Planting Seeds of Hope

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Connecting Families to Communities

While developing our Neighborhood Plan in 2018, we surveyed Millville residents to find out what they wanted in their neighborhood. A community garden was top of the list. We are very proud that we were able to make this dream a reality. We hope that this accomplishment renews residents’ faith in knowing that their voices matter.

After COVID-19 delayed our community garden project for a year, it was great to come together safely as a community and get our hands in the dirt. The garden materialized in two phases: first a Build Day, and then a Planting Day.

Last year while we were planning the garden, we were introduced to Impact Harvest, a non-profit organization that helps communities plan and build their gardens to address hunger. We contacted them earlier this year to find out if they were still available to help build a garden in Millville. They visited the site, made design recommendations, and provided both a list of materials and a wealth of gardening knowledge.

On May  1, 2021 — Build Day — we arrived at the site and saw an army of helpers we had never met.

Impact Harvest had put out a call to several churches in its network asking for volunteers, and the response was overwhelming. Men, women and children carrying rakes, shovels and hoes got to work turning our dirt lot into a beautiful garden filled with raised beds. They even arranged for someone to bring a grill and cook hot dogs. The volunteers patiently taught the neighborhood kids how to hammer and assemble the raised beds.

Cars slowed down as drivers honked and waved, and neighbors stopped by to thank us for beautifying their neighborhood. A neighbor who lives next to the new garden shared that last year, both of her cars were sprayed by gunfire. She showed me the bullet holes and explained that her teen sons, who are both autistic, have been afraid to leave their home. However, now they feel hopeful that the garden can invoke change in their neighborhood.

On May 15, 2021, we planted. Impact Harvest came back to help and so did another team of volunteers. Neighborhood youth and local Girl Scouts gave us flowers to plant. On- and off-duty officers from the  Millville Police Department worked alongside residents. Together, we were planting seeds of hope.

We provided neighborhood youth with make-and-take gardens, teaching them how to plant and care for lettuce and strawberries. At each stage of the planting, gardeners learned about companion planting, the proper way to water plants and the importance of growing your own healthy and nutritious food. They learned about planting pollinators in the garden to attract bees, butterflies and beneficial insects.

Our desire is for this garden to be a gathering place for the community, a place of beauty that the residents can call their own, a place of nourishment, not only for the body but also for the soul. To stay up-to-date about this work and become a partner, reach out to our project directors.

The Grantee Blog regularly publishes updates from NJHI-supported communities. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.
Lisa Romano
Holly City Development Corporation