PARKERSBURG - Volunteers at the First Lutheran Church on 19th Street are up to their elbows in soil and seeds as they prepare their community garden for the second year.
"The church purchased this piece of property next to the church awhile back with plans to extend the parking lot. The apartment building located there was torn down and we put fill in. We are waiting for it to settle, and we decided we would use the area for a community garden," said church volunteer, community gardener Bob Friend.
Church volunteer Don Ery coordinates the project for the church.
Bob Friend, First Lutheran Church member, Barbara Holt, Health and Wellness Coordinator with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department and Don Ery, church member at the church’s community garden site. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
"We have several volunteers at the church who help out. We have a food pantry. There are probably 30-40 people a month who come in for food so we decided we might as well grow some fresh produce for them. When the vegetables are ready, probably starting around mid-July, we just set up a stand out here in front and put the vegetables out. People just stop by and pick them up, or they can pick it themselves right out of the garden," Ery said.
The garden includes tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, radishes, onions, lettuce, okra, cabbage and broccoli.
The food is made available to those in need free of charge.
"We just put the vegetables out and they come and get them," Friend said.
"Seldom does anything go to waste. Last year was our first year to try the garden and we are learning as we go," Ery said.
The church's food pantry serves about a 20-block radius around the 19th Street church.
Church volunteers Ed Harmon and Willis Ridenhour also help with the garden.
Ery estimated they had between $200-$300 in the garden plus all the volunteer hours. Last week the church youth group planted two rows of veggies in the garden.
"Meredith Manor helped us out by providing some manure for the garden," Friend said.
"We are giving back to the community and we're giving back to God, we are helping him to help his people," Ery said.
"It's about treating people well and giving them good food to eat, we want to have good relations with the community," Friend said.
With the rising price of fruits and vegetables, the volunteers admitted if it weren't for the garden produce, some families might have to go without those healthy foods.
Barbara Holt, health and wellness coordinator with the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said AmeriCorps workers were made available through grant funding the week of April 21 and as part of a community service project helped out at three local community gardens including the one at the Lutheran Church.
"West Virginia ranks very high in numbers of chronic disease. This is one way to try and help address those concerns," Holt said, noting another part of the health and wellness project is to help consumers learn about fruits and vegetables an their importance in the daily diet. "We are also working with local grocery and convenience stores to get them to place healthy food options at the checkout areas instead of candy," Holt said.
There are a number of community gardens located throughout the county, sponsored by a number of entities including the Wood County Master Gardeners Program and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
Some of the gardens offer plots early in the season for individuals to sign up to grow and harvest their own vegetables, others offer the garden bounty to anyone.
The Wood County Master Gardeners have community gardens at Laird and East 12th Streets; a new one on St. Marys Avenue across from the Boys & Girls Club; one at 14th Street off St. Marys Avenue, and one on Blennerhassett Heights. The club is also sponsoring a raised garden at the Farmer's Market this year.
There are also community gardens at the Lynn Street Church of Christ, and Mid-Ohio Valley Fellowship Home on George Street.