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Community garden at The Gathering Place provides, food, structure and meaningful work for guests at St. John’s facility

Tell me Charles, how does your garden grow? By the looks of it, quite well. Charles Noseworthy, celebrating his 36th birthday on Monday, was on hand to celebrate the second year of The Gathering Place garden, which this year will see its wares used to help feed the guests who come to the facility looking for a healthy meal. Here, Noseworthy checks over his crop of lettuce.
Tell me Charles, how does your garden grow? By the looks of it, quite well. Charles Noseworthy, celebrating his 36th birthday on Monday, was on hand to celebrate the second year of The Gathering Place garden, which this year will see its wares used to help feed the guests who come to the facility looking for a healthy meal. Here, Noseworthy checks over his crop of lettuce. - Sam McNeish

Providing a new skill set … and a means of adding fresh produce to their meal plans is driving the Gathering Place’s garden.

Now in operation for its second year, it has expanded in size and in the number of people working it.

The community garden, as it has been dubbed, is in full bloom and a host of dignitaries and guests of The Gathering Place were on hand Monday to celebrate its success.

The program not only provides food for the guests, but also a work program for people who would otherwise not have an opportunity to earn a nominal amount of money.
“The garden started in 2017. There are so many new guests who come here with great needs and we have to find ways to juggle those needs,” Joanne Thompson, executive director of The Gathering Place said Monday afternoon.

“Our goal is to find work that fits their needs while they are here,’’ she added.

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Thompson said the project was the brainchild of Mike O’Dea who was able to beg, steal and borrow enough items and supplies to start the garden a year ago.

Once it was established, the two guests who oversaw the growth looked after the garden and when harvested, the produce was sold.

“When we started to plan this year’s garden, we saw our needs had gone up and we decided it would be best used in our kitchen,’’ she said.
“So those guests who come and work the garden, many of them very committed to the project, do the work and at the end of the week, like a paycheque, we give them gift cards for the work.”

The garden at The Gathering Place is expanding a host of guests at the St. John’s Centre have used their various skills and talents to make the aesthetics of the facility something for everyone to see. One of those improvements this year is the addition of artwork from the art shop and includes bird feeders and painted rocks. Jennifer Peddle, a guest at The Gathering Place, is a toll painter and she completed these bird feeders, the smaller one in honour of her home in Labrador City and the larger one showcasing a bright sunny day.
The garden at The Gathering Place is expanding a host of guests at the St. John’s Centre have used their various skills and talents to make the aesthetics of the facility something for everyone to see. One of those improvements this year is the addition of artwork from the art shop and includes bird feeders and painted rocks. Jennifer Peddle, a guest at The Gathering Place, is a toll painter and she completed these bird feeders, the smaller one in honour of her home in Labrador City and the larger one showcasing a bright sunny day.

A key proponent to the garden is a guest who came back for a second year because he believes in its value.

“By working here, it keeps me out of trouble,’’ Gathering Place guest Charles Noseworthy said.

“I have been here for a couple of years and this was a good way for me to help do something to give back a bit for the help I get here,’’ he added.
Noseworthy said he is able to do his laundry at the facility, take art classes, attend regular doctor’s appointments and get the therapy he needs to help him with his struggles.

And add to that he grows a mean crop of lettuce, bok choy and tomatoes and he has accomplished a vast amount of good throughout the garden.

“It all helps out,’’ he said.
“I worked the garden last year and I like it, so when they asked me to do it again, I said yes.”
Noseworthy said he had never worked a garden prior to starting as a volunteer last year and he said he will continue to do so in the future as he believes in the good it does for him and others.

Another guest Gary, who preferred not to give his last name, says he also enjoys working in the garden.

“When I first came here, I was looking for a doctor and the first thing through the door I ran into this one (Jodi Shannahan, guest empowerment co-ordinator),’’ Gary said.

“She showed me around the place, got me into the doctor and helped get me started here by helping in the garden,’’ he added.

Gary said he didn’t know much about gardening when he came to The Gathering Place, but after Shannahan told him about it, he said it would be good to volunteer his time. He said he had worked harvesting crops in the past where he was originally from and after planting lettuce, potatoes, kale and radish, he was happy to see the crops through.

He has achieved better health though his time at The Gathering Place and feels a lot better about himself knowing he has helped to do something good for others like him.

And this fits perfectly with the mandate set out for each and every program at The Gathering Place.

“The biggest part of my job is motivation and empowering people,’’ Shannahan said.

“Everything we grow here goes back to the kitchen to be used for meals to feed the guests,’’ she added.

Shannahan said there are 17 varieties of crops grown in the garden and at present there are 12 guest and two summer students overseeing its operation.

Those varieties include: zucchini, cabbage, radish, carrots, onions, kale, bok choy, spinach, two types of lettuce potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, beets and several herbs as well.

And this year, a host of flowers have been introduced in addition to a vast amount of artwork done in the art shop at The Gathering Place has been placed around the garden to help enhance its overall appearance.

samuel.mcneish@thetelegram.com


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