Community Garden

Sun-Commercial photo by Jenny McNeece | Hope's Voice project manager Chelsey Hedrick prepares to cut the ribbon on Bicknell's first community garden, located at 320 White River Ave., on Thursday afternoon. Officials with Children and Family Services and the North Knox Ministerial Association, along with Hope's Voice, a group dedicated to the prevention of domestic violence, and volunteers from Duke Energy helped make the garden a reality. Pictured with Hedrick are Mayor  Thomas Estabrook, John Moreland, pastor at Word of Life Church, and Seth Alexander, pastor at First Baptist Church. The ceremonial ribbon-cutting was sponsored by the Knox County Chamber of Commerce.

CFS, Hope's Voice, North Knox ministers partner for creation of community garden in Bicknell

BICKNELL — An unlikely partnership has led to this city’s first community garden.

Prevention specialists with Children and Family Services, specifically Hope’s Voice, an organization focused on domestic violence help, awareness and prevention, has partnered with city officials and the North Knox Ministerial Association to build a community garden, located at 320 White River Ave., just a couple of blocks from City Hall.

The creation of the community garden is related directly to the prevention of domestic violence.

And it’s OK if that doesn’t immediately make sense.

“The idea is to modify tangible environments to build safe spaces,” said Molly Ewing Hutchison, director of corporate development for CFS and head of the organization’s prevention programs. “When you create a safe space, one that is well lit and well utilized by the community, it drives connectedness.

“A more connected community,” she said, “means less violence.”

Chelsey Hedrick, project manager and a community based prevention specialist for Hope’s Voice, said the garden is meant to make people feel at ease. It’s a place, she said, where they can gather, connect and form relationships.

“We’re getting people out of their homes, meeting their neighbors,” she said to a crowd of about 50 people gathered Thursday afternoon at the community garden site for a ceremonial ribbon cutting sponsored by the Knox County Chamber of Commerce. “It’s about safety, about creating healthy relationships. And there is evidence to suggest that gardening, getting outside, makes people happier.

“And happier people are less likely to commit crime.”

The items that make up the community garden — new lighting, raised beds and a shed to house tools — were purchased with a grant from the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence secured by CFS.

Volunteers from Duke Energy put it all together on ground owned by the North Knox Ministerial Association.

Hedrick said they’d planned to work together to see fruits and vegetables planted earlier this year, but an unseasonably wet summer — and cooler-than-normal temperatures —dampened their efforts.

Still, with all of the pieces in place, they wanted to host the grand opening celebration and get the word out that it’s available this fall — for things like flowers and leafy greens — but also next spring when it comes time to plant vegetables once again.

She said they hope to see people donate items grown there to either CFS or the North Knox Ministerial Association next year; Bicknell residents, too, are welcome to come and plant their own things.

“But remember, it’s completely communal,” Hedrick said. “If you bring something to plant, you’re subject to donating that cucumber to someone else if they choose to take it.”

Hedrick, too, said local ministers will keep an eye on the community garden, collecting unused produce for donation to the local food pantry.

Eventually, she said, they hope to see the creation of a Bicknell garden club to take the project over completely.

“It’s up to interpretation at this point,” Hedrick said with a shrug of her shoulders. “We’ve piloted it, and now it’s whatever the community wants it to be, whatever is best for Bicknell.”

Seth Alexander, minister at First Baptist Church, likened the community garden and its perceived prevention of violence and abuse to taking a “3,000 view” of the issue. It’s perhaps not the solution most might immediately think of in terms of reducing violence in a community, but it makes sense all the same.

The ministerial association, he said, was interested in feeding those less fortunate with the ground; the partnership with CFS and the hope that the community garden might reduce domestic-related crime in Bicknell made the partnership all the more enticing.

“We’re just pleased to partner (with these agencies) to (combat) poverty and bring the community together in this way,” he said.

Mayor Thomas Estabrook, too, was thrilled at the creation of the community garden in his city. He described it as a “case study” in how agencies can work together for one common purpose.

“And it’s going to be a great benefit to the community,” he said.

For more information, contact Hedrick 812-259-2668.

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