MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

July 5, 2013

New garden will grow leaders, too


— A new community garden looks to be  the perfect marriage of education and compassion.

Members of the Youth Volunteer Corps are working with the Muskogee Parks and Recreation Teen Center to build the gardens behind the center.

The garden is similar to other public gardens in the community. Citizens can go by the Teen Center or call them to select a plot, and then will be allowed to tend it as necessary. Those selecting a plot will sign a paper agreeing to certain rules restricting the use of pesticides, powered garden tools and pets.

Eileen Van Kirk said in the event someone isn’t able to take care of their plot, the youth from the Teen Center and YVC will step in to help out.

“If someone goes out of town or has trouble getting here, they can let us know and the kids will water it for them,” said Van Kirk, who is the director of the Teen Center and the YVC.  “The intent is to let people have access to fresh produce, but also to build a spirit of community in the neighborhood.”

Building community is important for us all.

Having the teens work with the community will benefit us in the future by growing a new breed of leaders.

“This garden is for kids who might not know when their next meal is,” said Alex Rice, one of 40 YVC members working on the project. “It will help a lot of people out. The garden is a sign of a good, healthy meal to come.”

As the garden grows, so will each teen’s understanding of nutrition and the community.

 “The kids are going out to Martha Stoodley’s house to get cuttings and seeds,” Van Kirk said. “Then they’ll come back and plant those. Anytime adults in the neighborhood get to interact with teens, it’s win-win. We want the kids to hang out here, but we also want them to feel like a part of the community.”

We agree.

That’s a win for everyone.