Her voice fills with joy as she describes how perfectly the partnership with the HOMECorp community garden helps nourish the mission to provide food and hospitality in an atmosphere of warmth and respect.
The partnership began when HOMECorp’s Gwen Battle, secured a $4,000 healthy living grant from the Mountainside Health Foundation, to revive the community garden. Ms. Battle contacted Toni’s Kitchen to join other soup kitchens, daycare centers and community residents to reserve a plot and to plant and harvest the food. Karen presented the opportunity to her guests who were eager to help grow the food they would eventually consume. Although planting didn’t start until June this year, the TK plot produced a successful crop of tomatoes, beans and squash. Toni’s Kitchen volunteers donated money for seedlings and continue to support this vital effort.
The involvement of the guests has been nothing short of remarkable. Shelter residents brought in seedlings they planted in their own backyards. Guests volunteered to take part in a “weed day”. “When we announce that a particular meal is from food grown in our own garden, there are always resounding cheers.” “The bigger goal of Toni’s Kitchen is to empower our guests to take charge of their own well being,” says Karen. The partnership with HOMECorp is a powerful manifestation of this goal.
A TK volunteer, also a Master Gardner, Mike Gorman, volunteered to help. Mike has bigger plans for the fall, and is already making early preparations for a spring 2011 crop.
Says Gwen Battle: “Reviving the community garden was always something close to my heart. Having it come to fruition in a partnership with Toni’s Kitchen just makes it even more special.”