By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
Monticello Avenue residents, in partnership with the Harrison County Family Resource Network, will host a community block party Sunday, May 22 from 2 until 6 at 518 Monticello Ave. in Clarksburg.
A planting party will kick-off the day-long festivities when families in the community that have raised beds to plant will relocate them and plant them in the community garden,” said Elizabeth Shahan, Executive Director Harrison County FRN.
Following the planting, a ribbon joining and garden dedication ceremony is scheduled at 3:30 p.m.
Whom the garden will be honoring is still a mystery.
“It’s going to be a surprise,” Shahan said. “The people involved with the garden wanted to dedicate it to someone who means something to the community.”
After the planting and ceremonies, there will be more festivities. “The rest of the day will be food, fun and community gathering,” Shahan stated. “There will be a fish fry, hotdogs, hamburgers…typical picnic food.”
The party is for those who are residents of the Monticello Avenue area.
The garden itself is two gardens adjacent to one another. One is a flower garden and recreational area with some playground equipment, a horseshoe pit, picnic tables and benches. The other side is the vegetable garden and will include basic items such as tomatoes, lettuce and squash. But this garden will also include some items that are more particular to the black community.
“It will have plants that are culturally significant to the staple foods enjoyed by the black community, such as black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes,” explains Shahan. “So there is a whole educational component about this project.”
She reports that the children involved with the project plan to grow these culturally important plants, harvest them and use them to cook dishes indigenous to their culture and sell them at the Black Heritage Festival in September.
Shahan says the garden has a multi-pronged purpose – community development, food, of course, education and as a way to curb drug abuse by building community pride and ridding neighborhoods of neglected areas that might attract drug usage.
“Community gardens are effective ways to beautify communities, create wonderfully useful, safe spaces and join people together to reclaim areas that were lost to overgrowth, illegal activity and dilapidated structures,” Shahan stated. “This community garden is an important step for the community to come together to support the prevention of drug abuse. This garden is one key environmental strategy for drug prevention.”
The garden project began with the vision of the now project coordinator Mateen “Tuna” Abdul Aziz.
“He is responsible for the vision and for making it a reality,” said Shahan.
He and a neighbor donated their adjacent lots for community use for the garden.
“They still own the properties; they’re just giving them to the purpose of the project,” Shahan said.
The project has already been a success in its creation. In addition to original funds from “Try This, West Virginia” of $1,500, the project garnered an additional $75,000 with the value amount of materials, equipment and sweat equity, she reported.
And it happened quickly, too. “We said we’d do it in a year, and we did it in a year,” Shahan stated.
Shahan credits the Monticello residents, led by Abdul-Aziz, with the success of the garden coming about.
“It has really been the community who did it,” Shahan stated. “We (FRN) just oversee it to make sure the project goes well and that it conforms to nonprofit and donation guidelines.”
The group’s three-year plan is to add one or two gardens each year in Harrison County, Shahanadded.
To learn more about how to start a community garden or to donate to the efforts of the Harrison County Family Resource Network, Inc., please call Shahan at (304) 423-5049 for more information.