Produce offered to raise funds for Mazon

More than the first harvest of tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini and green beans, the funding raising on Aug 1, 2010, at the Arden Heights Jewish Center, represented community in the best sense of the word. What started as a seed of an idea to offer fresh produce to needy families and support charitable efforts has blossomed into broader community effort and practice in widespread giving.

From the synagogue board which granted permission to break ground on April 25 of the 25-by-40-foot plot of land adjoining the synagogue to the couple of dozen companies that donated everything from seeds to fencing, the garden took root. Families of the synagogue donated funds. Scouts from Troop 90 helped clear grass from the garden plot. The Hebrew school students planted seeds and offered seedlings to the gardeners who tended the crops.

Lenore Casper was one of the first customers who dodged raindrops Sunday to buy celery and twist-tied plastic bags of tomatoes. "I certainly want to support my temple and get some produce," said the Arden Heights resident, who years ago grew her own tomatoes. "This is such a good cause, I just had to support it." Proceeds from the funding raising will support further garden efforts and a percentage will be given to Mazon, a national Jewish nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating hunger in people of all faiths and backgrounds.

A core of about 10 volunteers tends to the garden twice a week to pull weeds, water and nurture plants. Some have gardens of their own. Others recall having grand gardens before becoming apartment dwellers with little or no space for planting. And still others are new to the garden culture. "It's a success," said Stewart Feigel, synagogue president and one of the core members of the garden family. "We have brought together people who otherwise would not have known each other in a joint effort to help others with the most basic need, food."

Among the crops planted this year were celery, watermelon, cantaloupe, sweet and hot peppers, carrots, onions, corn, garlic, zucchini and eggplant. While there weren't enough zucchini plants to harvest this time around, organizers baked zucchini bread and made a sumptuous zucchini bake for customers. Recipes were shared freely.

This garden is an example of what can happen when someone starts to ask "what if" and follows through to action. It inspires. "We started with nothing but an idea," said Lois Hirsch, one of the core gardeners. "It's such a good feeling to give to others."

1This article was written by Lisa Ann Williamson, "Arden Hts. Jewish Center gardeners reap the fruits of their labor," Staten Island Advance, Aug. 6, 2010, article link

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