Wirt County community garden grows

Community effort revived by Hope Grows

Photos by Candice Black Haley, property owner Jim Matheny’s dog, offers a friendly presence at the garden.

ELIZABETH — A community garden in Wirt County was brought back to life as part of the Hope Grows initiative started by Community Resources Inc. and the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The idea behind the garden is to provide a space for those who may have the desire to plant, but don’t have the land, and for those who need the produce. The garden has 10 beds.

“If you live in Wirt County and these beds are open, you come plant whatever you want, you take what you need, leave what you can for other people,” Hannah VanMatre, an Americorps representative for Community Resources and United Way, said.

Community Resources recently partnered with the Wirt County Recovery team to assist in maintenance of the property.

According to Kim Richards, coordinator of the Recovery Team, anyone who receives services from the recovery program is required to volunteer 10 hours a month. A portion of that volunteer time is to help maintain the garden.

“When you have something like this, it feeds into the mindfulness concept,” VanMatre said. “When they have the mindfulness and intentionality of putting their hands to this for a purpose and they get to see it grow, it gives them a sense of ownership and it’s more than just having volunteer hours.”

A property once a site of rubble and ruin was turned into the resource for the community.

Jim Matheny, owner of the property, said a fire burned down the house at the location in 2013. After the cleanup, it was decided the space would be used for the community garden.

The garden first became operational three years ago but was not well maintained, according to VanMatre. In July, a resident contacted Community Resources and said the property needed work.

Community Resources expanded the Hope Grows project to Wirt County to manage the property and ensure that it’s well maintained.

“We came down here and it was rough. We had the original planters, we had some sponsorship and that was great, but after it was planted, that sustainable interest wasn’t there. It was grown up and not maintained,” she said.

The cleanup began shortly thereafter. A handful of volunteers, including a few local children and members of the Recovery Team, helped get the property back to where it needed to be.

Some beds are sponsored by organizations, such as Birth to Three, a group that offers assistance for children under the age of 3.

Plants were purchased and planted that are open to residents to harvest. Any produce that isn’t harvested goes to the local food pantry.

The donations from sponsorships are “to pay for plants for people that can’t afford them,” VanMatre said.

For any Wirt County residents wanting to participate in the garden, contact the Community Resources offices. For the Wirt County office, contact Kay Honaker at 304-304-488-3198. The Parkersburg office can be reached at 304-485-5525.

Candice Black can be reached at cblack@newsandsentinel.com