Earth Day could include visit to community garden in Courtenay

Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness invites the Comox Valley to celebrate Earth Day by stopping in at its community garden.

DIANE MACLEAN FACILITATES a community garden project in Courtenay.

Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness invites the Comox Valley to celebrate Earth Day by stopping in at its community garden.

The garden gathering will happen from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the community garden on Harmston Avenue near Sixth Street in Courtenay.

“That’s a good time for somebody to come and learn about the garden,” says Dianne MacLean, who facilitates the project for Dawn to Dawn. “They can help with the garden, like move soil and whatever, but even if they’re not able bodied, still come and enjoy the garden, learn about what we have here.”

Courtenay gave the go-ahead last year and, with help from individuals and businesses, Dawn to Dawn’s community garden was built on the empty lot slated for a new RCMP building.

The project was designed for homeless and marginalized community members to help with the work and receive fresh produce in return. The garden was dubbed a success and Courtenay council approved its home for another year.

MacLean says an expansion is planned this year. She hopes to build at least four new eight-by-four-foot garden beds and needs some boards to construct them.

Other items on her wish list include, some picnic tables or some other kind of outdoor table, some benches or supplies to build benches and some sort of portable shelter for rainy day gatherings.

MacLean notes Dawn to Dawn has some money for these items, including Community Way dollars, but donations would be appreciated and tax receipts are available.

Perhaps even more so, MacLean is looking for volunteers, whether they can help with the preparation work, or other work like weeding and, particularly, helping with regular watering in the summer months. Anyone who volunteers is welcome to harvest from the garden.

She says the garden is about more than simply growing food to share with others; it’s really about community building, too.

“It’s a really good levelling ground — we have people that are millionaires come here and meet people who are homeless,” she says, noting various community members stop by all time, like people from Kiwanis Village, people taking their lunch breaks in the garden, others waiting for appointments and children from a nearby day care, to name a few examples.

MacLean adds she has noticed changes in the community’s perceptions of who homeless and marginalized people are, including changes in her own perceptions.

“I have met registered nurses who have been hurt that are homeless. I couldn’t believe it. I have met people who owned houses before and got injured at work, and have lost everything — like I used to think homeless people were just people who had substance abuse, or psychiatric or some problem like that, but it’s not.”

MacLean says, like last year, community feasts will happen in the garden, likely on Saturdays or Sundays.

Also, new this year, Food Not Bombs will hold its Sunday meal in the garden at 3 p.m.

Anyone who would like to get involved in the project, whether by donating some plants or supplies, volunteering their time or contributing in some other way, can contact Dianne MacLean at 250-334-9574 or Check out Dawn to Dawn: Action on Homelessness’ Facebook page for updates.

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