Garden Strengthens Community Bonds
With warmer weather now upon us, many residents at Greenstone on 5th Apartments in Charlottesville, Virginia know that the promise of fresh corn, tomatoes, okra, black-eyed peas, and more is not too far off.
For the past two years, a dedicated group of residents at Greenstone on 5th, an apartment community owned and managed by CHP, has organized to cultivate a community garden. The residents, many of whom are refugees from numerous locations around the globe, are supported by Greenstone on 5th resident services staff and a partner organization called the International Rescue Committee of Charlottesville (IRC).
Recently, Greenstone on 5th was fortunate to receive from the IRC a $500 grant to maintain and enhance its community garden. The residents plan to use the funds to improve the garden's fencing, purchase more rain barrels, expand the garden, and to purchase a sign that will advertise the group of gardeners as a part of a local community garden network.
According to Kimberly Jones, on-site resident services coordinator at Greenstone on 5th, 18 families were involved in the community garden in 2015. The resulting harvest was shared amongst group members.
“I love gardening and enjoying the fruits of our labor,” said Greenstone on 5th resident and active gardener Frederick Kimatu.
For the past two years, the garden has also been a service project site for the University of Virginia's Day of Volunteering. At this event, a team of volunteers joined resident gardeners and their families to pull weeds, replace fencing, and set up garden plots.
Jones described the volunteer days, as well as hosting monthly garden meetings, as some of her fondest memories associated with the garden. There is, however, one particularly memorable occasion Jones recalled:
"Last spring, a new resident gardener went down to the garden to look at her plot, which was part of the garden expansion. As a new plot, it had not yet been plowed or set up in any way. She was very upset because she didn't realize that the new bed required so much work. She and her three children started to pick and dig at the grass with the small hand-tools they had brought with them. A neighbor, one of our long-time gardeners, was down the row tilling his plot with a power till. When he finished, he came to speak with the woman and her family. Though both families spoke different languages and were from different cultures, the man was still able to recognize the woman's frustration and brought his till over to her garden and tilled her entire plot. It was very inspiring to see two families working together to overcome an obstacle without even a language in common.”
Angie Roberts-Dobbins, CHP vice president of resident services, remarked that, “community gardens provide a source of fresh, healthy food of the kind that is often hard to come by for lower-income families, but they also encourage social interaction and help build community. It has been very exciting to see the success of Greenstone on 5th’s community garden and we look forward to seeing this season’s harvest!”