This past summer, CommonBond staff member Analuna Brambila directed the Teen Room Garden program at the Skyline Tower community in St. Paul. The two teen garden leaders she hired helped facilitate activities for their peers in the program’s community garden plot around gardening skills, environmental education, and healthy eating.
The teens grew a wide variety of vegetables and learned about different plants and types of food over the summer. They used the vegetables they grew for their cooking club throughout the summer – creating everything from homemade fettuccine alfredo to chocolate zucchini muffins.
Analuna’s favorite moment of the summer came when she saw the impact a garden project can have – outside of fostering new leadership skills and healthy food education – on teenagers. With some strong encouragement from staff, the two garden leaders finally agreed to try fresh cherry tomatoes off the vine. “They decided to try them at the same time,” Analuna said, “and after slowly chewing the tomatoes and gingerly swallowing, they both said ‘they’re not bad!’”
The next time the teens went into the garden, Analuna watched as they picked every fresh cherry tomato off the vines, popping them in their mouths as they went and encouraging their friends to join them in the feast. After that, every time Analuna visited the garden, she noticed there were never more than one or two ripe tomatoes on the vine. “After all, I did tell them to go and pick whenever they wanted!” she said.
Thanks to a grant from the Minneapolis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) Foundation and a cadre of their dedicated volunteers, a long overdue landscaping project at our St. Anne’s Senior Housing community in North Minneapolis was recently completed.
When CommonBond purchased St. Anne’s in 2007, numerous outdoor projects needed significant attention. The $10,000 grant from MAAR Foundation allowed CommonBond to complete the irrigation, landscaping, and construction of raised garden beds for the 70 St. Anne’s senior residents to enjoy.
MAAR is a hands-on foundation, preferring to fund projects it can also support with volunteer efforts. The foundation volunteers worked with professional contractors to complete the project last month. Decaying shrubbery and old sod were removed to make way for a beautiful, inviting courtyard. MAAR volunteers planted dozens of shrubs, hauled and smoothed mulch, and shared lunch and laughter.
“We are giving seniors an outdoor green space to enjoy,” said Dave Philp, 2016 MAAR Foundation Chair. “With gardens growing from spring to fall, it will keep residents engaged with the seasons and support a presence of nature. A city garden softens a neighborhood that is often heavily paved with concrete.”
The result was astonishing – a total transformation in one day. The residents and site staff members could not have been more pleased. Check out the KSTP-TV coverage of the project.
“This garden at St. Anne’s Senior Housing will not only benefit our residents but also the broader community,” said Jamille Page, St. Anne’s property manager. “Our residents will have beautiful scenic views to enjoy with family and friends while also being able to cultivate fruits, plants and vegetables. The beautification of St. Anne’s garden will build a sense of ownership and pride among the residents and the community.”
Are you ready to help? Contact Jessica at Jessica.Ponthan@commonbond.org to find out more about volunteer opportunities at CommonBond.