Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Call it a love of helping those who need it most.
For Mary Roe, of the Bethany Crisis Shelter in Morgan Park, planting those first seeds just made sense.
"I have a passion about helping people in poverty—give them a hand up, not a hand out," said an enthusiastic Roe, standing outside of the lush, green garden behind her. "Even if you're poor, you can have a garden; anyone can have a garden!"
Roe says it started when she and a young client at the shelter both realized the backyard needed a garden.
But what grew from that first batch of seeds was far more than just the first plants of the Bethany Crisis Shelter Garden Project.
"We wanted our clients to have a healthy mind, body, and spirit, and it turned out that we gained that also," said Roe.
The idea was to create a sustainable garden that would keep growing for years. But the garden—which now includes organic beans, peas, lettuce, dill, mint, carrots, cauliflower, and some extra–large tomatoes, has cultivated more than veggies.
"Some of the best conversations take place either in the garden, or bringing produce into the kitchen," said Roe.
"There are kids that find tremendous peace out here, and can come out here, spend time, [and] come up with ideas for recipes," said Bethany Garden Chef Carla Melander. "They'll come into the kitchen and make suggestions."
Melander says the size of the garden doesn't matter when it comes to the bounty that it produces.
"You don't need a whole big space. You can just have a container garden, and have a bountiful harvest all summer long," said Melander, smiling.
When word caught on that this project was underway, Roe says there was no stopping the donations of seeds, time, and money; from the Carlton Greenhouse, to the United Way and Reading Corps, to Engwalls and more.
"We had Home Depot donating a gift card that helped get the fence up to keep the deer out. We had a total stranger leaving me a message that she left a gift card at Menards for me to go pick up," said Roe, trying to remember all of the donors. "We've had people donating seeds and time, and... coming out with their kids to just come and pick weeds. We had to plant a bigger garden."
In the end, Roe says the garden, complete with organic compost and rainwater barrels, is about so much more than going green.
"We're talking about making a sustainable life. You can eat healthy, you can grow your own food; the bottom line is we want to give hope," said Roe.
...hope that will continue to grow far beyond this harvest season.
Roe wants to remind everyone that EBT cards can be used to buy healthy food, and seeds, for those hoping to start a garden of their own.
If you'd like to get your hands dirty in the Bethany Crisis Shelter Garden: