The verse of an old John Denver song goes: “Bit by bit, row by row, gonna make this garden grow. All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.”
Associates at Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital are making their “Garden of Giving” grow for the fourth year in a row, to the delight of local food pantries that are on the donation end of all of the fruits of their labor.
The “Garden of Giving,” a 40-by-60-foot plot located on land owned by and near the hospital, was started in 2011. In three years, more than 1,700 pounds of produce has been donated to food pantries at St. Vincent DePaul and Soup or Socks.
“We felt having a garden would not only help fulfill one of our Ministry values of Service of the Poor, and support community outreach, but would also be a nice project for those who enjoy gardening,” said Elizabeth King, executive assistant at the hospital.“I know I’ve met fellow associates I never would have, and we’ve developed friendships and a common interest.”
King, along with Karalee Lamon, hospital transcription supervisor, and Julie David, hospital charge description master, are main coordinators of the garden project.
All of the seeds, plants, garden soil and mulch are donated by associates. Even the Ministry Health Care corporate office in Milwaukee gets involved by sending up tomato and pepper plants each year. Regular work evenings are scheduled as needed to plant, weed, harvest and help with the upkeep. About 120 hours per year are invested in the project.
One of the best parts, King said, is when they deliver the produce and see first-hand how grateful people are to receive fresh, healthy vegetables, which have included corn, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, beans, onions, cabbage, potatoes, peas, carrots, squash and cucumbers. The group has even gotten several thank-you notes from recipients.
Lamon said that an additional benefit to the gardeners is helping maintain a good work/life balance. “Just going there and working for an hour before going home helps relieve the stresses of the day,” she said. “It’s mentally healthy to dig in the dirt!”
Associates interested in helping can contact David at 7.7164.