CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There are several community gardens around Charleston that are established to help kids (and adults) reap the benefits of growing healthful fresh produce.
KEYS 4 HealthyKids, part of the Kanawha Coalition for Community Healthy Improvement, is supporting gardens through a grant from the Office of Healthy Lifestyles, in the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health's Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease.
Funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program is distributing $50,000 to various area organizations. Based on a rigorous selection process that attracted more than 500 proposals from across the country, Kanawha County is one of 41 sites selected for the Foundation's "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" initiative.
"We don't want to let them down," said Judy Crabtree, coordinator for the program. With the help of program assistant Ashley Dunkle, they are encouraging gardening by children, adults, veterans and others around the city.
They are helping with the establishment of three community gardens on the West Side. Working with the Family and Youth Development Services, Charleston Family and Youth Development Services and the Kanawha Community Garden Association, they are investing $3,600 in the projects.
Additionally, they are expanding a previously funded container garden at the East End Family Resource Center to include a garden for herbs and one for melons, as well as holding monthly block parties for "planting activities." Partners on this project include Charleston Parks and Recreation and the Kanawha Community Garden Association. KEYS 4 HealthyKids is pitching in $2,005.
The group is giving $2,250 to help the East End Community Association establish a community garden on Washington Street East with partners including the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, Charleston East End Main Street and Family and Youth Development Services. Also, they are giving $4,975 to the Partnership of African American Churches to establish a garden for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center. Partners there include Shiloh Baptist Church and WVU Extension. And, finally, they gave $5,000 to the Charleston Montessori School to create a natural community greenspace on the West Side hill area that includes a fruit orchard. Partners include Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, Holly Grove Forestry and Quality Woods Inc.
"Our project assistant, Ashley Dunkle, has been instrumental in working with these garden sites as they completed their grant applications, etc.," Crabtree said.
Dunkle has been buying tools for use in the gardens, and all of them are tucked into a cramped office at CAMC General Hospital, awaiting delivery to the various gardens.
There are dozens of kids' gloves, trowels, cultivators and other tools. There are the same tools in adult sizes, as well as four string trimmers, six hoses, 30 buckets, four wheelbarrows, three lawn mowers, three trimmers, three cultivator attachments, three edgers, six gas cans, 10 shovels, 10 rakes and 10 hoes. Rain barrels and a garden shed have already been placed at one of the gardens.
WVU/Kanawha County Extension agent John Porter guided Dunkle's shopping spree, giving advice on what tools were needed.
The Kanawha Community Garden Association will distribute the tools and organize a tool-lending program to work between the garden sites.
Dunkle said she's seen lots of vegetables planted so far, including tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, herbs and melons.