Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Sense of community grows at new garden

Citizen Staff Writer



Move over chimichangas, crisp lettuce and carrots are coming to town.

Ground has already been broken – and filled with seeds – in the Elvira neighborhood’s community garden, thanks to lots of dirt, sweat and volunteers.

The garden’s unveiling will be celebrated from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday with a nutritional health fair at the garden, nestled behind Agape Christian Community Church, 7120 S. 12th Ave.

Gardening resource information, nutritional tips, live music, games and free food will be available.

Goals for the garden include, but go beyond, offering a tranquil place to unwind.

“It’s to help teach people they can grow their own food, even here in the desert,” said active church and community member Randiesia Riggs, 32.

Riggs said it took a while to convince people that growing food for their own consumption was a possibility, but once they were convinced, even the toughest came around.

“About five dozen people participated in some way,” Riggs said. “My kids helped dig, my friend’s kids helped dig.”

Also on the scene were members of the AmeriCorps national service organization.

The group specializes in quick, high-impact projects that focus on community strengths, said AmeriCorps member Stephen Young.

“Nutrition was a big issue,” he said, “and for a number of years they’ve needed a garden. There is no park at all.”

While the project started with nothing more than patches of weeds, Riggs said it soon picked up speed, with more than 50 area businesses offering help.

“Donations came in the form of shovels, dirt and items from thrift shops,” Young said. Some businesses also provided monetary support.

Elvira residents took their cue from the nearby Sunnyside neighborhood’s successful peace garden. Assistance came from AmeriCorps, United Way, Riggs and the church as well as neighborhood residents like Margie Mortimer.

“This will be really good for people, especially for the Hispanic and Native American community,” said Mortimer, secretary of the Elvira Neighborhood Association.

Young said nutritional tips will be offered by Tucson’s Community Food Bank, the University of Arizona’s health sciences department and United Way.

Once the community is armed with facts and fresh produce, they can thrive, Young said.

“We show what the community can do for itself,” he said. “It’s all about empowering people.”

“This neighborhood,” Mortimer added, “can do a lot of good things.”

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