Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Seeds of Hope Are Growing at Albert T Mills Community Garden

Hello to all those that are interested in our growing Community Garden here at the Albert T Mills Enrichment Center – an inner-city ministry for pre-schoolers from some of Atlanta’s roughest and most impoverished areas. God has been good to help us water and nurture our seedlings, and we are excited to share with you that progress. We anticipate a wonderful bounty – praise Jesus! We continue to need helping hands to tend the garden, so if you are interested, please reach out to us via our website. No amount of time is too small – all contributions will help us to provide for a wonderful harvest. And of course, financial support is greatly needed! If we could find just TWO GARDEN SPONSORS for $50 a month to help with our water bill and maintenance costs, that would be a blessing to us. Is that you??? As with all gardens, there is lots of weeding, tending, and fertilizing needed to move from planting to harvest. Today, we decided that due to the heat (up-words of 80 degrees), that earlier in the day was better. A big thank you to Joan Obrien who is always so willing to help. Lowes was very generous to provide a gift-card to cover some of our on-going maintenance costs to stake, support, mulch and feed our plants. So you can bet the first stop was to fill up the car with as much as it could hold!
Considering this was a kudzu field just 6 weeks before, we seem to be winning the battle with weeds, but it is clearly going to be an on-going challenge. We hope to start a “Kudzo Brigade” with our summer school children, to keep our garden ahead of the creeping weeds striving to return to their homes. We were excited to see all the new growth! Here are a few glimpses… We have a nice crop of pepper plants that look like they will yield quite a bit of flavor
The green bean seeds that were generously provided by the Atlanta Food Bank appear to be the bush variety – so get ready for lots of picking throughout the summer. And lots of pots of yummy and fresh green beans.
We added a few tomato cages and trellises to give everything a little support. We hope that the organic plant food that we lovingly worked into the soil will encourage plenty of new growth. The cucumbers in the back were ready to have something to grow on – and look to be raring to go!
We snugged in all the plants with pine straw to keep the fruit up off the ground. We could not believe how many small tomatoes we found growing in our many plants. Get ready for spaghetti sauce, BLTs, or some fresh sliced tomatoes (straight off the vine) with a little basel…
We provided a climbing trellis for the yellow squash plants, which look to be doubling in size each week. They are sharing a space nicely with the cherry tomato plants:
And the zucchini looks like it is growing well too – we will have to start looking for the blossoms to turn into small green missiles soon.
We even have a couple of watermelon and cantaloupe plants that have broken through. And a fine crop of sunflowers appear to be reaching upwards.
Our crowning glory that no self-respecting garden can do without – our corn is growing too! Some of our volunteers sure planted a straight line for us with a special “green thumb” touch:
We are proud to say that things are going well for the first crop ever from the Albert T Mills Community Garden. If you would like to support our garden, or provide much-needed volunteer time weeding and tending the garden, please reach out to us on our website or Facebook page. God will bless you and we will thank you. Now is your chance to make a difference, and help those without food to know God’s bounty! For more information on how you can help, please feel free to email me directly at Dana.carrier@gmail.com or visit our website at www.atmills.org.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Building a Community Garden

