Corps programs encourage dirty fingernails for kids and “timeouts” for moms.

Corps programs encourage dirty fingernails for kids and “timeouts” for moms.

by Roger Miller –

Party girls! [Photo by Laura Fenton]

Aside from producing plentiful crops of vegetables and fruit, the gardens at The Salvation Army’s Broomfield, Colo., corps continually yield the bounty of God’s graces: food, friendship, love and sharing. There’s no doubt that the day-care, farming and social events at Broomfield are accurate depictions of the term “community center.”

Abundant harvest
Conceived in 2009, the idea of maintaining a neighborhood garden was the brainchild of Corps Officers Captains Tom and Laura Fenton. Their plan was to donate a plot of the land on the Army’s property, then find someone willing to coordinate the planting and growing project. The positive results of such a venture could provide a multitude of resources for use in corps outreaches in the Birch vicinity.

In its first year, the parcel produced more than 1,800 pounds of corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, melons and green beans, which were then donated back into the community through the corps’ food distribution program. Corps members delivered food to the students and families of Birch Elementary School, located across the street from the facility, and to seniors living at the Salvation Army’s nearby assisted living home and individual members of the Broomfield and Boulder county communities seeking social services.

Due to the success of the present garden, this year’s plan includes a significant expansion with new programs and goals.

Vision for expansion
Last year’s garden measured 25’ by 70’ with a third of the space designated for eight 5’ by 10’ individual plots and the other two-thirds used as a donation garden to supply fresh produce for the corps’ social services clients. This year, the garden will be expanding the individual plot area to include twenty 5’ by 10’ plots. When completed, the garden will be two to three times its original size.

Looking toward the future, the garden steering committee will also begin working on a plan to create a children’s garden—both for education and enjoyment purposes—for all the youth in the community to meet and work in the dirt. The young gardeners will come from families and/or staff from Birch Elementary; after-school and summer youth programs, including those at The Salvation Army; the Broomfield Childcare Association, the Junior Master Gardener’s program, church groups, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

The main purpose of the garden will be to provide for the community. However, by tilling, planting and harvesting, the children will also profit from their hands-on experience, discovering how and why things grow and talking with peers—all conducive to building strong community and networking skills.

Garden goals
The Birch Garden Steering Committee, headed by last year’s garden coordinator Kierston Howard, has established the following goals for the garden:

• Provide fresh, local and organic fruit and vegetables to community members, particularly those in need.
• Unite community members by creating opportunity for people to gather around a common interest, goal and/or activity, creating an atmosphere of community and relationships.
• Create cross-generational educational opportunities for community members teaching resource sustainability, food source independence, healthful eating habits, gardening techniques and practices.
• Provide opportunities for community members to garden, relax, reflect and gather in a common, public area.

Moms only
The gardens are not the only program taking root and flourishing at the corps and community center.

Captain Laura Fenton hosts a Girl’s Night Out (GNO) that offers moms an evening of their own to interact with other women and enjoy time away from spouses and kids. The getaway takes place midweek every two weeks when they meet for a movie, to dine out, to play board games or to do something new. This provides “girl time”—an opportunity to talk and share their experiences with women in similar circumstances.

With children and/or husbands safely taken care of for the evening, the women meet at the corps and decide upon the evening’s activities. On the latest GNO, one of the ladies was celebrating a birthday so the rest of the group of eight “adultnapped” her from her house and then proceeded to enjoy an old-fashioned scavenger hunt.

The Fentons have touched many lives in their community and will touch many more in the years to come. They feel blessed to be a part of Broomfield and the city considers blessed in turn by the Fentons. Sounds like a match made in heaven.

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