Carl Awsumb was so excited on that Saturday in July, when more children showed up than ever before. With fifteen to twenty children and few adults it was almost too much of a good thing. They picked one hundred pints of blackberries – the most ever – and sold them at a local Farmers’ Market with the help of GrowMemphis.
One might think it is the profit share of up to five dollars an hour that keeps the children from the local Binghampton neighborhood coming back to McMerton Gardens early every Saturday morning. But it is so much more. You can see it in the faces of the children and the volunteers hoeing, weeding and harvesting the beautiful fruits and vegetables. There is a pride in the product, an enthusiasm in the friendships, and an energy for being and working together.
When Carl began this work in 2007 he only knew that he had been so blessed in his own life that he wanted to share that privilege. His vision has drawn volunteers from the surrounding area – wealthy and poor, young and not-so-young, from disparate neighborhoods and cultures. He strongly feels that if he can invite people together that are normally on “different sides of the equation” that perspectives will change. It has proven true. Friendships have formed around the tasks and the time together.
Billy Vaughan is one of the adult volunteers that help to cultivate the six garden plots scattered around the twenty block neighborhood. Billy often testifies to the joy each child brings to the Gardens, and it is evident as he picks up a handful of tools and walks alongside a little girl the few blocks to the next garden. She chats away about how she has started school this week and can’t wait to go back on Monday.
Indeed, McMerton Gardens is a vibrant Community of Shalom with all kinds of seeds being planted and harvested.