St. Susan Center is calling all green thumbs for its Giving Garden program.
The program, now in its third year, is funded by the state Department of Health's Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant, which is held locally by the Chautauqua County Health Network. The program encourages volunteers to grow vegetables and donate to the soup kitchen, located at 31 Water St., suite 130.
A Giving Garden can be as large or small as the gardener would like. In the past, some Giving Garden volunteers grew tomatoes in containers, while others planted extra rows in their own gardens for St. Susan Center.
A garden participating in St. Susan Center’s Giving Garden program. St. Susan Center received funding for the start-up cost of the Giving Garden project from the state Department of Health’s Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant, which is held locally by the Chautauqua County Health Network.
Woody Howland, St. Susan Center volunteer coordinator, with a potato donated to the soup kitchen through the Giving Garden program. The program helps St. Susan Center through community volunteers who grow vegetables to donate to the organization.
The Giving Garden project provides seeds, seedlings, containers, soil and even some tools.
The volunteer gardeners are responsible for planting, watering, weeding, harvesting and delivering the produce to the center.
''Last year, we received over 6,500 pounds of vegetables from the community. So that is quite amazing,'' said Sue Colwell, St. Susan Center executive director. ''We invite people to plant a row, a few pots or a whole garden. Whatever people prefer. We have signs for people to put in their gardens and it reads Giving Garden so people can see that they are planted for St. Susan's.''
Colwell said last year they had between 15 to 20 volunteers grow vegetables. Even businesses like Cummins had a garden to grow vegetables for St. Susan Center. Colwell said volunteers are also needed to process the vegetables that are donated. People interested in volunteering should call Woody Howland, St. Susan volunteer coordinator, at 664-2253 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
''We have 200 packets of seeds donated to us. So we want to share them with the community so they can plant those,'' she said. ''The list of the most needed or requested vegetables include potatoes, green peppers, spinach, peas, lettuce and carrots.''
Colwell said all the vegetables except green peppers can be grown outside. She said green peppers need to be grown indoors.
''There is nothing like fresh vegetables. We use them daily in our meals. We even freeze and dehydrate them for the winter. We also share them with others in the community,'' she said. ''It is a great way for the community to get involved. Someone might not have funds to give, but, if they are willing to get their hands dirty, they can grow vegetables. It makes a huge difference in our meals.''
Colwell said St. Susan Center is serving a record numbers of meals.
''We are headed into the busiest season of the year due to the kids getting out of school,'' she said. ''Compared to last year, at this time, monetary donations are down.''
For more information, visit stsusancenter.org.