St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church launched the “Glory of God Garden” (more affectionately known as “G3”) on April 9th with the help of Boy Scout Troop 146. G3 will provide fresh vegetables grown on St. Stephen’s land to food insecure residents of Fairview Township. The Rev. Sabeth Fitzgibbons, priest in charge at St. Stephen’s said, “We are blessed to have five acres of land and it is good stewardship to use it to build the kingdom of God and serve our neighbors in need.”
This project was born out of extensive visioning completed by St. Stephen’s congregation over the past two and a half years. In September of 2013 St. Stephen’s held a congregational dreaming day to imagine together what God might be calling them to do in the community. One of the dreams put forth was the idea of using some of their land to plant a garden to provide produce for a food bank. The seed was planted but took a little while to sprout. In February of 2015 during their annual meeting the congregation identified reaching out to their neighbors as one of its core values. In May of 2015 at their “Next steps” Sunday a gathering of key vestry and other leaders, St. Stephen’s articulated a goal to actually plant a garden that produces fresh vegetables and other produce to help supply the Fairview food bank. Since May 2015 the garden project committee has been hard at work planning the building of the garden, the distribution of the produce, involving the whole congregation, developing a partnership with the Fairview food bank and the Fairview Presbyterian Church (where the food bank is housed) and securing funding. Cindy Willis, Chair of the garden committee and Senior Warden at St. Stephens, says, “We are so grateful to the Deacons of the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania and for their St. Stephen Outreach grant that made the Glory of God Garden possible.”
Fairview is often perceived as a wealthy suburb of Erie. And though there is plenty of wealth in Fairview there is also poverty, hunger and food insecurity. G3’s partnership with the Fairview food Bank and the Fairview Presbyterian Church to provide fresh produce to those most in need is an attempt to meet this local need. Fresh produce grown on St. Stephen’s land, by St. Stephen’s parishioners, Fairview Presbyterian volunteers and potentially Fairview Food bank recipients will be offered to participants of the Fairview food bank. Fairview food bank serves 60 to 80 families per month (around 240 people), 75% of whom are receiving public assistance. Of those served 10% are seniors and 38% are children under the age of 18. The provision of food, especially healthy fresh produce, is a critical need as Fairview only has emergency services for those in need (provided by Love Inc.) and there are no grocery stores (a challenge for those without vehicles).
St. Stephen’s is building a fenced garden with twelve 8 foot by 4 foot raised beds and will begin planting vegetables and other produce this May. They hope to provide enough produce to provide fresh healthy vegetables to many of the families receiving food assistance from the Fairview food bank. Once the garden is built and planted teams from St. Stephen’s and Fairview Presbyterian will be scheduled to water, weed, harvest and deliver the much needed food. Eventually they hope to incorporate those served by the Fairview food bank in the weeding, watering, harvesting schedule and to provide classes on prepping healthy meals using the produce provided. “Everyone is getting involved” said Julien Goulet, a garden committee member, “for example, Bill Rose who is in his 80’s and is a former carpenter, can’t help with the building but is providing technical expertise.”
They hope to not only serve God’s children and be transformed themselves in the process but to also to spread the gospel of care and love through one stomach at a time.
Join St. Stephen’s on May 1st for the Garden blessing (during the 10:00 am service) and the first planting of the year!