18:00 PM

Community Impact: Growing a Garden, And a Community

Planting gardens at two Lawrenceville Housing Authority neighborhoods resulted not only in fresh vegetables for the residents—but in renewed community spirit and collaboration.

Last summer the Lawrenceville Woman’s Club established a sustainable community garden in the Hooper Renwick neighborhood, giving residents there an opportunity to connect with nature, and with each other, while working to harvest fresh, healthy food, according to Cheryl Shaw, chairperson of the club’s Conservation Community Service Project.

“It was a hot, dry summer, but the vegetables grew well and the project was really exciting,” says Shaw. “It’s one of the best projects I’ve ever been involved in.”

Residents surveyed at the LHA neighborhoods had expressed the desire for a community garden, and the Woman’s Club was happy to help. With Woman’s Club volunteers assisting, neighborhood residents tended the gardens through the summer and into the fall, harvesting beets, beans, squash, watermelon and more in the hot months and carrots, cabbage and radishes as the weather cooled.

The challenges for club members and residents ranged from an extremely hot summer and drought to a general lack of gardening knowledge.

“Everybody my age grew up with a grandmother who had a garden,” says Shaw, 71, who noted that most of the neighborhood mothers and children knew little about tending to vegetables. “We took a picture of one kid holding a zucchini that must have weighed 10 pounds. It illustrates the learning curve we were up against—our need to learn when a vegetable needs to be picked so that you can carry it out of the garden without having to get a wheelbarrow.”

To educate the residents, Shaw brushed up on her own gardening knowledge by taking UGA Extension Service classes and has contacted a master gardener who plans to hold monthly classes with the residents.

While supplying their families with fresh fruits and vegetables is the obvious benefit of the project, the garden has grown community bonds as well.

“The project has pulled residents together with a common interest and provided a greater sense of community,” says LHA Director Lejla Slowinski.

“Residents even gathered up vegetables and took them to their homebound neighbors who couldn’t get out and work in the garden,” Shaw says, adding that the Woman’s Club hopes to start sustainable gardens in other LHA neighborhoods next summer.

With the help of a $1,000 Jackson EMC Foundation grant used to purchase gardening supplies, the club will expand and plant a garden in the Glenn Edge neighborhood.