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Local Salvation Army Centers Spread the Love of Gardening

Released 4 April 2014

Local Salvation Army Centers Spread the Love of Gardening

The Horticultural Zone at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps 
Community Center of PhiladelphiaFew activities can provide more peace, knowledge, and patience than maintaining a garden. The act of growing and nurturing can not only have a positive impact on individuals, but also help build a sense of community. Unfortunately, many Philadelphians go their entire lives without being exposed to the benefits of gardening. Thankfully, The Salvation Army is working to change that.

The Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia hosts community gardens at several of its neighborhood locations. The goal is to expose local residents of all ages to the joys of planting their own vegetables and flowers, and the benefits of leading a healthy lifestyle and eating organically.

One garden that has had a profound impact on local residents is The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center's Horticulture Zone. The Horticulture Zone, which harvested 4,000 pounds of produce last year, gives both children and senior citizens an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of growing and maintain their own crops. Within the Zone is the Hoop House, a traditional green house where community members plant crops that continue to grow throughout the winter. Last year, the center harvested produce including collard greens, cabbage, carrots, beets, and spinach that was then donated to gardeners and The Salvation Army Kroc Center's Kind Family Resource Center and Café.

"The goal is for people to learn about horticulture and how to be good stewards of the environment," said Andy Nolan, manager of The Salvation Army Kroc Center Horticulture Zone. "We hope those in our community not only learn how to garden, but use the produce they grow to adopt a healthy lifestyle."

The garden at The Salvation Army West Philadelphia Corps Community CenterThe residents at The Salvation Army Ivy Senior Residence also maintain a garden of their own. Thanks to generous assistance from the Klein JCC, they maintain five raised plant beds which are used to grow everything from basil and parsley to lettuce and tomatoes. The garden, designed to be handicap- and age-friendly, is cared for by a group of about seven senior citizens who live at the residence. The residence is currently in the process of preparing for their big kick-off day later this month, where seniors will have the opportunity to plant their favorite seeds and prepare the garden for the season. Excitement is spreading among the residents, as squash and potatoes have already been planted in the garden this year.

"The kick-off day generates a lot of excitement for our residents," said Julie Umstead, social worker at The Salvation Army Ivy Senior Residence. "The garden itself gives them a chance to experience and learn about something new."

Much like the Ivy Senior Residence, The Salvation Army West Philadelphia Corps Community Center is preparing their community garden for the spring season as well. Established five years ago through a generous donation, the 70-by-40 foot garden has gone a long way towards exposing area residents to a luxury that many West Philadelphians have never known. The garden has also helped teach some of West Philadelphia's youth how to plant and care for the garden's crops, while also offering culinary courses to teach children how to cook harvested crops and the benefits of eating healthy.

"The garden is very therapeutic," said Envoy Tony Lewis, commanding officer of The Salvation Army West Philadelphia Corps Community Center. "It provides them with a sort of tranquility that comes from seeing things grow after you've properly cared for them."

Though they may be small in stature, these gardens have had a huge impact on educating the community about the benefits of growing and caring for your own plants and maintaining healthy eating habits, while also building a sense of community. Horticulture Zone Manager Andy Nolan put it best, saying, "Simply put, growing a lot of flowers makes you smile."

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