Smiles​ ​Abound​ ​at​ ​Ansonia​ ​Block​ ​Parties ​ ​​

Celebrating​ ​Community​ ​Gardens’​ ​Growth

Ansonia,​ ​CT​ ​–​ ​The​ ​enthusiasm​ ​was​ ​infectious​ ​and​ ​tangible​ ​as​ ​residents​ ​came​ ​together​ ​a​ ​little while​ ​ago​ ​in​ ​the​ ​evening​ ​to​ ​celebrate​ ​the​ ​flourishing​ ​community​ ​gardens​ ​planted​ ​there​ ​this​ ​past​ ​May.

The​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way’s​ ​program,​ ​“Grow​ ​Your​ ​Own”​ ​spearheaded​ ​by​ ​Susan​ ​Meek​ ​and​ ​followed by​ ​Brian​ ​Rich,​ ​consists​ ​of​ ​numerous​ ​garden​ ​beds–surrounded​ ​by​ ​picket​ ​fences–in​ ​Gatison​ ​Park​ ​and​ ​Pine Lot,​ ​both​ ​in​ ​Ansonia,​ ​CT.​ ​These​ ​neighborhoods​ ​were​ ​chosen​ ​as​ ​an​ ​ongoing​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​help​ ​low-income residents​ ​fight​ ​food​ ​insecurity​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Valley​ ​and​ ​provide​ ​more​ ​nutritious​ ​food​ ​for​ ​their​ ​families.

Echoing​ ​the​ ​positive​ ​sentiment,​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way​ ​President​ ​Sharon​ ​Gibson​ ​said,​ ​“Valley​ ​United Way​ ​is​ ​excited​ ​to​ ​offer​ ​the​ ​garden​ ​program​ ​to​ ​our​ ​Valley​ ​communities.”

The​ ​key​ ​word​ ​is​ ​“community”​ ​as​ ​residents​ ​came​ ​out​ ​in​ ​droves-many​ ​discovering​ ​the​ ​gardens​ ​and produce​ ​were​ ​for​ ​them​ ​for​ ​the​ ​first​ ​time.​ ​Wide​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​big​ ​smiles​ ​became​ ​commonplace​ ​as​ ​the​ ​news spread.​ ​Many​ ​residents​ ​asked​ ​for​ ​tours​ ​and​ ​were​ ​given​ ​bags​ ​to​ ​search​ ​for​ ​fresh​ ​veggies​ ​that​ ​were​ ​ripe​ ​for picking:​ ​cherry​ ​tomatoes;​ ​three​ ​different​ ​types​ ​of​ ​lettuce;​ ​green​ ​peppers;​ ​squash;​ ​chard;​ ​cabbage; cucumbers;​ ​eggplant;​ ​and​ ​many​ ​more,​ ​plus​ ​herbs​ ​to​ ​accent​ ​and​ ​give​ ​flavor​ ​to​ ​their​ ​meals:​ ​basil;​ ​sage; rosemary;​ ​cilantro;​ ​thyme​ ​and​ ​parsley.

“I​ ​live​ ​right​ ​next​ ​to​ ​Pine​ ​Lot​ ​and​ ​I​ ​thought​ ​this​ ​garden​ ​was​ ​just​ ​for​ ​the​ ​Boys​ ​and​ ​Girls​ ​Club.​ ​I clicked​ ​like​ ​and​ ​share​ ​on​ ​facebook​ ​and​ ​headed​ ​down​ ​here​ ​right​ ​away!,”​ ​said​ ​Rhonda​ ​Rossik.​ ​She​ ​added, “I​ ​can​ ​get​ ​the​ ​girl​ ​scouts​ ​involved​ ​too!,”​ ​as​ ​she​ ​walked​ ​through​ ​the​ ​garden​ ​sharing​ ​her​ ​knowledge​ ​and enthusiasm​ ​with​ ​others​ ​who​ ​were​ ​deciding​ ​what​ ​they​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​pick​ ​for​ ​dinner.

Cherry​ ​tomatoes​ ​were​ ​by​ ​far​ ​the​ ​most​ ​popular​ ​vegetable.​ ​At​ ​Gatison​ ​Park,​ ​Maya,​ ​her​ ​two​ ​sisters Ramona​ ​and​ ​Tiffany​ ​Wright​ ​and​ ​their​ ​children​ ​come​ ​to​ ​the​ ​garden​ ​often.​ ​“We​ ​go​ ​here​ ​everyday​ ​picking carrots​ ​and​ ​grape​ ​tomatoes​ ​and​ ​eating​ ​them,”​ ​she​ ​said.​ ​Jazmiah,​ ​Ramona’s​ ​7-year-old​ ​daughter​ ​“loves vegetables”​ ​and​ ​Tiffany’s​ ​daughter,​ ​5-year-old​ ​Kaylynn​ ​“loves​ ​gazpacho!”

