Sowing seeds of love in a broken community

By: Karen Yoho

Starting with a $500 grant from the local Kiwanis, the Roanoke, Virginia, Salvation Army used a vacant, fenced lot adjacent to their corps building in southeast Roanoke to build the Community Victory Garden last spring.

The vision of Salvation Army Mission Specialist Becky Brandenberger, the garden opened following a community garden show held in 2016.

“We wanted to find ways to rebuild a broken neighborhood by promoting health and connecting the community,” Brandenberger said. “This is the Army’s mission, and it can’t always be done indoors if the people are outside our doors.”

Victory Garden participants are from the neighborhood, Pathway of Hope and corps staff. This year, a neighbor volunteered to water in the mornings and keep an eye on the beds.

The garden has several raised beds provided to gardeners at no cost. In them, you’ll find tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, squash, zucchini, beans, cucumbers, collards, Swiss chard, radishes, cantaloupe and several herbs.

Participants are given an entry code that allows them to come and go as they please. Brandenberger also schedules “work days” that strengthen the sense of community and reinforce the fact that gardening is a family affair.

“Digging in the dirt and seeing the plants blossom and grow is very satisfying and therapeutic,” Brandenberger said.

Gardeners reap their harvest and also share the corps. Last year, Junior Soldiers and other neighborhood kids picked beans and then cooked with corps officer Captain Monica Seiler.

Karen Yoho is the communications director for the Maryland-West Virginia Division.