By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
East COVENTRY>> Young people not only learned how to harvest a tomato but also the importance of sharing fresh, healthy food with those less fortunate.
Several youth from Brownback’s United Church of Christ spent last week gathering food from their community garden and then donating the vegetables to local charity organizations as part of a missions activity.
“In the garden, we’ve been weeding and we’ve been picking vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis and green beans,” said 17-year-old Alissa Vining.
Vining said she learned a lot through her missions week including how to serve others and what it truly means to be a disciple.
She said spending time in the church garden was really fun and being able to give the food to others made it even more special.
“It teaches us how to serve God,” she said.
Riley Ruilova, 13, said it’s awesome to know that when he gathers food from the garden it’s going to a good place.
“Brownback’s brought a whole new level of fun to helping people. It was a good experience,” he said.
Brownback’s member Holly Vining spent some of last week in the garden along with the youth. She said they learned the importance of charity by donating food to the Phoenixville Good Samaritan Shelter. Vegetables from the garden are also donated to a food pantry in Spring City on a regular basis, she said.
Brownback’s youth director Kaitlin Sallade said spending time in the garden taught the youth that growing food is hard work and that vegetables don’t just end up on the dinner table.
“I think they’ve really enjoyed playing a part in growing clean food and just being able to give it to people,” she said.
Ruilova said he remembers visiting the church garden before the crops had grown. He said it was awesome to see the transformation and know the members’ hard work made the food donations possible this year.
“It was very emotional for me and I guess for everyone else too,” he said.
Sallade said it’s been amazing to see the green, luscious fields of the garden. The garden was started in May with the help of Brownback’s member Matt Gerhart, she said.
Gerhart graduated with his landscape architecture degree from West Virginia University in the spring. He said the church purchased a lot of land a few years ago but it wasn’t really being used. He suggested a garden.
“It helps our church extend our mission in the community,” he said adding that the vegetables are given to elderly of the church who are homebound in addition to the local food pantry.
The church holds community days where members come out to work in the garden and prepare the food bundles to give out.
“It’s really a bonding experience for everyone,” Gerhart said.
He said the church will continue to harvest vegetables in the garden every summer then donate the fresh food. Gerhart hopes to expand the garden with raised crop beds in the future so donations can be made to more charities.
For more about Brownback’s Church, visit the website at www.brownbackschurch.org.