the garden was ablaze with color and fragrance.


On May 26, we hosted Chester County Commissioner Andrew Dinniman and the
Chester County Gleaning Project folks to kick off the 2005 Gleaning Season
in Chester County.  Everyone was impressed with both the size of the
community garden and the biodiversity we maintain there.


On August 9, we hosted State Representative Carole Rubley's entire staff as
part of her Summer District Tour.  Her staff asked lots of questions, walked
through the entire garden and then agreed that such a varied greenscape
should be preserved in the future as open space for public use.


On September 11, the Phoenixville Area Violence Prevention Network awarded
the community garden its "Peacemaker Award" for our work with adjudicated
youth and the gift of the labyrinth to the wider community. We used the
prize money to buy fragrant herbs from Kate's Kitchen Garden of the
Phoenixville Farmer's Market to enhance the labyrinth-walking experience.


On September 24, the Labyrinth was the site of the Montalbano's recommitment
ceremony.  The Montalbanos also added the pine needles to the labyrinth
walkway which our labyrinth walkers say is very foot-friendly.  When the
snow melts, take a walk on the labyrinth and try it out!



Adjudicated Youth


The Mitchell Program of St. Gabriel's Hall brings between four and seven
boys to the garden every Wednesday and Friday (weather permitting). At the
Mitchell Program, the boys take care of a market garden and farm animals. At
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden, they learn the
stories behind heirloom vegetables, the principles of organic/sustainable
agriculture related to where they are in the growing season and do hands-on
tasks both to care for the different plants at the garden and to care for
the soil so that it will continue to produce. Many of the boys are from
inner-city Philadelphia and believe that agriculture is something the
Christian Brothers dreamed up from 100 years ago to keep them busy -- when
they come to the community garden, they meet other people whose primary food
sources come from what they grow, rather than what they buy and learn that
they, too, can grow food for themselves and their families at any time in
their lives when they choose to do so.


We continue our partnership with the Chester County Juvenile Probation
Community Service Program to provide badly needed community service
opportunities for youth in Northern Chester County throughout the growing
season.  This year, we provided service opportunities for 6 youth who
fulfilled their service requirements.  Almost as important to the Probation
Office, we provided daily e-mail reports about each youth who did and did
not complete their service (an additional 7 youth had promised to work at
the community garden, but either did not show or left immediately after
discovering the work requirements) and provided feedback about their
progress while at the garden (or not!).


We look forward to working with both the Mitchell Program of St. Gabriel's
Hall and the Chester County Juvenile Probation Community Service Program in
2006 and thank the adult Perennial Garden Volunteers for their encouragement
and patience in helping these youth tend to both the garden and their own




John Marino of Oakbourne Nursery in West Chester filled my truck twice this
summer with flowers and plants for the community garden and labyrinth.
Herbs from both Oakbourne and Kate's Kitchen Garden convinced us that we
should finish the labyrinth mounds with herbs, rather than grass, for both
low maintenance and high fragrance.


Irene Sobotincic donated an American Serviceberry tree, two types of
ornamental grasses, two grapevines and 4 hardy kiwis.




Our primary focus remains providing free garden space to anyone in the
Phoenixville area who wishes to garden organically and agrees to donate at
least 10% (the Biblical tithe) of their harvest either directly to someone
in need, to the food bank operated by Phoenixville Area Community Services
(PACS) or for immediate distribution to Phoenixville families by Beverly
Dean of Grimes AME Church or Mrs. Winston of Bethel Baptist Church. This
year's 25 gardeners on 12 plots remained the primary source of in-season
fresh produce for the PACS food bank. Our oldest gardener is 76 years old
and has been with the garden since it began in 1991 -- in spite of
arthritis, he manages the largest plot in the garden. One of our newest
plotholders is an autistic woman who learned gardening at Kimberton Hills
Camphill Village.  Having a plot at the community garden allows her to live
at home with her family, yet still spend days tending to the plants she
adores. Most of our gardeners are in their 40 and above, but as they bring
their grandchildren and nieces/nephews to work alongside them and we
continue to host groups of very young Fairview children (under 10 years old)
who enjoy playing in the garden and look for worms and insects under the log
borders, the next generation of gardeners is very much with us! Of course,
our work with adjudicated youth has greatly increased the number of
teenagers who participate in the garden.


Coordinator's Activities


On February 5, I attended the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's
conference, "People, Power, and Public Green Spaces: Building the Advocacy
Movement." On March 2, I spoke to the Berwyn Garden Club on "Culinary
Herbs." On March 18, I participated in the Garlic Seed Foundation's
Pennsylvania Garlic Roundtable.  On May 23, I represented the garden at
Commissioner Dinniman's conference, "Sharing the Harvest: People of Faith
Respond." On July 9, I attended the Philadelphia "Celebration of Community
Gardens" held at The Spring Garden. On November 1, I spoke to the Ridley Run
Garden Club on "Winter Gardening:  Getting a Jump on Spring." Throughout the
year, I wrote articles and did book reviews related to sustainable
agriculture. During the gardening season, I sent out a biweekly e-mail
update about progress with both the garden and the labyrinth. To receive
this e-mail garden/labyrinth newsletter in 2006, just e-mail me at
alliums@yahoo.com.  Your e-mail is placed under the Bcc: heading so no one
can "harvest" your e-mail address from this mailing.


The 2006 Season


The garden is currently taking a much-needed break for winter -- a schedule
of 2006 activities will be sent out soon. Meanwhile, if you or anyone you
know would like to donate time or garden on a plot in 2006, just call the
church at 610-933-5311 or drop me an e-mail at <alliums@yahoo.com>;
Agriculture is an infinitely expandable activity, so there's always
something to do for everyone! 


Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator

St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden and Labyrinth


A mission of 

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

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