“The best gardening clubs are grass roots organizations.”

By: Jason

It’s a very exciting week at Gateway Center.  Maybe it’s the fact that the winter winds seemed to have finally blown somewhere else, or it could be the sun shining in that happy April way, or perhaps it’s even the crazed effects of anti-allergy medication taking root as we face the perils of pollen season.  Something has us in a stir this week.  You might say we’re downright giddy. Here’s why, I think.

We have a program at Gateway called “Culinary Success”.  While a person is staying with us for a little while they can apply to take part in a classroom and hands-on kitchen and food preparatory program led by our Food Services Coordinator, Quinetta “Q” Buggs and our Executive Director, Dr. Vince Smith.  Our men and women are working hard to end their homelessness, but sometimes the timing towards finding a permanent home doesn’t happen overnight, and in that between time of working and planning, Culinary Success can be a bridge of time-redemption while we wait.  The course ends with each student taking the ServSafe certification exam.  Passing this will be, for many of our clients, something of a passport into many new employment opportunities.

Q

Chef Q: dropping some knowledge

While the students are cooking and learning and working with Chef Q in the kitchen, they find a great need for many herbs, spices, and vegetables to enhance the quality of our meal service at Gateway.  We currently serve about 325 meals every night to our residents, so this need is substantial and on-going.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s a cliché I hold fast to.  Some of our staff had this dream a while ago to plant a little garden.  But where would it go? If you’ve ever visited our downtown Atlanta location, you would notice that fertile ground is not high on our list of resources.  We wanted a garden, but how could it work?

back of building before

Could this be a garden? Surely not.

Thank goodness for the community we have around us.  We work several times a year with an organization called Project Live Love.  They bring people together in action to make change in their communities through service projects and any other way they can help.  When we mentioned this Dream Garden and our tiny space to put it, they said they knew just who to call.

Enter The Kula Project.  Sarah and James had this crazy idea to start gardening in a new way, and before you knew it, they were launching this fresh, world-changing initiative to provide sustainable farming practices to communities all over the world.  How long has it been going, you might ask? Only a few months.  But they’ve already built gardens in Swaziland and are currently in Jamaica.  These are people that love gardening, love people, and want to see lives changed, and they are not wasting anytime.  When they saw our space, they knew we had something to work with.

Wagons of Awesomeness pulling up to Gateway

Wagons of Awesomeness pulling up to Gateway

This past Saturday a team from Project Live Love and Kula Project came out to Gateway to plant their first garden for an organization in the United States.  Now our kitchen has a steady stream of lettuce, kale, and all kinds of other options to enhance our meals for our friends currently experiencing homelessness in Atlanta.

The beauty of these vertical gardens is in the design.  The watering system uses 90% less water than a traditional garden bed.  Yes, my friends, you read that correctly. 90% less water is used in this unique-drip irrigation system.

It’s a beautiful creation in the back of our building now, and it’s sustainable, built from recycled materials (those burlap coffee sacks were donated from Land of a Thousand Hills), and it’s incredibly useful.

If you’re wondering what community collaboration looks like when motivated people come together to do something that impacts people in a real way, then this is it.  Thank you so much to the Kula Project and Project Live Love.  This is what it’s all about.

Volunteers greening their thumbs

Volunteers greening their thumbs

liveloveteamgarden

Finished Product

Finished Product

Dr. Smith takes a turn in the watering responsibilities

Dr. Smith takes a turn in the watering responsibilities