Creston Christian Reformed Church tilled new ground this summer when it turned a vacant lot and the playground of a closed school into community gardens designed to include people with disabilities.
Partnering with other churches and the local neighborhood association and a grant from the Michigan Disability Rights Coalition enabled the church to install more than 40 individual raised-bed garden plots, including eight specially designed wheelchair-accessible plots.
Several local groups serving people with disabilities have connected with the gardens.
Kevin Heys pulls weeds in a specially designed raised garden bed.
Students from a local high school’s special-education classroom volunteered to assist with site preparation and construction. VSA Arts of Michigan-Grand Rapids, an arts organization for people with disabilities, hosted an event in the garden for creative art projects.
“One of the highlights has been the community that has developed,” says Mandi Creveling, the gardens’ Involving Our Neighbors volunteer coordinator. “Whenever you go out there, you get to talk to someone, creating a natural connection.”
Produce from the gardens goes to the individual gardeners, and the surplus is shared with the food pantry of St. Alphonsus Parish or with community events, such as dinners hosted by the sponsoring churches.