Parkersburg greenhouse hopes to grow more than food

The greenhouse at 2309 Gihon Road before crews had begun repairs and cleanup. (Photo provided by Hannah VanMatre)

PARKERSBURG — In hopes of growing more than just fresh food, but also community ties and a road to recovery, Community Resources Inc. (CRI) has partnered with United Way of the Mid-Ohio Valley to create Hope Grows, a Thrive-connected community garden.

“Hope Grows will operate out of a high tunnel greenhouse, provided by the West Virginia State Department of Agriculture on Gihon Road,” said Hannah VanMatre, an Americorps representative for United Way and CRI.

There are 11 plots available for volunteers to grow produce, which will be used by food outlet services in the area, VanMatre said.

“We believe that providing fresh produce to families and individuals who are working toward self-sufficiency is a basic need that must be met,” VanMatre said.

Of the 11 plots, some are sponsorship beds, which are available for anyone interested in gardening but may not have the space to do so.

From left, Shaun Price and Marvin Simpkins hold the mesh in place while Charlie Miller staples it in place. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

“We started this project in May, and without the amazing volunteers from Recovery Point and the endless community support, we would not have finished so quickly,” said Kayla Ersch with CRI.

Volunteer member Charlie Miller said the work was able to be completed so quickly because he and his recovery brothers make such a strong team.

“There is often a bad stigma associated with the word ‘recovery,’ but these men are going to be the stigma breakers,” VanMatre said.

VanMatre said they were blessed to be given a chance to work with the 12-15 volunteers from Recovery Point, who helped weed the building, run electric, build and paint every planter and tackle any project thrown their way.

“Their work ethic was like no other, and each volunteer showed up with the absolute best attitude,” VanMatre said.

The pumpkin pallets and the two planters that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act are in the greenhouse for anyone who would like to garden and may not have the space to do so. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

Shaun Price, one of the volunteers who has been working on the greenhouse since the beginning, said working on the Hope Grows project has been nothing short of a blessing for him and his brothers in recovery.

“Many times people are quick to judge us by our appearance or the word recovery, but we are not defined by those things,” Price said.

Price said he has focused on turning negatives into positives since beginning recovery, and the greenhouse was a great example of that.

“There was a lot of overgrown grass and weeds, but even from the beginning I saw the potential that it had,” he said.

Price said he felt giving back to the community was the best part of the project.

“We are the change, and we need to be out helping the community, so that they can see anyone can change and make a difference,” he said.

VanMatre said the first seeds were planted in early July, and that there are beans, corn, zucchini, squash, peppers, watermelon, tomato and pumpkin plants all in the works of being produced.

“We want to not only supply food pantries in the area with fresh foods, but teach those who need it how to prepare the fresh food,” she said.

Two planters are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. VanMatre said there are more in the works.

“I showed the boys a photo from the internet of the ADA planters we wanted and they built them from scratch,” VanMatre said.

Marvin Simpkins, another of the many volunteers who have spent hours toward creating the garden, said there was a lot of work, but that the end results were worth it.

“If you have a chance to learn or practice humility in any way, jump on it,” he said.

Simpkins said it is one thing to talk about what you could be doing to help the community, but it is another to act on it.

“This garden has the ability to change many lives and grow us a stronger community,” Simpkins said.

The Hope Grows effort is not stopping in Wood County, according to VanMatre. There is a second garden in Elizabeth, which is being run with the help of the Wirt County Recovery Group.

Hope Grows cannot best serve its purpose without the help of others. Hope Grows is meant to serve as a community endeavor, where volunteer resources will be essential to staffing and maintaining the garden.

If anyone is interested in volunteering or sponsoring a plot, email Kayla Ersch at kersch@cricap.org

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com