Over the past few months, the NW Works Garden has become a highlight of our campus, showing the fruits of our labor in many ways.
This year NW Works began transforming our on-site garden. We kicked off 2023 with a garden and grounds cleanup day and cookout where NW Works team members and service recipients worked together to clean up our campus and garden area. A lead grant from the United Way of the Shenandoah Valley provided funds to fast track and expand our Garden project and vision. Starting in May, the Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners began weekly visits to NW Works to provide guidance and education to clients and staff on a range of topics including seed planting, weed clearing, and general plant education. Our team planted a variety of produce including tomatoes, peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, basil, parsley, pumpkins, and squash. Community members came together to make our dreams for the NWW Garden take shape. Raised beds, built by the students participating in the Archdiocese of Arlington work camp, were filled with rich topsoil donated by Shenandoah Sand that gave life to plants donated by our friends at Home Depot and Fox Urban Farms. Our garden project serves many purposes. In-house, we provide the people we serve with career exploration opportunities in agriculture, food service, meal planning and food preparation. As for outreach, we have helped to address food insecurity in our community which gives service recipients at NWW feelings of pride and joy knowing their teamwork and hard work has assisted community members.
Early in the growing season, we set a goal to donate 100lbs of produce by July 2024. We began donating this produce at the start of July and within 4 short weeks we surpassed this goal with a total of 103lbs donated to Knights of Columbus Food Pantry! Bill Melvin, a past Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus Food Pantry and the Director of the Father Krempa Soup Kitchen commented on the KOC/NW Works partnership stating, “I can see that they’re really gaining some valuable training as well as an insight into the need. They’re always talking to me about “We’re taking care of people that need food” and I think that’s just an incredible opportunity for both of us.”’ For NW Works, 103 pounds of donated produce is just the beginning as we recently expanded our partnership to include FISH of Clarke County. Moving forward, we plan to continue donating each year and expanding opportunities associated with the NWW Garden.
Recently, our garden’s impact was recognized in the GIANT Make a Difference Challenge & we were selected as a Wildcard Finalist! Our team created a sixty second video to highlight the impact our garden has on the individuals we serve and folks within the community receiving the produce grown by clients at NWW. NW Works was awarded $9,000 in funding to support our garden and efforts towards tackling food insecurity in the Northern Shenandoah Valley!
Our garden received a welcome addition through a Day of Caring project in late September. On September 22, 2023, a crew from Continental donated their time and energy toward building a garden shed for our tools. To close out the gardening season, team members and individuals receiving services from NW Works participated in a garden clean-up day supported by the Master Gardeners and Tenneco’s engineering team on October 11th. We closed out our season of growth and are preparing for the cooler weather. Our garden has received a lot of recognition since its establishment, and we are honored to have businesses rallying behind our efforts to continue developing our garden and engaging in our Mission.
We are excited to continue reaping the benefits our garden has sown for us, whether that be in the form of career exploration for the individuals we serve or supplying fresh produce to our community.