By David Yarger
Last Friday, Bob Zima of Imagine Community Gardens presented on the organization at the Lumber City Church, 383 Vandervoort St., North Tonawanda.
Zima discussed the positive benefits to having a community garden in the area. The City of North Tonawanda houses its own garden on Sommer Street.
Imagine Community Gardens, in conjunction with the Lumber City Church, began the community garden initiative close to a year ago in NT. The proposal was announced in January of 2018, while the garden was installed four months later.
The meeting also gave attendees the chance to ask Zima questions regarding the gardens, and the opportunity to sign up to volunteer.
The garden, with 25 garden pods on Sommer Street, provides nutritious fruits and vegetables to families in need in the community. In addition, in the Imagine Community Garden’s pamphlet, it lists 10 reasons to grow a community garden. :
•Improves the quality of life for people in the garden.
•Provides a catalyst for neighborhood and community development.
•Stimulates social interaction.
•Produces nutritious food.
•Reduces family food budgets.
•Creates opportunity for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.
Imagine Community Garden provides all volunteers with the tools, seeds and resources needed to keep the garden pods up to date free of charge.
Of the NT location, Zima said the local government was “a pleasure to deal with,” and “the City of North Tonawanda was very, very accommodating to us.”
Zima added that ICG has a 10-year license on the property at Sommer Street.
ICG also puts on events for the community throughout the summer. Events include kids flower day, meet the chef day and kids pumpkin day.
Tera Domaradzki, Sommer Street garden manager, said the initiative is “one giant family,” and volunteers enjoy their time volunteering.
“We have people that come from all over the area,” she added. “(You see) things that we normally wouldn’t have gotten to see if we didn’t have this interaction several hours a week. You can see the joy on everyone’s face. … It’s just a really great time. You get vegetables, you get family out of it. You get so much closer to these people, and it’s neat to see them grow and come out of their shell sometimes, too.”
The ICG group on Sommer Street meets every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon. Then for each garden pod, the volunteers of the pod will meet one day during the week for around an hour.
Lumber City Church Pastor Chad Rieselman talked about the church’s partnership with ICG.
“The partnership that we have with Imagine Community Gardens made a lot of sense in a lot of ways, because of our vision for church. Our vision for church is not what we do on Sunday and what happens when we come together; our vision for church is what happens in the life of everyone who has placed their faith in God to go and do what he told us to do. … If we can keep our hands in the dirt and grow vegetables and feed hungry people, the more we do that, the less we’re going to engage in things we shouldn’t be doing. Our hope is … to be just another piece in the renewal of a neighborhood,” Rieselman said.
He added, “You will be blessed just in being there. It’s a beautiful place. Your senses will understand God in a different level. You’ll understand the way things work a little bit better, because you’ll see things grow. Growth is good; it’s good for humans to see things grow and what those things grow produce something that brings life. You get to be part of bringing life to a neighborhood in Western New York.”
Over the months that the community garden has been on Sommer Street, Zima and Rieselman said there has been growth in the area that can be seen.
“Saturday morning is a day where I think everyone goes shopping. We’re at the garden, doing our thing, and there’s a pantry set up there. A lot of people come home and they open their trunks and you see people pull their groceries out and they’re walking over and putting stuff into the pantry. They’re getting involved to help feed those in the neighborhood,” Zima said. “I think the Sommer Street garden, there’s a lot of people on that street that actually would put food in that pantry.”
Rieselman said, “The partnership between Imagine Community Garden and Lumber City Church is part of a much bigger thing that we see for our city in creating a unity and collective mindset that says we want to leave this place better than we found it. The Imagine Community Garden on Sommer Street is a way to show our kids that we can literally do things to love our neighbors, to feed the poor and to create community in our city.
“As Bob was saying, the farmers market meets on Saturday, so there’s a lot of traffic that goes down Sommer Street just because of the amount of traffic that comes to the farmers market. The high-level of visibility it has created this sense of community where people are giving some of their own for the little free pantry that’s there, and becoming a part of some of the events that are there. It’s another reason why North Tonawanda is the best place in the world to live. I know Realtor’s that will drive people past the Imagine Community Garden on Sommer Street, just because they want people to see that we’re doing things that make sense for the community.
“It’s so heart-filling to see when you go by there on a Saturday kids and families together, and just the literal growth of life-giving, nutritious vegetables and food that is then distributed to our community. That is our dream coming true.”
The community garden on Sommer Street will host an open registration on May 11. Those looking to volunteer can visit the Lumber City Church for an application.
For more information, visit gardensbyicg.org, or lumbercitychurch.com.
Chad Rieselman, pastor of Lumber City Church, speaks about the mission of ICG during last Friday’s presentation.