Gloria Dei’s Garden Gives Back to Community

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a gar-den is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin

by Katie LeClair

One visiting the south entrance of Gloria Dei may wonder if the glistening water drops on some of the newly planted vegetables are signs of hope — miracles of mercy? We now enter our fifth year of volunteers gardening for support of Francis Basket, the Highland neighborhood food shelf. On Saturday, May 26 several volunteer members of Gloria Dei gathered to map out donated plants, break up the ground, weed, and plant for the 2018 harvest. This year, the garden was renamed the “Giving Garden.”

Marsha Sullivan-Jameton, a member of the planting crew, visited with the staff at Francis Basket, a ministry of Neighborhood House, to determine what specific vegetable wishes are needed. Top priorities were greens (collard, Swiss chard, and kale) and hot peppers. Also requested were tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, parsley, and cilantro. Gloria Dei members responded gener-ously to these requests and provided plants and materials for the garden.
Cheryl Freske has been harvesting and delivering food to Francis Basket for the past 3 years. “The Francis Basket staff is so de-lighted and appreciative when fresh produce is delivered in addi-tion to non-perishable food every week,” she tells me.

Cheryl was among the crew who planted the Giving Garden. She noted that during the summer months the need is even greater for families with school children. Families need food for all meals in the summer — students receive breakfast and lunch during the school year.

With the increased need in our community, volun-teers rose to the challenge with their time and gardening talents. This year, over 25 church members signed up to donate vegetables, and to weed, water, and harvest from May through Octo-ber. Members select an entire week to visit the garden at least once a day.

Cathay Hoven, who joined GDLC a year ago, said, “I volunteer with the garden as it is something positive I can do for all.” Her love of gardening began when she was a child where she learned skills from her grandparents. “We have always gardened. I remember eating my grand-parents’ ground cherries right off the ground.”

Like all seasoned gardeners, Cathay had advice for new gardeners. “Take it easy on yourself! Enjoy the process. Product is swell; process is good health.”

Giving Garden volunteer, Jane Dresser said she volunteers because “it is an easy task — and supports an important ministry. It’s a no-brainer.”

Jane loves watering the garden, and her favorite things to grow are tomatoes and flowers – “bleeding hearts, lily-of-valley, peonies, bearded iris — and I love lilacs!”

Member Paula Hutchinson brought the idea to church staff to begin a tradition of blessing the garden through a short prayer time called “The Blessing of the Worms.” On Sunday, May 27, the congregation gathered around the raised beds to commission the growing, the harvest, and the work of each volunteer and all creatures who will visit the garden. Those in attendance enjoyed delicious, colorful gummy worms as they circled the pastors with prayer for the ministry of the Giving Garden.

Jane Dresser said, “I understand we gather hundreds of pounds of food each summer for Francis Basket — happily done. And I think we are a visible demonstration of ‘walking the walk’, and that those who help themselves to a ripe something or another learn how food is really supposed to taste.”

There are still a few weeks of weeding, watering, and harvesting opportunities. To sign up to volunteer, visit: In addition to the Giving Garden, donations of fresh produce from your home garden harvest may be dropped off on Sundays at GDLC. Email Katie LeClair ( for specific directions on where donations should go. Each Monday, volunteers from GDLC take produce and non-perishable goods to Francis Basket.

Future dreams and plans for the garden are floating about in the prayers of church members. In the coming years, the wood beds could be painted with designs and words of hope and jus-tice. Members have also discussed painting rocks that could surround the garden beds with sayings of encouragement as people view the garden on their neighborhood walks. The con-struction of more garden beds is also a hoped-for possibility, as more members see the bene-fits of serving our neighbors.

May this year’s efforts in gardening ministry be a blessing to our neighborhood. Amen!