Community garden blooming with hope, volunteers

STEUBENVILLE – Sam Gibb arrived at the First Westminster Presbyterian Church during the frigid February weather and immediately started thinking about growing fruits and vegetables in a nearby vacant lot.

“It was my first project when I arrived here. We had a community garden at my previous assignment in Franklin, Pa.,” noted Gibb.

So Gibb, the community outreach director, and the Rev. Jason Elliott of the First Westminster Presbyterian Church approached the Steubenville Board of Education for permission to put at least 20 wooden raised garden beds on the site of the former Wells School.

On a warm Wednesday afternoon Elliott was using a chain saw to cut the wood into the right lengths and Gibb, assisted by Liam McGovern and Mary O’Connor of the Community Garden committee, were screwing the wooden sections together.

“We will probably build 20 wooden beds. I have someone trying to get top soil donated and we will accept dirt, manure, heirloom plants, compost and more wood for the garden. And we need more volunteers,” said Elliott.

“We had a vision for a community garden and as we planned for this we started to get more people from the community involved. Fruits and vegetables are the practical side of the garden, and the spiritual side is the relationships we hope to foster. Since we started building the raised beds Tuesday afternoon we have probably had 40 people stop by to offer encouragement and suggestions and help,” said Elliott.

“We are a loosely based group that includes the First Westminster Presbyterian Church, the Center of Hope Friendship Room, Urban Mission Ministries and the Unity Garden who are moving their garden but will also work with us,” added Elliott.

“Anyone who would like to make a financial donation for the garden can send it to Community Garden at the First Westminster Presbyterian Church, 235 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, OH, 43952,” said Elliott.

“We were planning to create a community garden but when we heard about this we volunteered to join them. We are trying to organize seven different teams, one team for each day of the week to take care of the garden. At this point we plan to grow heirloom tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, kale and beans. All basic foods. And different herbs for the Urban Mission to use in their kitchen. We will probably put in a fall garden as well. All of our plants will be nongenetically modified. We want heirloom plants,” said Molly McGovern of the Center of Hope.

“We all want to work together. We had to move the Unity community garden to a South End lot this year. But we also want to be involved here,” said Mary O’Connor.

“Instead of handing out food we want to teach people how to grow food. We are seeing community support for this garden. The firefighters at the fire station across the street have already volunteered to make sure the garden is watered,” remarked McGovern.

“This is a community garden that is blooming with hope and volunteers. We hope this will grow and prosper,” said Elliott.