Last year, the Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. harvested more than 1,500 pounds of produce from its community garden and fed more than 600 households. This year, though, the group is still looking for volunteers willing to lend a hand in such an undertaking.
"We just really need help and more support. Just a couple of hours a week can really make a huge difference in the lives of your community," said Jennifer Graybill, HSP's Opportunity Works program manager. "We are in desperate need for people to adopt plots."
HSP was incorporated in 1987 to develop programs and services to end poverty, Graybill said. The nonprofit has about 20 different programs to meet the needs of Carroll County and serves more than 12,000 men, women, and children annually. HSP also partnered with the City of Westminster to maintain a 7,600-square-foot garden, taking part in the United Way food program.
The City of Westminster plows the ground and supplies the water, but volunteers do all the work and planning, according to Graybill.
"Planting is done by group consensus. There is plenty of room to grow anything you can think of," she said. "We try to grow whatever will be used and what everybody likes."
Graybill said the United Way food program gave HSP grant money as a part of its Healthy Foods Initiative.
"It is a great way to take a limited amount of funding to serve our community and give out food to those who need it," Graybill said.
Graybill hopes to find volunteers who can make a regular commitment. The garden is currently maintained by West Middle School during the school year, the Arc of Carroll County, the Stone Soup Foundation, Goodwill, and Target Community and Educational Services Inc.
"It works best when a group comes in and works together," she said. "It's perfect for church groups, youth groups and service clubs."
The Grace Lutheran Church in Westminster has also partnered with HSP to maintain three plots in this year's garden. The church has been working with HSP for six years.
"We have two different meal ministries, which serve meals to the community on Tuesdays at lunchtime and Thursdays in the evening. We're growing a lot of our own food for the ministries and we've been serving a little more than 200 people throughout the week," said Laura Heller, chair of Grace Lutheran Church's social ministry committee.
Heller said the group grows things they think the kitchen will use, such as tomatoes, sweet peppers, green beans, lettuce, beets, turnips, Swiss chard, cucumbers and squash.
"It's another form of worship. We love being in what God created and see how things grow in their own season and what they produce," Heller said. "The vegetables we grow there are wonderful and fresh, and defray the cost of food. … We have fellowship in the garden."
Nancy Suder, a member of Grace Lutheran Church, said,
"I just love gardening in general, and I love that we can take what we grow and donate it to the church when it's still fresh," she said.