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 in 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!”
“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.