Ecumenical garden reaping benefits

by Ray Bailey

The St. Joseph Community Assistance Program (SJCAP) recently took part in creating several raised garden beds for the folks who live at Oakwood Mobile Home Park in Conway.

The intent was to help people grow some of their own food while teaching children how to grow vegetables and flowers. After money was secured from SJCAP for supplies to build eight beds, volunteers lined up to help, including three young St Joseph parishioners – Nathan Davidson, Ean Soto and Andrew Kordsmeier – who spread nearly four truckloads of mulch.

One of the residents recommended church members contact Philip Fletcher, director of City of Hope Outreach (COHO) about the project ( non-denominational organization has been helping the 200 or so residents at Oakwood with whatever needs they can meet.

Fletcher asked if he could use the gardens for an afterschool ministry which helps kids who live in Oakwood with homework while providing a snack and an opportunity to play games. The gardens have been used to give the children an experience in how to grow vegetables.

Before the actual planting began, Father John Marconi met with Fletcher, who pointed out some land that COHO owns adjacent to Oakwood that would be suitable for planting. With supplies and super soil in hand, volunteers from SJCAP and COHO joined hands and began the construction of the raised beds.   

Kami Marsh of the Faulkner County Cooperative Extension Service gave suggestions for children’s gardening projects. She also gave advice on any questions volunteers had about the gardens.

This project meant more than merely providing some extra food for the residents. Children are learning to reap the rewards of working on the project while sharing in the delight of watching the produce grow.     

Both SJCAP and COHO see each other as mutually beneficial in serving those in need. The community spirit fills hearts with joy while meeting new friends who also want to help those in need.