Thursday, April 23, 2015

A new season, a new volunteer opportunity...

This column spends a lot of time looking at ways to improve our local government, and sometimes that can come off as being a bit “negative”.  So, periodically it's nice to talk about the good things people are doing in the community.  This last week saw two emails land in the inbox that are excellent reminders of that.  

A few short months ago during Christmas week, this column told you about the Room In The Inn (RITI) program run by Urban Ministries in Charlotte where local church congregations and other organizations provide a warm place to sleep for our homeless neighbors during the winter months.  In Huntersville, Cornelius, and Davidson 15 different congregations participate.

As of March 31st, this year’s RITI program has come to an end, so I wanted to pass along an update and some numbers.

Over the course of the 2014/2015 Winter, RITI provided almost the exact same number of bed nights, as it did last year – just over 17,000.   The number of families needing shelter and the total number of children actually increased slightly this winter.  The overall number of organizations participating stayed exactly the same at 135.

The good news here is that because of this program and the thousands of volunteers who helped make it a success, that was 17,000 nights people were spared from the cold.

Please keep this effort in mind next year is you are looking for a worthwhile cause that can make a real difference.

While the RITI effort was winding down, the other effort I’ll mention is just getting ramped up.  

It is an opportunity where people can really get into the weeds – pun intended – while helping others.  That opportunity would be the annual start of the Davidson Community Garden on Potts Street in Davidson behind the Wells Fargo drive through.

The garden is on land donated by Davidson College with its unofficial kickoff each year being a work day as part of the annual “Great Day of Service” put on by Davidson United Methodist Church.  This year that was on March 14th.

Five years ago, the initial garden was build during the DUMC event, and it has been added to every year.

The second summer saw the garden double in size.  For the third summer, the garden set the goal of donating a full ton of food to the Loaves and Fishes food pantry at the Ada Jenkins Center.  That goal was met and has been repeated annually since then. After three summers of watering using a 300 foot hose and crossing the railroad tracks, a fundraiser brought in more than enough money needed to install a permanent water supply going into season number four.  

Along the way the garden has brought together people from all across the community.  On any given Saturday, you will see residents from neighborhoods all across town.  Families, students from the college, seniors and young children can all be seen working together.

There are a number of groups that participate regularly such as different Scout Troops and classes from the Community School of Davidson.  There is also one group that likely never sees the fruits of their labor – local inmates.  Many of the plants that are grown in the garden get their start in the greenhouse of the North Mecklenburg Jail in Charlotte as part of a work training program.

The whole operation is coordinated by Connie and Eddie Beach of Davidson.  For their efforts, they were honored last November with the town’s annual “Jack Burney Award” for community service.

So, if you are interested in learning how potatoes are harvested, stop by in early June.  You may get to see what a hundred pounds of potatoes coming out of the ground looks like.  Or, if you've ever wondered where that odd looking southern staple, okra, comes from, then check out the tall bushy plants that seem to be growing just fine in the blistering heat of July and August.  The okra plant is from Africa, and it takes off when most other things start to wither.

Unlike most “community gardens” there are no fees or individual plots.  The Davidson Community Garden donates the bulk of the produce to the Loaves and Fishes food pantry at the Ada Jenkins Center.  It’s truly a garden for the community.

However, even though you won't have your own personal plot at this garden, there is a good side benefit to volunteering.  After a good morning’s work, you might just get to take home one of those juicy tomatoes.

Garden volunteers meet Saturday mornings at about 10am through the fall.

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