The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 19, 2013

Elks grant to produce garden experience

From staff reports

JOPLIN, Mo. — Residents with disabilities will have a tasty chore this summer as the result of a grant from the Elks National Foundation.

They will grow their own vegetables in raised-bed community gardens, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Elks National Foundation. The grant paid for the materials to build the raised beds and buy supplies.

Members of Joplin Elks Lodge No. 501 is providing the assistance to Community Support Services, an agency that provides assistance to people with developmental or physical disabilities.

Volunteers are sought to assist in the effort. A workday will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in the gardens, located across the street from the Community Support Services office at 2312 Annie Baxter Ave.

Community Support Services has been in Joplin since 1978 and helps people in 10 counties of Southwest Missouri develop independent living skills.

“Now we can incorporate the gardens into something they might not have been able to experience,” said Melissa Eiken, resource development manager. “They will get to experience the benefit of growing your own food,” and the satisfaction of watching the garden grow.

She said the program also will offer education on nutrition and healthful foods and volunteers are welcome to help teach.

Bill Anderson, of the Joplin Elks Lodge, said lodge members knew what Community Support Services wanted to do because the agency’s director is a member of the lodge.

“It comes under our mission ‘Elks Share, Elks Care.’ That’s what we do. We are a benevolent charity organization,” Anderson said. “We were ecstatic, knowing that not many of them (grants) are given out.”

The local lodge also will hold some other benevolent projects this year. One of them will be cooking meals for Children’s Haven periodically and holding a dinner at the lodge to honor veterans.

About 200 volunteer hours have been spent so far preparing 22 raised beds for the support services clients.

“We are doing raised-bed gardens with the thought they are accessible for people who have to sit in a wheelchair,” Eiken said. “All the pathways also are designed to be accessible in a walker or wheelchair.”

About 100 people with disabilities are expected to participate in the program this year.

Eiken said that if the participants grow more vegetables than they can eat, the excess will be provided to food pantries. Clients also may eventually be able to sell some of their produce at the local farmers market.

Help wanted

Volunteers are needed throughout the growing season both for work days and routine maintenance of the plants. People who want to help may come to the work day or call the agency at 624-4515.