Resident Teresa Clark decided to volunteer to head up a community garden at Middlebury Chapel. A former minister and friend to Clark offered to donate equipment to the church upon his retirement from ministry. His work inspired Clark to further pursue more tools for creating a community garden.
Combined with her passion for gardening, her faith and heart for the community, Clark approached the church with plans to create a community garden. In communication with the pastor at Middlebury Chapel, Jim Gergon stated, “The garden is about a desire for people all ages to join together and see what good can be done when people have a common vision, to experience the benefits of reaping the harvest from work that is done.”
As the church came together on the plans for the garden, Clark did some work behind the scenes. She wrote letters for support and applied for grants. The equipment came but the workers were few. Clark said she believed that God would send the right people at the right time to work on the garden.
In the beginning, as the garden project was being launched, some people found the lack of short cut to be a measure of frustration. The church stood its ground. Clark let people know that they were breaking ground for a garden that could benefit the community.
Change is never easy for anyone; both the garden and the fence had a purpose that would help people change their way of thinking. Clark spent time working on the garden; the project started out slow and there were some challenges. There were days where men were seen arguing with Clark; later one found them helping her out with the work in the garden. Seeds were being planting but not just in the ground but in the hearts of people all around.
Clark’s vision was around the idea that you one could give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish….
While digging in the soil is the ideal approach to gardening it is not the case for everyone. At Middlebury, the vision of a raised bed garden changed not only the scope of gardening as one would know it but gave tools to a community around them to unite. It opened people’s eyes and gave them a new perspective on life.
It united people from all walks of life to know they could be a part of something; it gave the children the ability to know that together they could make a difference, and the garden offered transformation and healing where there was once division.
People know they must walk around the church and not cut through its parking lot. The presence of that garden is a symbol of hope and transformation that is in the works in the Middlebury neighborhood.
On Wednesday evenings for the past two months, the children have played a key role in helping with the garden at Middlebury. School age children have come together with Clark to work in the garden. The children learned about the mustard seed and helped Clark work in the garden. While seeds were being planted, memories were being born and hope was instilled into the heart of the community.
Along with the children, many adults from the community and other church members have been involved in the garden. Some would even say the groundhogs had their part of this story as well, as they are abundant in the Middlebury neighborhood and often could be a problem for gardeners.
Middlebury Chapel’s Community Garden has had its challenges, but it’s been a journey of transformation that is not yet finished.
Living in the city, it’s hard to find places to grow vegetables. In some places it’s not permitted. Many people living in apartment complexes have no way to grow their own food. While this is its first year, Middlebury Chapel has taken on community gardening. It is a vital community resource for people and inspires them to work toward a common good that can make a difference in their lives, their community and the world around them.
This garden has gone through the process of creation, transformation and obstacles as many projects do. It’s far from over; perhaps there’s more to this story than one can tell.
As Clark stated from the beginning, “God will bring people to help with the garden. As He opened the doors, provided the soil to plant in, the equipment and the seeds, he will send the workers to help this little garden become what God has called it be. The process of rebuilding takes time. This garden has already been a success story even without the harvest of vegetables and fruit.”