Story by Abby Warren
What was at first simply an idea, resting in the minds of a few, is now a seventeen-bed, elder-friendly garden. The Intergenerational Garden at the East Portland Community Center holds a valuable lesson in collaboration and the power of linking arms.
Beginning in 2011, leaders at Independence Gardens, Portland Parks & Recreation (PP&R), the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), and Loaves & Fishes mapped out a plan to bring a community garden to the Cherry Blossom Loaves & Fishes site, a division of IRCO, located at the East Portland Community Center.
Karen Wolfgang at Independence Gardens- a small business that helps gardeners jump-start and care for edible gardens- sought out and secured a grant from the Community Watershed Stewardship Grants Program. With funding behind the project, pieces began to fall into place rapidly.
A team of design students from the Portland Art Institute worked with Independence Gardens to finalize a plan for the garden layout. Next, collaborating with Nicole Baker-Wagner at IRCO, the team met with PP&R's Disability Action committee to ensure access for the population the garden intended to serve.
After much strategic planning and coordination, the garden broke ground in June 2012. As the garden was intended to be intergenerational, many of the people it would serve weren't able to participate in the heavy-lifting and construction. So, Robert Bradley at the Cherry Blossom Senior Center Loaves & Fishes recruited assistance from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers. Volunteers from Verde stepped up to the plate on the day of as well, offering valuable hands-on assistance.
Over four days, the team worked diligently, removing grass, hammering together beds, laying bark dust, transplanting soil, and putting up multi-lingual signage. The Oregon Food Bank and Bosky Dell Nursery contributed edible plants and soil for the first planting.
The Intergenerational Garden now provides the Cherry Blossom Senior Center Loaves & Fishes program with a community-building activity as well as fresh, organic, healthy produce. The garden managers are looking to set up a senior-to-senior program where high school seniors come to work with the folks at Cherry Blossom.
Through and through, this project demonstrates the power of committed parties working hand-in-hand to accomplish one goal.