Chautauqua County RSVP is a member of the Jamestown Garden Committee that is spearheaded by the Creating Healthy Places project of Chautauqua County Health Network (CCHN). Volunteers throughout the county have rallied to help with gardens, either for their personal use, giving gardens or growing items specifically for food pantries or soup kitchens. Chautauqua County RSVP's office resides on the Lutheran campus, so RSVP decided to bring the gardens indoors to the window sills of those who make the Lutheran campus "home."
Seeds were selected and purchased that would thrive in small containers easily fitting on a window sill. Hybrid tomatoes, patio tomatoes, minibelle peppers in yellow and red variety all were chosen as our "test plants" for this season. Seeds, soil and containers were purchased with funds donated to RSVP by CCHN and the Garden Committee. Some small cherry tomatoes thrived well this year, but the best crop of all was sweet basil.
Also, located on the Lutheran campus is the Gustavus Adolphus Learning Center (GALC) which houses an unused greenhouse. Janet Forbes and Kerry Mihalko, staff from Creating Healthy Places, approached staff at the school to see if some sort of collaboration with gardening could happen. Amy McCloskey, principal of GALC was motivated by this concept and quickly included teachers Vicki Boria and Emily Diamond.
Chautauqua County RSVP volunteer Jack Kachermeyer displays one of the tomato plants grown on the window sills at Lutheran. Seated is Joyce Devine, a resident of Hultquist Place who tended to the basil plant grown on her window sill.
Boria included gardening into the environmental science curriculum. The greenhouse was resurrected, and two adjoining gardens were created adjacent to the school. Seedlings filled the greenhouse, and there was an overabundance of sweet basil - they generously offered to share with RSVP.
RSVP volunteers, Jack Kachermeyer and Pam Johnson, included the sweet basil with their window-sill plants to share with the residents of Lutheran. Sweet basil was the plant that thrived this year, and RSVP volunteers, with help from Cindy Mower, activities director, placed the aromatic plants on resident window sills at Hultquist Place. The residents took great care of the plants, adding supports as they grew, and the residents even could tell exactly how much water each plant required.
This growing season was a test year, but next year RSVP will be better prepared. Both the collaborative and educational efforts of staff and youth alike at the GALC were wonderful. The residents enjoyed having their own little garden in their rooms. The next growing season should be even better with lesson learned this past year.