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Haven Family garden of hope (with a little help from Sunset, friends)

  • Subject: [cg] Haven Family garden of hope (with a little help from Sunset, friends)
  • From: Don Boekelheide <dboekelheide@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2004 18:08:36 -0800 (PST)

From the San Jose (CA) Mercury News

Garden of hope

Knight Ridder Newspapers

SAN JOSE, Calif. - (KRT) - A small army of volunteers
has come together to create a working organic farm at
Haven Family House, a residence for formerly homeless
families in Menlo Park, Calif.

The expansive garden - which has six raised beds and a
miniature orchard - will be used to grow food crops to
nourish the moms, dads and kids who are seeking a new
start at the shelter.

But the garden also will be nurturing that elusive
thing called hope.

The New Beginnings Garden started as a seed in the
mind of Amy Wright, who is on the staff of Shelter
Network, which operates Haven Family House as one of
its six housing programs. She envisioned something
small, maybe a few herbs and vegetables, in a fenced
space adjacent to the facility.

What has taken root is much, much more - thanks to
Wright's persistence at rounding up volunteers and
donations and her sheer enthusiasm for the project.

"We named it New Beginnings Garden because the garden
is such an appropriate metaphor for what happens at
Shelter Network with our homeless families," says
Wright. "They get a new start. Like the plants in the
garden that start as small seedlings, with care, hard
work and faith, the families grow strong, healthy and

Wright has begged and borrowed and managed to get
every single item donated for the garden, from the
interlocking stone for the beds to the rich soil and
plants now filling them. She estimates that since May,
more than $90,000 in professional services and
materials have been contributed along with more than
900 volunteer hours.

Work groups - including a team of about 15 from Sunset
magazine, which has its headquarters nearby - have
planted trees, tweaked the new irrigation system,
built pathways and planted a crop of winter

But before they could do all that, the garden needed a
plan. Wright recruited Bess Wiersma and Megan Matthews
of Studio3 Design and Architects in San Jose to get
the design rolling. Lauren Bonar Swezey and Peter O.
Whiteley, senior editors at Sunset, have been
providing "overall garden guidance and sanity checks"
on plants, soil and structures.

Then came hardscape - tons of base rock, drainage rock
and soil - from Lyngso Garden Materials, whose staff
also contributed advice on organic gardening (Lyngso
has a small organic garden at its site in Redwood
City, Calif.). Cal Stone of Sunnyvale, Calif., gave 20
pallets of stone for the beds. Ewing Irrigation of
Menlo Park collaborated with Swezey to get the water
system just right. Peninsula Concrete designed and
built the 15-foot "checkerboard" pad in the center of
the garden, a natural gathering spot. And on and on.

Then came the rest. Seeds from Goldsmith Seeds in
Gilroy and Seeds of Change in Los Angeles. Trees from
Woolf Farming in Fresno, Calif. And on and on.

Today, the mini-orchard features pear, fig, apple,
peach and several varieties of plum. The beds have
been planted with kale, collard greens, peppers,
cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, chives and basil.
Sweet peas will provide fragrance come spring.

So far, the harvest has included pounds of chard and
collard greens, chiles, parsley and cilantro. Spinach
and lettuce, too.

"This garden seemed like a natural fit for us," says
Swezey, who says Sunset's parent company, Time Warner,
encourages community involvement and volunteerism.
Sunset employees have a yearslong relationship with
Haven House that also includes painting and building
play structures.

Haven Family House residents have been getting
involved along with the volunteers, says Wright.

"As the families do with general chores, they will be
regularly involved in helping out with the garden,"
she says. And, more important, they will be "invited
to participate and enjoy as much or as little as they
like about the garden as a place of respite and calm."

It looks as though what's been growing at Haven House
will bear fruit for years to come.

"Many people who never even heard of Shelter Network
or Haven Family House have been introduced to the work
we do and are amazed by the realization of what is
really happening with homelessness in their very own
community," says Wright. "A good percentage of the
folks introduced to Shelter Network through the garden
are getting involved in other ways as well."

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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