Another​ ​Gatison​ ​Park​ ​resident​ ​who​ ​frequents​ ​the​ ​garden​ ​is​ ​Malika​ ​Mosely.​ ​She​ ​has​ ​an 11-year-old​ ​daughter​ ​and​ ​walks​ ​by​ ​in​ ​the​ ​morning,​ ​afternoon​ ​and​ ​the​ ​evening​ ​on​ ​her​ ​way​ ​home​ ​from work.​ ​“I​ ​usually​ ​look​ ​for​ ​the​ ​lettuce,​ ​cucumbers​ ​and​ ​tomatoes,”​ ​she​ ​said.

And​ ​what​ ​would​ ​a​ ​block​ ​party​ ​be​ ​without​ ​Domino’s​ ​pizza,​ ​an​ ​ice​ ​cream​ ​truck​ ​and​ ​a​ ​special​ ​arts and​ ​crafts​ ​project​ ​for​ ​the​ ​children?​ ​Plus​ ​chef​ ​Audra​ ​Weisel,​ ​who​ ​had​ ​stiff​ ​competition​ ​from​ ​the​ ​pizza​ ​and ice​ ​cream,​ ​but​ ​was​ ​up​ ​to​ ​the​ ​task.​ ​Happily​ ​she​ ​handed​ ​out​ ​samples​ ​of​ ​her​ ​healthy​ ​cooked​ ​tomatoes, asparagus,​ ​zucchini​ ​and​ ​other​ ​fresh​ ​veggies​ ​along​ ​with​ ​the​ ​recipes​ ​for​ ​cooking​ ​them​ ​in​ ​their​ ​own​ ​homes.

Weisel​ ​has​ ​a​ ​long​ ​history​ ​of​ ​helping​ ​out​ ​low-income​ ​families​ ​and​ ​started​ ​digging​ ​and​ ​planting​ ​for “Grow​ ​Your​ ​Own“​ ​this​ ​past​ ​May.​ ​“I’m​ ​happy​ ​to​ ​lend​ ​my​ ​expertise​​ ​i​n​ ​any​ ​way,​ ​shape​ ​or​ ​form,”​ ​she​ ​said. Quickly​ ​adding​ ​whether​ ​that​ ​means,”teaching​ ​them​ ​how​ ​to​ ​can​ ​their​ ​vegetables​ ​or​ ​learning​ ​how​ ​to​ ​cook them.”​ ​She​ ​is​ ​hoping​ ​“they​ ​will​ ​try​ ​something​ ​new​ ​…​ ​and​ ​like​ ​it!”

–more–

“Grow​ ​Your​ ​Own”​ ​is​ ​one​ ​of​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way’s​ ​projects.​ ​With​ ​a​ ​third​ ​garden​ ​already​ ​planted​ ​at Irving​ ​School​ ​in​ ​Derby,​ ​the​ ​program​ ​is​ ​expecting​ ​to​ ​expand​ ​next​ ​year,​ ​including​ ​more​ ​locations​ ​and getting​ ​more​ ​of​ ​the​ ​community​ ​involved.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​possible​ ​thanks​ ​to​ ​the​ ​generosity​ ​of​ ​our​ ​premiere sponsor,​ ​Avan​ ​Grid,​ ​plus​ ​Newtown​ ​Savings​ ​Bank​ ​and​ ​Lavietes​ ​Foundation.

The​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way​ ​is​ ​a​ ​nonprofit​ ​organization​ ​with​ ​other​ ​projects​ ​and​ ​events​ ​happening simultaneously​ ​to​ ​fulfill​ ​the​ ​need​ ​of​ ​scarcity​ ​of​ ​food​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Valley.​ ​Two​ ​of​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way’s​ ​signature projects,​ ​Back​ ​to​ ​School​ ​Clothes​ ​for​ ​Kids​ ​and​ ​their​ ​21st​ ​Week​ ​of​ ​Caring​ ​project-Harvest​ ​House​ ​VII,​ ​are both​ ​aimed​ ​at​ ​helping​ ​low-income​ ​kids​ ​and​ ​their​ ​families.

To​ ​volunteer​ ​or​ ​get​ ​involved​ ​with​ ​the​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way,​ ​please​ ​contact:​ ​Patricia​ ​Tarasovic,​ ​Vice President​ ​of​ ​Community​ ​Engagement​ ​at​ ​(203)​ ​926-9478​ ​or​ ​visit:​ ​​www.valleyunitedway.org​.

By​ ​Lori​ ​Singer- As​ ​a​ ​volunteer​ ​writer​ ​for​ ​Valley​ ​United​ ​Way,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​pleased​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​part​ ​of​ ​this​ ​significant​ ​event.