An initiative by the garden club in Williams Lake to grow vegetables for the Salvation Army has been a huge success.
Williams Lake Garden Club member Pat Radolla said the club seized the opportunity to use flower beds no longer in operation by the City for the garden and this past summer the vegetables thrived.
“We thought it was a perfect spot to make a kitchen garden and the City was instrumental in getting the water system that was already here back up and running. They turn it on at the beginning of the season so it was great, we didn’t have to water,” Radolla said.
Club members planted the garden in May, and throughout the summer returned to weed it.
“We had a good variety of vegetables and now it looks like the Salvation Army has bought into it and some of their clients have been coming out and working in the garden too,” Radolla added. “That’s what we want so it’s great.”
Tamara Robinson, director of family services and community outreach for the Salvation Army, said they approached clients, asking if anyone would like to help.
“We said, ‘there’s lots of stuff out there, would you guys mind helping?’ and a couple of them jumped up right away and said, ‘sure.’ They’ve been looking after it for us.”
Not only have they been weeding, some of them have taken ownership.
“They will come down to my office and tell me they saw a lady take a tomato and they weren’t very happy about it and told her it is for the Salvation Army, but I told them it’s OK to share with the community, but thank you for taking the ownership.”
Robinson said food bank users appreciated having greens in the food bank and share shelf.
“It was that little bit extra that we could give to them, that we would not have been able to otherwise. Any grants I’m able to go for are usually for pantry items. Only about once a year are grants available for fresh food. Having this fresh food source is phenomenal.”
Radolla said the club is keen to teach gardening skills to patrons of the Salvation Army’s food bank.
“We will let you know when we are planting next year and maybe a couple of guys can show up and we can show them some skills.”
Bill Boone has volunteered with the Salvation Army for three years as a barber and quickly agreed to help with the garden.
“I keep an eye on the garden,” he said as he inspected the tomatoes.
As a local gardener, Radolla said he thought it was a great season.
“We had lots of great produce out of this garden, as you can see, and at home. The flower gardens were awesome. I think it was the amount of rainfall was pretty good and having no smoke really helped things along.”
Numbers are up at the food bank, Robinson said.
“We have 110 or so for lunch and there are lots of new faces. People are coming up from Kamloops, Vancouver and Kelowna.”
Homelessness numbers are also up, she added.
“There are lots of people couch surfing who cannot find suitable housing in their budget range. Many are camping, staying in the Cariboo Friendship Centre shelter or even living in a one-bedroom apartment with 15 other people.”