New ministry asks gardeners to share their harvests with the hungry
by Jessica Langdon
EASTON — Father Mathew Francis, pastor of St. Joseph-St. Lawrence Parish, has learned in his three years here that this is a place where people help one another.
They don’t seek credit; they’re neighbors helping neighbors.
Now, thanks to parishioner Judy Brose, they’re neighbors feeding neighbors.
And the harvest is plentiful.
Easy way to give
For some time now, local churches and religious entities in the Leavenworth area have been taking turns offering free community meals.
Volunteers dish up hundreds of dinners each Thursday evening and midday Saturday at the day’s designated location.
So, thought Brose, why not ask people to pick what they can from their gardens or fields and share it with the people partaking in the meals?
The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“We’re always being asked to give money, but that’s such an indirect way of helping,” said Tim Herken, who heads the parish finance council.
And this is even easier.
“For us, raising gardens and produce is as normal as getting up in the morning,” he said. “And it’s more of a direct way of doing what Christ asked us, which was to feed the hungry.”
From the heart
Project Garden, as the ministry was quickly dubbed, was launched with a simple note in the parish bulletin asking for contributions. But behind that simple request were some stark realities.
In the first six months of 2014, the coalition that coordinates the free meals citywide served more than 13,000 meals, said Joey Denney, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Leavenworth and of the group that coordinates the meals. Kathy Johnson, also of St. Paul’s, confirms the need — and the promise of the program.
“We can really tell that it’s a calling from God because it just grows without any work at it,” said Johnson. It is to that group that Brose passes on any donations of produce.
It’s particularly satisfying for the donors to share the fruits of their gardens with those in need, because the goods they grow are close to their hearts.
And in farming communities like theirs, those very things have been shared with them when times were tough.
When St. Joseph-St. Lawrence parishioner Ernest DeMaranville’s wife Carolyn was in the hospital years ago, he said, neighbors fed him and the kids.
“Neighbors have been good to us,” agreed Carolyn, and sharing from their garden just feels like a way to be good extended neighbors.
Bless our gardens
“Rural people always give their excess away,” said Don Navinsky, vice president of St. Joseph-St. Lawrence’s parish council. “But [Judy gave us] a way to get it down to a center where they’re feeding those individuals that we personally don’t know or know about.”
Which leaves just one thing left to worry about.
“Hopefully, the Lord will bless us with good gardens,” said Brose, and Project Garden will grow into something nourishing for the body and soul.
“You plant the seed,” she said. “You never know where it’s going to grow.”