Building a Community Garden by Dana Carrier God’s grace comes in many flavors – as I was able to witness first hand in the last few weeks. It started as a series of dreams: Marie Weir, a master-gardener in training, had a desire placed on her heart to help non-profits to establish new community gardens. Mary Campbell, from the First United Methodist Church wanted to provide a grant to sponsor a community garden in the kudzu-covered lot beside the Albert T Mills Enrichment Center. And Pastor Rosa Arnold wanted to teach 65+ preschoolers where food comes from and how it grows (something that many of those that grow up in the projects have never experienced). So in a wink, many doors were opened, many plans were made, errands run – and a dream became a reality.
Marie worked countless hours planning what would be needed to build and sustain a new garden. Mary Campbell then put this budget forward for approval, and began to line up volunteers for the hard work ahead. The garden creation date was scheduled for Saturday, April 28. So much to do! Marie worked closely with the Albert T Mills Enrichment Center Board, particularly our efficiency expert (and Board Secretary) Lara Reedick to move the plans forward (with my help also). We reached out to the Atlanta Community Food Bank who sent us Fred Conrad – our friendly plow master – who arrived Monday morning and began the transformation. He mowed down all the kudzu and other miscellaneous weeds, and tilled the soil for our garden plot.
Then the race was on to line up the Lowes delivery, select the plants, and enlist volunteers. Lara set up Signup-Genie to track all those interested, and Mary Campbell connected us to her colleague, Forrest Cate, who rallied the troops. Their very active youth group was eager to help, as well as a dozen volunteers from friends, neighbors, and Johnson Ferry Baptist Church. On Saturday morning, God gave us a beautiful day. It was all hands on deck – the level of hard work, commitment, and heart for service was truly impressive to watch. The teens from First United Methodist Church know how to work! They cleared all the weeds and debris surrounding the garden, and we anxiously awaited our delivery truck. Once our materials were unloaded, the collaborative frenzy began. Everyone had a job – building the raised bed frames, mixing the soil and nutrients, filling the raised beds, surrounding the garden with a mesh fence, and planting the seeds and seedlings of corn, squash, beans, peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon and lots of tomatoes! I was touched by how well everyone worked together. I loved the faces of the kids who learned to drill screws into wooden frames, and thinking of the young hands gently placing plants in the ground to feed those they may never meet.
New friends were made, and a general celebration of God’s goodness and bounty rippled through the many volunteers. So now the hard part begins! We need to water, tend and steward the new garden to produce the bounty it is meant to produce - much like our daily lives. God gives us the raw materials and help (when we ask), and we sometimes forget how the small things we do touch lives and produce fruit in ways we never imagine. We just have to remember to be good stewards of what is given us, which God then multiplies for his purpose. We are truly blessed when we remember to turn our faces to the sun and drink in His bounty. As for me – it was an experience I will never forget! I was honored to be a part of such a giving and loving team that put God’s work first.
FYI – we are now looking for volunteers to help us maintain our garden, and help us to cover the maintenance expenses to feed, tend, water and harvest the garden for the next few months. If you like to get dirty, we can add you to our maintenance schedule. If you have never worked in a garden before, we can give you hands-on training. Or if you prefer to stay clean and would rather pull out your checkbook, we would appreciate your support and sponsorship. To reach us, please visit our website at http://www.atmills.org/contact-us.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center in the News

What an amazing couple of months it has been at the Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center.

It all started when Pastor Rosa Arnold was recognized by the Albert T. Mills Enrichment Center as a 2011 Holiday Hero - Holiday Heroes: Slain son inspires outreach program  | accessAtlanta

That seemed to get the ball rolling and thanks to so many who believed in the school and it's mission, the word kept spreading.

Krystin McCauley of the talk show host KrystinLive read the article and came to the school with the idea of profiling the school. Their long profile of the Center can be found here: http://vimeo.com/39000938.

KrystinLive were still in the midst of filming when Bill Liss of 11Alive HelpDesk called us wanting to help the school.

This profile of the school came with added benefits.  You can see for yourself here: http://www.11alive.com/life/Community/help/234009/6/HELP-DESK--Helping-a-pre-school-built-on-tragedy.

Bill Liss, Matt Pearl, Barnes & Noble and The School Box bought boxes and boxes of books and educational toys for the children.

Then to cap it all off, the First Annual Planting Seeds of Hope Gala sold out!  And that is its own blog post - coming soon!

Now we are looking forward to graduation for our rising kindergartners and our Summer program for the 1st-6th graders.  

Whew! What a ride!

God is so good. All the time.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Our first annual Planting Seeds of Hope Gala is just about sold out! We are so excited about seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  If you haven't registered yet, please see our on-line registration page at gala.atmills.org.

We're looking forward to a fun night!