Ready, Set, Grow in Kentucky
What do you do in a hot and sizzling summer? Instead of being bored, it is a perfect time to grow some fresh produce, or plant some annuals and perennials. This is exactly what the girls at the Girls’ Inc. and women at the Oasis Spouse Abuse Center in Owensboro, Kentucky, did with the help from Pennyrile Group of Sierra Club.
First, volunteers Winny and Kenny Lin literally knocked on the doors of these two organizations and sold the idea. Second, Aloma Dew, local representative of the Sierra Club, gathered help from the club to find a master gardener to draw a plan, secure donations from members, and get support from the director of the club.
The Owensboro Lowe’s donated six bags of potting soil, three bags of humus, six huge clay pots and two small butterfly bushes. Donations also helped secure some tomato plants and annuals at a discounted price from the store. All of it was enough to start off our summer “Go Green” project!
On Monday, June 22, 2009, Girls’ Inc. randomly selected ten K-3 girls to participate in this “Go Green Club”. As retired educators, both Kenny and I worked well with these rambunctious and chatty cute girls. Most of them are from disadvantaged homes and had never really touched dirt.
However, Kenny got them all engaged in mixing humus and potting soil and preparing the right kind of dirt for tomato plants and annuals in the pots. I also read “A Kid’s Guide to How Flowers Grow” to help the girls understand the concept. One of the girls summed it up well, “It was a lot of fun to mix the dirt and plant the flowers!”
In the next few weeks, different girls also joined us to plant dahlia, daylily, hosta, iris, Japanese iris, a raspberry bush, and sunflowers in their bare backyard. Some of these flowers will come back next spring and surprise the girls with joy when they play and work in their multi-purpose room through the glass doors. Every session involved hands-on activities, and no girls had to sit idle.
The last session on July 22, a member from the local Audubon Society showed them a DVD of her backyard bird watching and the girls learned to identify some of the common birds in our region. Hopefully the bird feeder we installed in their backyard by the butterfly bush will attract some birds and the girls will notice them.
While the project at the Girls’ Inc. focused on flowers, plants, and birds, the project at Oasis took a different path.
The facility has already had a well-established courtyard with beautiful flowers and a gazebo. Our master gardener, Sandy Phillips, advised us get a knockout rose to add to the butterfly bush and raspberry bush we already purchased. She also suggested an herb garden. One of their staff members, Vickie, heads their landscaping committee, got some of their residents involved in this project. It was a great surprise to find out that she happens to have a degree in horticulture. That really helped!
She decided to get some huge barrels for the tomato plants and a raspberry bush, put all the herbs people donated by the kitchen area, and started another flowerbed for the knockout rose and other annuals the community donated. The women love this courtyard and now it has more flowers for those who come out in the morning, evening, and any time they have a break. They all call it therapeutic.
The final touch was when the local Brescia University got in touch with Aloma Dew to come up with a project for their freshmen community service. On August 18, a group of 10 freshmen helped put a raised bed for Oasis to plant some fall vegetables such as cabbage and chard. Ben Taylor, director of the Pennyrile Group of Sierra Club, gave a speech of the history and mission of the club. Even the local Daviess County extension agent, Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, came and gave directions as how to plant these veggies and thus really motivated the college students for their hard labor on a hot sunny summer day.
We consider our summer projects a big "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" - with lots of help from the community and donations from Sierra Club members and the local Sierra Club. We will continue the work next summer!